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Alcatel OneTouch POP S3 hands-on: no beauty, no beast, just a nice entry-level LTE phone

Posted: , by Luis D.

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Alcatel has just unveiled its new OneTouch Pop S family of smartphones that bring 4G LTE support in an affordable package. Until now, smartphones with 4G LTE carried a premium price, but at this year's MWC, smaller manufacturers (and Nokia) made a collective effort to offer more of them on a budget. It's a great initiative for sure, and the Alcatel OneTouch POP S3 is a good example of it.

Design


Alcatel OneTouch POP S3 hands-on: no beauty, no beast, just a nice entry-level LTE phone
Alcatel OneTouch POP S3 hands-on: no beauty, no beast, just a nice entry-level LTE phone
Alcatel OneTouch POP S3 hands-on: no beauty, no beast, just a nice entry-level LTE phone
Alcatel OneTouch POP S3 hands-on: no beauty, no beast, just a nice entry-level LTE phone
The POP S3 is a model entry-level device. It has a generic, harmless glossy plastic build. "Easy to choose, easy to use" - as Alcatel says. Cheap to manufacture, we slyly added. The phone will come in about five cheerful colors, which is characteristic of Chinese manufacturers. 

On the top, you will find the loudspeaker and front camera, while the capacitive Android keys are placed on the bottom. The left side is clear, and as you can see in the third photo on the right, the paint isn't applied very evenly there. Still, the right side has the volume rocker, the micro-USB port is on the downside, and on the upside, we have the power button, a 3.5mm jack, and a microphone. Three cheers to simplicity!

Display


The Alcatel OneTouch POP S3 has a 4-inch display with a 480x800 (WVGA) resolution, which is good for 223 pixels per inch. While the picture isn't that sharp as a whole, and the colors are washed out, the screen is completely legible. Unfortunately, it's only a simple TFT panel, so the color quality isn't anything spectacular. You can also see the characteristic distortion of a TFT display viewed from an extreme angle. Still, a phone in this class certainly could fare worse.

Interface and software


On this side of things, we have Android 4.3 out of the box, layered with Alcatel's custom user interface. This isn't one of those fancy UIs, but the Android experience has been customized with some custom icons and layouts. It's note-worthy that the POP S3 comes with some welcome extras, such as the often missing FM Radio, and a neat One-Finger Zoom feature. After you double tap to zoom: hold your finger on the screen, and easily zoom in and out of the content that you're viewing. See the hands-on video below for a demonstration.

Processor and memory


The OneTouch POP S3's processor is a 1.2Ghz quad-core CPU, presumably made by MediaTek. It's paired with 1GB of RAM, which is very good for an entry-level phone, and quite important for an LTE-enabled one, as anything less simply won't cut it. The storage capacity is 4GB, and it's expandable via microSD. The battery capacity is 2000mAh, which sounds decent in the POP S3's case. Due to their economical hardware, entry-level smartphones like this usually have a reliable battery life, but then again, LTE is known to drain the battery.

The overall performance in our hands-on was okay. There was a little stutter, but that's understandable, as the phone isn't running final software. We believe the POP S3 will run more smoothly when it launches.

Camera


On the phone's back panel, there's a 5MP camera with auto-focus and LED-flash. It offers 1080p video capture, which is great for an entry-level device. There is a front-facing VGA camera as well, which might sound very basic, but it's a welcome addition to such a starter-type phone.



Expectations


The Alcatel OneTouch POP S3 seems great for what it is - a nice entry-level handset with stand-out features, such as LTE capability, good battery capacity, and decent performance. The display and build quality are considerable shortcomings, but when you factor in the probably low price, they aren't to be scoffed at. We expect this phone to succeed in its mission to deliver fast 4G LTE Internet to many customers from China, and other nations that have been stepping up their data speeds.

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