Alcatel A5 Review: Modular smartphone on a budget
Modular smartphones come with several benefits. They can enhance a smartphone’s camera, battery and speaker performance by allowing users to snap an accessory called mods at the back of the phone. Some mods add extra features such as kickstand to prop up the phone, while some come with built-in projectors. LG G5 was the first modular smartphone but the concept was fine-tuned by Motorola with the Moto Z and Z Play (Rs24,999 onwards) smartphones.
However, most of these modular smartphones belong to the mid-range or high-end segment. This is where Alcatel A5 is a trend-setter. Priced at Rs12,999, it is the first modular smartphone in the budget segment. Here is everything you need to know about it.
■ The A5 comes with two mods. The first one is called Light Up as it comes with built-in RGB lights which glow every time you play music, get a notification or play a game on the smartphone. It is a unique and noiseless way of getting call and message alerts. The light play on the back can jazz up your music playback experience in a dark room. It is fun and provides a distinct personality to the phone, but it also drains the battery faster.
■ The second one is called the Power mod as it adds a 3,100mAh battery to the smartphone taking the overall battery backup to over two days comfortably. The built-in battery has a capacity of just 2,800mAh and it barely lasts one day. You can charge the mod while it’s snapped on the phone.
■ The good news is that you don’t have to pay anything extra for the mods. The LED MOD is part of the A5 pack, while the Power mod will be available with it for free as an introductory offer.
■ Surprisingly, both the mods are light and do not make the A5 hefty or unmanageable at any point. We didn’t notice any heating up on the back with the LED mod.
■ The original back cover of the A5 is made of plastic with matte back finish. One has to remove it to snap the other mods on the phone.
■ The phone has a non-clickable home button which also doubles up as fingerprint sensor. The sensor is wide and unlocks the smartphone instantly without any hiccups. It’s flanked by two backlit navigation keys for multiple tasking and going back to previous task.
■ Despite the compact form factor, the A5 offers a 5.2-inch screen with a resolution of 1,280x720p. It doesn’t look as bright and sharp as the screen on the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (Rs9,999), which has a 5.5-inch screen with a resolution of 1,920x1,080p, or the Moto G5 Plus (Rs12,999), which offers a resolution of 1,920x1,080p on a 5.2-inch screen. In spite of the low resolution, the A5’s screen doesn’t feel washed out or suffer from poor viewing angles like most budget smartphones. Watching videos on YouTube was quite satisfying.
■ The biggest shortcoming of the Alcatel smartphone is that it runs a two-year-old version of Android (6.0), when Android 8.0 is already out and available for adoption. This means users will miss out on new features such as picture-in-picture mode, better battery management offered under Size 2.0 and smart notifications. The Redmi Note 4 runs on Android 7.0 and the Moto G5 Plus.
■ When it comes to performance, the A5 is better placed than many of the rivals. It is driven by MediaTek’s 6753 octa-core processor, which is adequate enough for most basic tasks. Coupled with 3GB RAM, it was able to handle multi-tasking, video playback and social media without any hiccups. But it is not as powerful as the Xiaomi and Motorola smartphones, which run on a faster Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 octa-core processor.
■ Internal storage in the A5 stands at just 16GB and is less than what you get on the Moto G5 (32GB) and the top variant of the Redmi Note 4 (64GB), but there is a dedicated microSD slot, so one can expand it.
■ The Alcatel A5 has a 13-megapixel camera which can record videos in 1,920x1,080p and has built-in EIS (Electronic Image stabilisation) to minimise shakes in videos. The picture quality is average, looks washed out even in daylight and lacks the clarity of the 12-megapixel camera of the Moto G5 Plus.
■ The Alcatel A5 is a rare smartphone, which will attract a lot of attention in public, particularly with the LED mod snapped on. With the battery mod, it is going to last longer than any of the two rivals. It is ideal for casual users looking for a funky smartphone, but if the overall performance and value for money is more important, go for the Redmi Note 4, which also offers a more feature-packed MIUI 9, long-lasting battery and a big screen. The Moto G5 Plus offers better camera and near-plain Android interface.