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Alcatel One Touch Evolve review

The Good The Alcatel One Touch Evolve has impressive call quality and it’s one of the lowest-priced phones on T-Mobile.

The Bad The phone lacks 4G support, has a slow processor, and the screen is fuzzy and dim.

The Bottom Line At $99, the Alcatel One Touch Evolve is an affordable Android phone, but its dismal performance makes it not even worth that price.

There’s no way around it, the Alcatel One Touch Evolve is cheap — both in price and specs. At $99 all-in, it’s a bargain smartphone that has a sleek design, but it’s held back by an old version of Android, a dim screen, and a lousy fixed-focus camera.

The Evolve, along with the $139 One Touch Fierce, is part of the Alcatel’s efforts to bring entry-level budget smartphones to top-tier carriers in the US, something the company hasn’t done before. Though the Evolve is a budget device, and I’d expect lower-end specs and features for its price, its poor performance means I still can’t recommend it. For a little more money and a lot more performance, look at the LG Optimus F3 or the Nokia Lumia 520/521, three budget phones that are worth the money.

The wallet-friendly Alcatel One Touch Evolve (pictures)

Design
Despite its budget price, the all-black Evolve doesn’t look particularly cheap. Compared with the shiny design on the Fierce, this model looks understated with its soft-touch matte back cover and silver accents. There’s also a shiny dark detail around the edge, near the screen, which helps elevate the design.

Unfortunately that high-end veneer disappears once you pick it up, because I could feel the back cover move around when I even gently grasped the sides of the device. Though the back cover feels soft in my hands, the phone itself feels boxy.

The Evolve has a soft-touch matte black design on the back.Josh Miller/CNET

Measuring just 4.7 inches tall, 2.5 wide, and 0.4 inch wide, the Evolve is small enough to use one-handed without straining to tap any part of the screen. My everyday phone is a much larger phablet, so it feels tiny in my hands, which is a welcome change. It’s also heavy for its size at 4.7 ounces, though that didn’t bother me.

Up top you’ll find the standard power/lock button and a headphone jack, along the right side there’s a volume rocker. Unlike most Android phones that have the charging ports at the bottom, the port is on the left side here. That makes the phone awkward to hold in your left hand while its charging.

On the back, there’s a removable battery that covers the SIM and SD card slots. It’s a pain to have to remove the battery just to swap in a SD card, which can add up to 32GB of extra storage to supplement the 4GB that’s built-in.

Instead of physical buttons, the phone has capacitive hot keys, housed on the bezel below the screen, for the home, back, and menu controls. The only way to tell which button is which is to tap somewhere on that bottom bezel to turn on the backlight, which illuminates the outlines of each hot key.

With only 233 pixels per inch, it’s no surprise that the 4-inch 480×800-pixel screen doesn’t look sharp, though I was disappointed by how dim it looks even at maximum brightness. Icons, especially the ones designed by Alcatel, look fuzzy, but medium- to large-size text is easy to read. This display supports 16 million colors, and the colors of the icons and wallpapers on the screen look saturated.

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