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Alcatel 1 Review (2021) | Reliable Reviews

The Alcatel 1 (2021) may be a very cheap phone, but even as a value proposition, it is sorely lacking. It’s literally a phone from another era, with squeaky components that make it almost unusable for anything other than light calls.

pros

  • Very cheap
  • Very small and light

Minuses

  • Terrible performance
  • outdated design
  • Terrible camera
  • Alarm low battery under load

Key Features


  • Very affordableAlcatel 1 (2021) is one of the cheapest smartphones you can buy in 2023.

  • small sizeThe compact form factor makes it easy to use with one hand.

  • Android GoThe phone runs on a clean, stripped down version of Android.

Introduction

The Alcatel brand claims to be famous in the Android ecosystem. Alcatel 1X was the very first Android Go phone released in February 2018.

I was reminded of this fact when I re-read my review of this phone’s sequel, the Alcatel 1 (2018), in preparation for my review of the Alcatel 1 (2021). There aren’t many smartphones that sell for under £100 right now, so I figured an upgrade would prove valuable.

It was more frank than I expected. It turns out that the Alcatel 1 (2021) is exactly the same phone as the Alcatel 1 (2018), only sold for even less money.

The Alcatel 1 (2021) can be purchased for around £40 these days at reputable retailers. It’s cheap, but is it good?

Design and screen

  • Exactly the same as Alcatel 1 (2018)
  • Removable back panel and battery
  • Bad 5 inch TFT LCD

The Alcatel 1 (2021) is so old school that it comes out of the box with the back cover and battery removed. You have to insert a SIM card (nano, thankfully) into a small slot under the cover, just like you did with old Nokia feature phones.

This is an inexpensive phone with a thick plastic body and huge display bezels. One of the rare advantages of the last point is the absence of a hole punch in the display, which provides a completely unobstructed image.

Alcatel 1 in hand
Image credit (reliable reviews)

Despite the large bezels, this is a very small phone by today’s standards. Even the Asus Zenfone 9, which is the smallest Android phone I’ve used lately, feels big next to it. The closest comparison I can make here is to the iPhone SE (though obviously not in terms of quality).

Another explosion from the past is the complete absence of any kind of biometric authentication. There’s no fingerprint sensor anywhere, so you’ll have to rely on a passcode to sign in. You won’t find NFC here either, so mobile payments are out of the question.

I already mentioned one of the key reasons for this old-school feeling: Alcatel 1 (2021) is actually Alcatel 1 (2018). It has the same design and exactly the same dimensions: 137.6 x 65.7 x 9.8mm body and 134g weight.

This extends to the phone’s display, which is the same 5-inch TFT LCD with a resolution of 960 x 480. In my review of the Alcatel 1 (2018), I called this panel “a small, dim, blurry and overly reflective screen that is almost impossible to use.” outside on a bright day. Can you guess what I think about it here in early 2023?

Of course, you have to consider this lower price tag, but bad is bad. Saving £20 or even £120 over a typical “cheap” phone doesn’t change anything.

Viewing angles are still terrible, making the screen nearly impossible to see from an angle. Colors are washed out and there’s no such thing as “black” here, only dull gray.

Almost the only positive thing I can say about the Alcatel 1 (2021) display is that it’s easy to use with one hand, which is a foreign concept to most current Android phones. It is also free from any form of notch, which is always nice.

General view of Alcatel 1 from behind
Image credit (reliable reviews)

Camera

  • Main camera 5 MP
  • 2 megapixel selfie camera
  • Terrible photos in any conditions

The Alcatel 1 (2021) has the same camera setup as before, which means a single 5MP rear camera and a 2MP selfie camera.

Neither one nor the other is good. The main camera takes fuzzy, blurry pictures even in reasonable outdoor conditions and really struggles with any big differences in light and shadow. There is no form of HDR compensation.

Outdoor shot taken with Alcatel 1
Image credit (reliable reviews)

Lowering the light produces even darker and noisier results, and shooting at night is a huge taboo. Needless to say, there is no dedicated night mode.

Headlight photo taken with Alcatel 1
Image credit (reliable reviews)

Often with smaller smartphone cameras, it’s common to kindly warn that this is normal for social media posts, but this time I wouldn’t even bother making such a concession with a curse and weak praise. That’s just terrible.

Night shot taken with Alcatel 1
Image credit (reliable reviews)

The selfie camera is even worse, producing noisy images with flat objects and dull skin tones. Ugh.

Selfie taken with Alcatel 1
Image credit (reliable reviews)

Spectacle

  • Ancient, squeaky Mediatek MT6739
  • Only 1 GB of RAM
  • Very poor test scores

If it’s bad enough that the Alcatel 1 (2021) retains its three-year-old twin’s poor display, consider the fact that it also features the exact same Mediatek MT6739 processor.

