Alcatel A7

The Alcatel A7 is the latest mid-range challenger from TCL Communication Technology, the company which manufactures phones under the French brand Alcatel. 

Powered by an entry-level MediaTek MT6750T chipset, it has a 5.5-inch LCD screen, 32GB of storage, 3GB of RAM and a massive 4000mAh battery, which also supports fast charging. 

It is accompanied to market by the A7 XL, which has a 6-inch screen, metal bodywork and predictably costs a little more to buy.

Alcatel A7 price and availability

  • Alcatel A7 price: £189.99 (11,000 Rupees) SIM free
  • Alcatel A7 release date: September 2017

The Alcatel A7 price can be found as low as £189.99 SIM-free in the UK if you're willing to shop around.

That puts it into a highly affordable price bracket, with the likes of the Moto G5S, G5S Plus and Honor 7X for company.

It's available from a number of UK retailers including Amazon, Argos, Very and Littlewoods.

In India the Alcatel A7 will set you back around 11,000 Rupees from Amazon.

Design and Display

  • 5.5-inch LCD screen with 1080 x 1920 resolution
  • Removable cover gives access to SIM and MicroSD slots
  • Micro USB port rather than USB Type-C

The Alcatel A7 is something of a rarity these days – even in the mid-range Android sector – because it doesn't have a metal body, and the plastic back actually detaches so you can insert your nano SIM and MicroSD card (the battery, sadly, is not replaceable). 

The lack of metal means this is a lightweight phone, despite the 5.5-inch screen. The rear has a grippy spiral texture which prevents the handset from being too slippy during use and showcases a gold Alcatel logo, situated just below the camera and (surprisingly fast) fingerprint scanner. 

These two elements are both ringed with a gold accent, which gives the phone a classy look.

Flip the Alcatel A7 over, and you're presented with a device that looks a little outdated; there's no 18:9 aspect ratio screen here and the bezels are huge. 

This wouldn't be so bad if the bezels had a purpose, and given that there's a gold-accented speaker grille both above and below the screen, you'd be forgiven for assuming they housed stereo speakers. 

Sadly, this isn't the case; only the bottom grille has a speaker – the top one merely contains the in-call speaker, so you're not getting stereo sound during media and music playback. 

On the plus side, Alcatel has included an front-facing LED flash on the top bezel, which we'll discuss later in the review. There's also a notification LED, which is a neat extra that some mid-level smartphones lack.

Regarding buttons and inputs, the power and volume controls are found on the right-hand edge of the phone. 

The top edge is home to the 3.5mm headphone jack, while the bottom has the Micro-USB port – there's no USB Type-C here, unfortunately, so you'll still need to remember which way round the charger plugs in, which is a distinctly first world problem. 

Alcatel A7 hands on gallery

On the bottom-right corner of the Alcatel A7, there's a small indent into which you can slot your nail and pop the back of the phone off. You'll need to do this to insert your Nano SIM or use a MicroSD card to expand the phone's 32GB of default storage.

All in all, the Alcatel A7 is a reasonably inoffensive smartphone from a purely cosmetic perspective; the plastic feels a bit naff in 2018 – even on a mid-range device – and it's a shame that the removable back doesn't also mean a removable battery.

The 5.5-inch LTPS IPS LCD screen is covered in Dragontrail glass (a rival to the more famous Corning Gorilla Glass) and boasts a resolution of 1080 x 1920 pixels, which makes it pretty sharp – you won't witness any blocky images or jagged text here.

Viewing angles are also good, with the image remaining clear no matter which direction you look at it from. 

The phone's auto-brightness option does a good job of selecting the right level of light indoors, but the screen is hard to make out when used in direct sunlight; colours also look rather pale and muted when compared to the best OLED panels on the market. 

Still, considering the price this is an excellent display – it's sharp and has good contrast levels.

Battery life

  • 4,000mAh battery with fast charging
  • Easily lasts a whole day on a single charge

With its 4,000mAh battery, the Alcatel A7 offers a surprising amount of stamina for a device in this price bracket. 

