Alcatel competing from top to bottom

Alcatel's One Touch Idol Alpha. (Gadget)

Alcatel's One Touch Idol Alpha. (Gadget)

When Alcatel unveiled the One Touch Idol Alpha, it didn’t aim for the stars with regard to features and specs, but produced a rather decent smartphone that would compete effectively on price.

Nevertheless, it still managed to startle the market. The Alpha has a 4.7-inch display with 720x1280 resolution, a 13 megapixel (MP) rear camera and a 1.3MP front camera. It runs off a 1.2GHz quad-core processor with 1GB of RAM and provides 16GB of internal storage and microSD storage of up to 32GB. 

It has been given an Oleophobic coating, the same fingerprint-resistant treatment given to the iPhone 5s.
So far so ordinary. Clearly it’s not the features that will attract attention. Until the phone is switched on, and receives a call. That’s when the heads turn. 

In a dramatic departure from the standard rectangular design of almost every smartphone on the market, the Alpha has a curved top and bottom made of translucent plastic that lights up when a call is received.

That doesn’t make it a better phone, but it sure puts it on the attention map. It also happens to be one of the lightest smartphones on the market. At 117g, it’s only a shade heavier than the lightweight champion, the iPhone 5s, at 112g.

Top end and bottom end
Not coincidentally, that echoes one of the features of the best feature phone Alcatel has ever made, which also happens to be one of the best feature phones made by any brand in the past year. It’s called the One Touch Tribe 30.03 and weighs just 76g. Unlike the Alpha, however, this phone is defined by its features, not to mention its price.

It’s a BlackBerry lookalike – wave it quickly past young South Africans and they will invariably identify it as a BlackBerry Curve – with qwerty keyboard and an attractive blue backlight when the phone is in use. The display is only a two-inch screen, but that’s enough for the large BlackBerry-aspiring market at the entry level in South Africa.

More significantly, despite only having GPRS connectivity for internet use, it comes with a range of the most popular social networking apps, including Facebook and Twitter. It also features a wonderful Fake Call app, which allows the user to set the phone to ring at a specific time – say during a meeting or date – and to display a pre-set name of the person ostensibly making the call.

Both of these phones – at the top end and bottom end – are priced at a level that belies their appeal. The Alpha will sell on prepaid deals at R5 999, making it the cheapest flagship phone from a major phone brand on the South African market. The 30.03 holds an even bigger surprise: it sells for R280, which is arguably the best value for money in the phone market today. –

Arthur Goldstuck is the founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Follow him on Twitter @art2gee.

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