“This is another example of a spec that seems to come from a smartphone of the past,” I said from the winter depths of 2018. At the beginning of 2023, this component is practically fossil.

No wonder Genshin Impact won’t even install on the Alcatel 1 (2021). Slightly more surprising, as is Vampire Survivors, a more recent but decidedly less technically demanding 2D game.

The likely culprit for this is the meager 1GB of RAM on the Alcatel 1 (2021). These days, we usually object when a phone only has 2GB or even 3GB of RAM, so 1GB is a bit intimidating.

Needless to say, the performance here is terrible in every way. Apps take a long time to load, menus creak and groan, and everything seems to move at a snail’s pace. Don’t expect to jump into the camera app when you spot a shooting opportunity.

With that in mind, the Alcatel 1 (2021) benchmark results look terrible. The average Geekbench 5 score is 165 in multi-core mode and 79 in single-core mode, placing the Alcatel 1 (2021) at the bottom of the smartphone performance rankings.

You get 16GB of internal storage as standard, which seems incredibly small by today’s standards. Even sub-£200 phones have started to ship with 128GB of onboard storage.

Android 11 (Go edition) is installed out of the box. This is the main (and possibly the only) change from Alcatel 1 (2018) shipped with Android 8.1.

It’s a clean, seriously stripped-down take on the Google OS. You’ll find easy alternatives to regular fares, like the Gallery app instead of Google Photos. This is apparently done to ensure that everything moves at a noticeable speed, despite the modest equipment.

As it turns out, this is a useless gesture, because the Alcatel 1 (2021) is an absolute chore to use. But there’s nothing better than a simple Android Go OS that does its best not to get in your way.

Camera on Alcatel 1
Image credit (reliable reviews)

Battery life

  • The 2000 mAh battery is enough for a day of active use.
  • Media playback consumes power at an alarming rate
  • Charging takes several hours

Like its predecessor, Alcatel 1 (2021) is equipped with a battery with a capacity of only 2000 mAh. That’s less than half the capacity of most modern Android phones.

Of course, with such an unusually small, dim display and sparse pixel count, this battery has to work much less than usual. Meanwhile, with this limited performance, you won’t want to use the phone for anything more than light phone calls. Under these conditions, you will spend the whole day without any problems.

However, any media will hit him hard. An hour of Netflix streaming drains 18% of a full charge, while an hour of YouTube Music streaming drains 7%. By comparison, the Moto G22 (a very typical low-end phone) lost 3% and 1% respectively in the same tests.

Continuing with the outdated feel of the phone, you’ll need to charge it with the included Micro USB charger. Despite the phone’s tiny battery, it requires absolute age. I put it on charge with 43% left in the tank and it took two hours to get to 93%.

Alcatel 1 with browser
Image credit (reliable reviews)

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Is it worth buying?

You literally have £40 and nothing else to spend. There are precious smartphones that can be bought for as little as £40. This is the whole reason for the existence of Alcatel 1 (2021).

Do you like taking pictures with your phone?. Alcatel 1 (2021) has a really terrible camera that takes terrible pictures in any light.

Final Thoughts

It’s a little strange to turn people away from one of the cheapest phones on the market, especially in these financially difficult times. But while the Alcatel 1 (2021) is incredibly cheap, it’s not one of the best cheap phones out there.

The phone’s poor performance, alarming battery life under load, and a terrible 5-inch display make it almost unusable for all but the lightest of tasks. Web browsing, gaming and media playback are severely hampered, while the camera does not produce acceptable results in almost all lighting conditions.

If you absolutely can’t spend more than £40 on a phone and only need the phone for the lightest and most casual tasks, you might want to opt for the Alcatel 1 (2021). Otherwise, we implore you to save a little more, spend a little more, and achieve a minimal all-round usability.

How we test

We carefully check every mobile phone. We use standard industry benchmarks to properly compare features and use the phone as the primary device during the review period. We will always tell you what we find and we never, ever charge you for a product review.

Photos taken in different lighting conditions

Performance tested both in real-life conditions and using test applications.

Used as a main phone for a few days.

Frequently asked Questions

Is there a charger included with this phone?

Yes, you will find the charger in the box along with the phone.

Trusted Reviews test data

Geekbench 5 single core

Geekbench 5 multi-core

1 hour video playback (Netflix, HDR)

1 hour music streaming (online)

UK RRP

Manufacturer

Screen size

Warehouse capacity

rear camera

Front camera

IP rating

Battery

Size (Dimensions)

Weight

HOW IN

Operating system

release date

Permission

Update frequency

Ports

Chipset

RAM

Colors


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