How much usage you'll get off a single charge obviously depends on your own smartphone habits, but after a day of browsing the web, taking photos, playing games and watching movies, we found the A7 still had plenty of juice left in the tank; in fact, we were able to get through roughly half of the following day, too. 

If you're sick of your smartphone running out of power before you even get home, then you'll have no complaints with this device. 

In our battery test – where an HD clip is played for 90 minutes at full screen brightness – the Alcatel A7 shed 12 percent of its battery life.

Despite not having a Snapdragon chipset – and thereby missing out on Qualcomm's Quick Charge standard – the A7 does feature fast charging support. 

From an empty battery it took around an hour and forty-five minutes to reach the full charge, but if you're looking for a quick top-up before you leave the house, then 15 to 30 minutes connected to the wall charger should do the trick.

Despite the presence of a removable back cover, the Alcatel A7's battery cannot be replaced by the end user – which is something of a missed opportunity, if you ask us. 

With people holding onto their handsets for longer these days, the ability to fit a new power cell would have made the phone even more appealing to mid-range buyers.

Camera

  • 16-megapixel rear-facing camera with 1080p video
  • 8-megapixel front-facing selfie cam with LED flash

The Alcatel A7 comes equipped with a 16MP rear camera with a wide f/2.0 aperture. 

Electronic Image Stabilization is also featured – the superior Optical Image Stabilization is perhaps a little out of this price range – and the Phase Detect Auto Focus system is reasonably nippy. 

A dual-tone LED flash lights up darker shots. For selfies, the 8MP front-facing camera works well enough, although skin tones look a little bleached out, especially when the front-facing LED flash is deployed. 

Still, this feature does at least make taking selfies in darkened rooms possible, if you absolutely have to have that kind of thing.

The rear-facing camera supports HD recording at 1080p, 30fps – despite 4K making its way onto other budget-level blowers like the Xiaomi Redmi 5, it's not present here. 

Both photo and video quality are average rather than stunning; there's a lot of compression present on still images, and we've seen better HD footage. Low-light shooting is also somewhat lackluster.

The phone's camera software is pretty basic, but does come with some nice extras, such as a panoramic mode, time-lapse recording and the ability to create collages as you take the photos. 

The only genuine annoyance is that HDR has to be manually toggled on and off, and isn't deployed automatically, as is the case on many other phones.

In summary, the camera on the A7 isn't going to scoop any awards, but it will be entirely adequate for most users. It's fast to capture and the resultant images look fine on your phone's screen, provided you don't scrutinize them too carefully.

Camera samples

Interface and Software

  • Android 7 isn't the latest software

With Android 7.0 calling the shots, the Alcatel A7 isn't as cutting edge as it could be – Android 8 Oreo is the latest and greatest version of Google's mobile OS, but only a handful of phones currently have it, and most of those are found at the top section of the market. 

Alcatel has kept things relatively clean when it comes to UI design, choosing to maintain the core look of "stock" Android Nougat while making tiny adjustments and embellishments which aim to improve the overall user experience.

Some of these hit the mark, such as the lock-screen wallpaper randomizer which mixes static and live images to good effect, even allowing you to pick out your favorites or hide ones you don't like. 

The ability to select different themes is also welcome, even if it's less unique these days than it once was. 

Unfortunately, there are a few bum notes as far as apps are concerned; Alcatel has included a bespoke Music player which based on the design of Google Music, but doesn't connect to tunes stored in Google's cloud – instead, it links to Deezer. 

If you already use Deezer then you're better off downloading the official Android app; for everyone else, Google Play Music – which is ironically installed right out of the box – is a far superior option.

There's more needless replication of functionality with the web browser, gallery app and curated app store, all of which are best being disabled as soon as you get the phone so you can use Google's far better alternatives. SwiftKey is the default keyboard, but we quickly found ourselves swapping this out for Google Keyboard. 

There's nothing inherently wrong with OEMs like Alcatel filling their phones with bespoke apps, but we'd much rather they just use Google's offerings instead (the A7 does, to its credit, come preloaded with Chrome, Gmail, Drive, Google Maps and Google Music all pre-installed, it should be noted).

