Inexpensive. Crisp display. Current Android software. Expandable storage. Good network performance.
Outdated processor. Mediocre battery life. Poor camera. Amazon bloatware and advertising.
- Bottom Line
The Amazon-exclusive Alcatel A30 is an inexpensive unlocked phone with a nice display and recent Android software, but it falls short on performance and battery life.
By Ajay Kumar
The Alcatel A30 is the latest phone available exclusively from Amazon, and its $59.99 Prime-subsidized iteration seems like quite a deal. Available in CDMA or GSM models, it gets you solid 4G LTE network connectivity, a bright, crisp HD display, and relatively up-to-date Android software, making it a good value for the price if you have very basic needs. But weak performance, short battery life, and a lackluster camera means it isn't quite the killer deal it appears to be.
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Pricing and Models
The A30 is sold exclusively through Amazon in a 2GB RAM/16GB storage configuration. There's a Prime-subsidized version with ads and offers for $59.99, and an ad-free model for $99.99.
You can also pick between a GSM model that works on AT&T and T-Mobile, and a CDMA version for Verizon. There's no Sprint model, but three major carriers is more support than you find with most unlocked phones.
We reviewed a $59.99 GSM model with lock screen ads and offers.
Design, Features, and Display
You won't be confusing the A30 for a more expensive phone. It's made entirely of polycarbonate, with a silver plastic band along the sides and a textured gray back panel. It feels sturdy enough, and the plastic doesn't flex under pressure.
The phone measures 5.6 by 2.8 by 0.3 inches (HWD) and weighs 5.2 ounces, similar to the ZTE Avid Trio (5.7 by 2.9 by 0.4 inches, 5.9 ounces), though nearly an ounce lighter. You can use the phone with one hand, but reaching up to pull the notification shade down requires some dexterity.
On the right side you'll find a volume rocker and power button. The bottom has an off-center micro USB charging port, while the top holds a 3.5mm headphone jack. The back panel is removable, but the battery is sealed in. You'll find SIM and microSD card slots back there, the latter of which worked fine with a 256GB card.
There's a bright 5-inch, 1,280-by-720 display on the other side. That works out to 294 pixels per inch (ppi), which is surprisingly sharp for this price range. It's better than the grainy Avid Trio (196ppi), though it doesn't measure up to the 1080p display on the Moto G5 Plus(401ppi). Viewing angles are also decent, though the screen takes on a yellowish tint when viewed from the side. It gets reasonably bright and remains visible outdoors, but the panel itself is rather reflective.
Network Performance and Connectivity
The GSM A30 model we tested is unlocked and supports LTE bands 2/4/5/12, allowing it to operate on AT&T and T-Mobile. We tested on T-Mobile in midtown Manhattan, where we recorded strong network performance with a high of 18.7Mbps up and 12.8Mbps down.
Other connectivity options are limited. You have Bluetooth 4.1 and Wi-Fi on the 2.4GHz band, but not 5GHz. There's also an accelerometer, light sensor, and proximity sensor, but no gyroscope, so you can't use things like the AR-style camera in Pokemon Go.
Call quality is solid. Transmissions came across clearly in testing, aside from some minor crackling. Voices were clear and natural, and noise cancellation dampened the majority of background noise. Earpiece volume is loud, but the speaker is too tinny to be of much use for speakerphone calls. The phone supports VoLTE, but not Wi-Fi calling.
Processor, Battery, and Camera
So where did Alcatel cut corners to reach such an agreeable price point? Look no further than the dated Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 processor under the hood. Clocked at 1.1GHz, the nearly three-year-old chipset struggles to keep up with modern apps and processes.
In the AnTuTu benchmark—a measure of overall system performance—the A30 scored 16,720, a relatively low score even among entry-level devices. It's far lower than the Snapdragon 425-powered Avid Trio (32,443), and similarly outstripped by the Blu R1 HD's MediaTek 6735 (31,847). The A30 crashed during the Jetstream and Browsermark tests, which test browser speed, and was unable to complete GFXBench, which measures graphics performance.
The A30 has 2GB of RAM, so you can still manage to multitask as long as you don't push it too hard. That means about five or six apps (Dialer, Camera, Chrome, Gmail, Messenger, etc.) can run in the background, but you'll notice some slowdown. Switching between apps will make the phone hang, and there's some visible stuttering. It never locked up though, which is something that happened with the Avid Trio.
Battery life is similarly unimpressive. The A30 clocked 4 hours, 13 minutes in our rundown test, in which we set screen brightness to maximum and stream full-screen video over LTE. That's nearly half the battery life of both the Avid Trio (7 hours, 45 minutes) and the G5 Plus (7 hours, 35 minutes). There's no fast charging or power-saving mode, aside from the default Battery Saver app that comes with Android.
Camera quality is poor. There's an 8-megapixel rear camera that takes dull, noisy pictures in most settings. The camera app is slow to launch and autofocus often fails to kick in before taking a shot. More often than not you'll find yourself focusing manually, and even then it seems like half of the photos you take come out blurry. The only time we were able to coax reliably good shots out of the A30 was in the controlled setting of our photo test lab.
The 5-megapixel front camera fares a bit better taking selfies when it focuses properly. The phone records 720p video at 30fps, but it has the same struggles with autofocus and exposure, and rarely corrects itself after losing focus.
Software is where the A30 really stands out. Unlike just about every other device in this price range, it ships running Android 7.0 Nougat. It's not quite the latest version (that's 7.1.1), and you probably won't get any further updates behind security patches, but it's still pretty impressive to find on a budget device. Nougat brings a host of improvements over previous versions of Android you can read about in our review.
The software skin is also light. Alcatel hasn't added a custom UI layer, so you won't find any visual difference from stock Android beyond the Amazon advertising on the lock screen and a widget on the home screen that displays products based on previous purchases. If you don't log in to your Amazon account, you'll be shown generic products instead.
Not surprisingly, there's a fair share of bloatware installed on the phone. You'll find 10 Amazon apps, Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and NextRadio. Only Facebook and Instagram can be uninstalled; the rest can only be disabled. Out of a total 16GB of storage, 7.21GB is free. Fortunately, you can add a microSD card as either portable or adoptable storage, giving you more space for apps and photos.
The Alcatel A30 is a decent budget phone, especially if you're looking for a backup or starter device. For less than $100 you get good network performance, an HD display, and a fairly recent version of Android. But Alcatel makes quite a few compromises to reach that price point, including a slow processor, lackluster battery life, and poor camera quality. The A30 is still a reasonably solid choice for the price, but it's hard to fully recommend when other affordable phones like ZTE's Avid Trio and Zmax Pro, and LG's Stylo 3 are out there. Even the older Blu R1 HD remains a solid alternative. And while the Motorola G5 Plus is a decent step up in price ($184.99 for the Amazon Prime model), you get a tremendous increase in specs, performance, and features, making it our Editors' Choice.
By Ajay Kumar Mobile Analyst
Ajay Kumar is PCMag's Analyst obsessed with all things mobile. Ajay reviews phones, tablets, accessories, and just about any other gadget that can be carried around with you. In his spare time he games on the rig he built himself, collects Nintendo amiibos, and tries his hand at publishing a novel. Follow Ajay on Twitter @Ajay_H_Kumar. More »
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