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REVIEW: Alcatel 1SE – It’s A $199 Smartphone

Chinese TV giant TCL has made inroads into the Aussie premium value smartphone market with its 10 series. Its pure-value smartphone brand Alcatel has recently rolled out the $199 1SE, which is billed as introducing premium features to the value market – but how does it do?

Design

In the hand, the phone definitely feels cheap. Basically everything on it is plastic, including the textured back, and there’s not much heft to it. The back looks nice, though, with a gloss effect created by the texturing, and the camera housing is unobtrusive enough.

Then you get to the front, and… oh dear. The selfie camera looks at first blush to be a hole punch, but is actually in its own little bump. That’s not so bad, though, when you compare it to the bottom of the screen, which has a bezel about a mile wide that totally throws off the balance of the design (see image below). The worst part of it is that the bezel serves no practical purpose. It doesn’t have any soft keys or function that would justify its existence. It’s just… there. Baffling decision by Alcatel to include it, one which I can only assume was made to save on the cost of more screen.

Display and Performance

Speaking of the screen: it’s fine. 6.22 inches and HD+, it does the job well, with vibrant colours and decent clarity. I can’t say the same for the audio, which is tinny and weak through the built-in speakers; fortunately, there is a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Performance is probably on par with what you’d expect for a phone at this price point – maybe a little better, considering the octa-core processor. Battery is 4000mAh and should last you at least a full day’s use, given the 1SE ain’t exactly a flagship-level power hog – though note it does charge via microUSB rather than USB-C, and has no fast charging or wireless charging capability.

Features and Camera

There are some nice feature inclusions that make the phone feel that little bit more premium, including a dedicated Google Assistant button, a rear fingerprint sensor, and facial unlock capability. It’s also dual SIM, which as always is useful to anyone wanting to keep separate work and personal numbers, travel overseas (when that starts happening again, anyway), or take advantage of the best pricing on calls, texts, and data across multiple plans.

The AI-assisted camera array is not fantastic. While it’s serviceable enough during the day (if not great quality), it’s terrible at night, and the flash doesn’t really help. This is not a phone to get if you want a good camera – though, really, the camera is unlikely to be why one buys the 1SE in any case.

Taken indoors during the day.

Outdoors at night. Yes, the flash was on.

Verdict

Ultimately, the Alcatel 1SE is what it looks like on the tin: a sub-$200 smartphone with a few higher-end features. If you need a good value smartphone with a couple of bells and whistles on it, aren’t fussed about the camera, and can look past the design issues, this is a decent enough choice.

Pros:

  • Dedicated Google Assistant button
  • Fingerprint reader and facial unlock
  • Affordable price point
  • Decent screen
  • Dual SIM compatibility

Cons:

  • Ugly bottom bezel
  • Tinny audio
  • Poor camera performance, especially at night

RATING: 6.5/10

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