Beyond these minor tweaks, Alcatel has been remarkably restrained when it comes to the UI on the A7. Unlike manufacturers like Xiaomi or Samsung, it offers a pretty vanilla Android experience which is sure to appeal to Google purists, even if the small amount of bloatware is mildly irritating.

Movies, music and gaming

The Alcatel A7's 16:9 ratio screen means that it's not quite as well-suited for movie consumption as devices like the Galaxy S8 or Xiaomi Redmi 5, but there's still enough display real estate on offer to make portable watching enjoyable. 

It's just a shame that there's only a single front-facing speaker instead of two; stereo sound would have enhanced the experience. The mono speaker is also somewhat timid and lacking in bass; it also distorts a little at high volume. 

At least music lovers can take solace in the fact that the phone has a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Given its entry-level specs, we weren't expecting much from the Alcatel A7 when it came to gaming, but we came away surprised.

Real Racing 3 is a good benchmark for 3D performance, despite being a few years old now, and the A7 handled it well – there was still some slowdown when a lot of cars were on-screen at once, but generally, it offered a smooth and fast experience. 

Tekken – which only launched very recently and is one of the most graphically stunning fighters available on Android – also runs well.

Specs and performance

Like a great many mid-level Android handsets, the Alcatel A7 sports a MediaTek chipset – the octa-core MT6750T, to be precise. 

There's 3GB RAM to keep things ticking over, which is pretty much standard on a handset in this price range these days.

Running AnTuTu Benchmark yields a score of 55610, which is pretty lackluster by modern standards. 

Geekbench gives a single-core score of 613 and a multi-core score of 2607. Again, this is hardly groundbreaking when compared to other 2018 Android phones. 

Roughly speaking, the A7 is on par with handsets running the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 chipset, which was considered to be cutting-edge around three years ago.

It's obvious that the Alcatel A7 isn't going to challenge the big boys of the smartphone arena, and despite the disappointing benchmarks the phone ran well enough during our review period. 

Granted, it began to struggle when multiple activities were taking place at once – such as downloads and video running simultaneously – but for casual users, the lack of horsepower is going to be less of an issue.

Verdict

The Alcatel A7 is your typical mid-range Android smartphone; it offers a neat design, good screen, middle-of-the-road performance and a workmanlike camera. 

It's not really lacking in any category, but predictably doesn't quite reach the lofty heights of a device which would cost you three or even four times as much. 

The all-plastic design feels a little tacky in 2018, and the LCD screen doesn't pop like the OLED panels we're seeing on more and more handsets these days. 

Performance wise, it's about on par with flagships from 2015, while the camera is reasonably straightforward and lacks special tricks like bokeh modes or dual-sensor shenanigans. 

Despite its unremarkable nature, the A7 performs well enough, and the uncluttered UI will appeal to those who are put off by aggressive OEM skins.

Who's this for?

It may not turn heads, but the Alcatel A7 is the perfect device for casual smartphone users who don't want to have to sell a kidney or tie themselves into an expensive contract to get a decent handset. 

As long as you don't demand too much of it, you're unlikely to be disappointed.

Should you buy it?

If you're shopping on a budget and don't like the look of other low-cost Android smartphones out there, then the Alcatel A7 is a worthy choice. 

For £200 you're getting a lot of phone for your money; the A7 does everything to an acceptable standard without too many sacrifices, but if you're willing to invest a little more moolah then you might be better off looking at handsets like the OnePlus 5T, which offers flagship specs without hitting the insane price tags seen on the iPhone X and Galaxy S9.

If the Alcatel A7 hasn't quite taken your fancy, but its price tag is in your ball park, take a look at these alternatives.

Honor 9 Lite

The Honor 9 Lite has a lovely 18:9 display and more premium feel than the Alcatel A7, but its custom EMUI is a little overbearing and its camera has similar problems with low-light shooting.

Sony Xperia L2

An excellent wide-angle selfie cam and large battery make the Xperia L2 a suitable alternative if you can put up with the average performance and 720p display, that is.

Moto G5

Moto G5

Coming in slightly cheaper than the Alcatel A7 is the Moto G5. It lacks NFC and isn't that powerful, but it does at least feel like a premium handset and boasts an excellent screen.

First reviewed: March 2017

Damien McFerran
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