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Alcatel OneTouch POP S3 Review

The Alcatel OneTouch Pop S3 is the cheapest 4G smartphone ever, but at what cost?

Alcatel OneTouch’s latest handset undercuts all other budget 4G phones on the market – even EE’s own-brand £99 Kestrel handset that only launched in May. But as more and more phones offer LTE data speeds at a discount, is this enough to make the Pop S3 a must-have?

In terms of design, the Pop S3 has thankfully swerved the convention for the Little Black Handset that is the default for so many budget devices. Instead Alcatel OneTouch has opted for a bright white front, though the capacitive buttons along the bottom and an excessive bezel at the top seem like a waste of screen space.

Perhaps taking the lead from low-budget leaders Motorola and Nokia, the handset also has replaceable back covers. They’re made from a cheap material, but come in a broad range of colours and are tough enough to handle a knock.

Alcatel OneTouch is keen to promote the Pop S3 as a device that is ready to use straight out of the box. What this means is that it’s pre-installed with lots of apps. While this sets off alarm bells for many discerning users, the inclusion of big names like Facebook, Evernote, Shazam and WhatsApp were very useful. Best of all, if they’re unwanted, deleting them is easy.

Where these apps crossed the line from preloaded perks to bloatware are in Alcatel OneTouch’s own-brand apps that ape the function of Google ones, which are also installed. The result is the handset only has under 2GB of storage available, though the micro SD slot could add an extra 32GB.

Despite its memory issues, the handset also boosts 1GB RAM and a quad-core processor, which ensures a smooth user experience. Also running Android 4.3, Alcatel OneTouch has really upgraded its specs for this budget buy.

However, the phone’s undoing is its screen. Built with a cheap TN screen, viewing angles are extremely limited and easily darken. A lowly 233ppi ensure that, even head on, the graphics look disappointingly soft, almost fuzzy.

With a screen fit only for reading the web and looking at low-res Facebook photos, this is a real waste of that 4G connectivity and processing power that is intended for video streaming and high-end games.

If that’s not important to you, the Pop S3 is a worthy buy as it’s still cheaper than many 3G phones. But those who want to make the most of LTE will need to pay extra for better build quality.