Tech Review: “Films On The Go” – Alcatel A5 Smartphone

A budget smartphone that scores big on TV and film streaming in spite of a lack of performance in other areas. Still, we can’t think of a phone as delightfully characterful as the Alcatel A5 and its fun LED light show.

The Alcatel A5 is an affordable smartphone with a number of user friendly features to merit a purchase. But it’s a phone that’s perhaps better suited to those wanting a second option to their main smartphone, or perhaps, with its LED light show capability, a good starter for a teenager.

That said, within the competition at this price bracket, there are more robust options available. Because the Alcatel A5 has spent so much time putting on a gimmicky performance with its cover LEDs, there are liberties taken at the front end which will leave some users disappointed.

Admittedly, you perhaps know what you’re going to get from Alcatel before you open the box. Anyone who has had one of the brand’s phones previously will understand what I mean.

The Alcatel A5 is an affordable smartphone with some standout features

Alcatel smartphones are made by global tech firm TCL Communications. They operate in more than 170 countries under the Alcatel brand. Its aim is simple: to create communications tech for the millennial and Gen Z consumers with which it feels it can develop a kinship. Its biggest claim to fame is its ability to understand developing consumer demand, to capture trends and exploit them for the betterment of the customer base.

The Alcatel A5 is a great example of what the brand is all about. The phone’s USP comes down to its LED lights that dazzle to the sounds of your favourite tunes. It’s this that really makes the phone an attractive one for users who are less demanding of front line performance, namely younger users.

The phone comes boxed with a fairly chunky back plate which you attach to its rear. Turn on the light show app and watch as the LEDs do their thing. It’s quite attractive and works quite well.

LED light show gives the Alcatel A5 a gimmick to thrill some users

Options include having the light show come on when you get phone calls or notifications as well as the ability to sync the lights to music and games. There are ten pre-made light shows and you have the option to make your own.

The light show is produced by 25 individual multi-colour LEDs which essentially turn a smartphone into a small-scale mobile disco. When the LEDs are switched off, the phone appears to have a slim case attached to it, a honeycomb finish allowing the lights to dazzle when turned on but giving a somewhat characterful and stylish finish when dormant.

For me, the best uses of the LEDs are for music. I liked the “rainfall” preset when music is playing while the EQ waveform option will please others. Using it for notifications can be fun too if a little too intrusive for my tastes.

That sums up the phone and the Alcatel brand. It’s a phone that leans towards fun and gimmicks rather than performance. When compared to its price-bracket competitors, it loses out in most areas.

For example, the battery life is weak (unsurprising when it is getting tasked to do a lot more than phones without a mobile disco), and I was unimpressed with the camera. Apps can take longer to load than direct competitors despite a CPU that should do better. Indeed, I tried a few games and they all played fine proving the CPU is up to the task. Perhaps Alcatel will have a software update in the pipeline to fix slow-loading apps.

A smartphone that’s ideal for streaming film “on the go”

What is promising is the Alcatel A5’s 5.2” HD screen. Watching films and TV on the phone are pleasing affairs. For a budget phone, I found the colours, clarity and sharpness to be strong. Just because the A5’s camera isn’t up to much, picture reproduction when streaming Netflix or watching films via YouTube is fine. In fact, if you want a second handset to get out on the morning commute for film and TV viewing, the Alcatel A5 is an affordable, good quality option. Just turn off the LED lights to save on battery use.

For those wanting a performance-led smartphone with an operating system that works fast, a battery that lasts more than 24 hours despite fairly intensive use, and a quality camera, there are better options within the price bracket.

Despite its flaws, the Alcatel A5 has a number of positives. It’s strongly built which I think makes it ideal for teenage users who are less careful with it. The screen and CPU allow for film and TV streaming with little concern; the picture quality strong for a budget phone. And the LED light show will thrill those wanting more than just a boring, run-of-the-mill smartphone.

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Written by Rory Fish

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Rory Fish has loved movies since he can remember. If he was to put together an "all time" top 10 of absolute favourites it would have to include North By Northwest, 12 Angry Men and Sunset Boulevard.

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