Over the next few weeks I will review the best budget phones T-Mobile has to offer. These phones are new, different, and less expensive than what I used you and I are used to. Forget about the iPhone and the S6 and take a look at what you can get for a fraction of the cost. You may not get the best of the best but you will get best of the rest. And who knows, it may just surprise you.
My first review was the LG Leon LTE.
This is the Alcatel OneTouch Pop Astro Review.
Files were lost in the process of this review. Moving forward I will do a better job on photos and videos.
The Pop Astro is an interesting device. At first glance, it looks very solid and nice with its rounded edges and bright white color. Its thinner than the LG Leon and its backing is not as curved giving it a more uniform look and feel across the entire device. It feels great to hold and it's just as light as the Leon. Its size lends well to one handed use as the Leon did and the side power button is easily accessible. The power button and volume rocker are on the right side of the device with great thought to placement. I never felt like I would press the volume down thinking its the power button. Both have a great tactile feel.
The 3.5mm headphone jack resides on the top and the micro USB port on the bottom of the Pop Astro. On the front of the device we have capacitive buttons for back, home, and, strangely enough, the old menu button. It’s 2015 and it still boggles my mind that manufacturers are still shipping phones with this old standard. A front facing VGA camera, proximity sensor, and a small white (dim) notification light round out the front of the device with a 5 megapixel camera with flash on the rear.
The phone is equipped with a 4.5 inch qHD TFT display at 960 by 540 resolution coming in at 245 pixels per inch. This results in a display that is crisper and results in better images and text display than the previously reviewed LG Leon. This, however, does not mean the screen is better. On the contrary, I prefer the better quality and appearance of the IPS panel in the LG Leon. Viewing angles deteriorate on the Pop Astro and the TFT panel just doesn’t look as good as the IPS display on the LG Leon. The resolution might be higher but the screen on the Pop Astro just seems off.The display is on the dim side as well needing at least 80 percent brightness to be adequate. The screen is very responsive and works as well as we would expect in terms of touch. A very cost effective approach by Alcatel but it results in mediocre quality.
The phone comes with a 5 megapixel rear camera with flash and a VGA front facing camera. The rear camera performs very similar to the LG Leon with, at times, better results than the former. Colors look good and capture speed is faster than what I am used to in this price range. Video looks good at both 720p and 1080p and overall I am satisfied with the rear camera. It’ll do the job and can surprise you at times. The front camera, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. Everything is dark and noisy and faces are hard to make out. I wouldn’t use it for Snapchat since I can see the results. It should be ok for video chat since, well, you won’t be looking at the results.
Performance and Software
The Alcatel Pop Astro is powered by a 1.5Ghz Quad Core MediaTek MT6732 processor, 1GB of Ram, and 4GB of internal storage. If you thought the 3.5GB of the LG Leon was bad, the Pop Astro only has 1.5GB of available storage to the user! That is obscenely low for for anyone using a smartphone these days. Safe to say don’t leave the store without a microSD card. After updating all my Google apps and downloading a handful of apps, I was left with 800MB of space. By the end of my time with the Astro, I had 500MB of space left. Talk about some storage anxiety. I save everything on the cloud to the point that if I login on another Android phone, it becomes my phone instantly. So believe me when I say that I felt constrained. I could only imagine another user who loves games, apps, and pictures and doesn’t purchase a microSD.
The Astro when exposed to a microSD card will try to save all it can to the card in terms of cache, media, and, at times automatically, applications. There is a system level setting that selects the microSD card as the primary storage location. No need to tell apps like the camera to save to the microSD as this setting covers all the bases. Apps to SD is supported but very few apps are capable of the ability. Most of them were games, which makes sense to store them on the card and load them on demand.
This is MediaTek’s debut into the US market with the MediaTek MT6732 on a national carrier. The 1.5Ghz Quad Core processor performs well against other counterparts like the Snapdragon 400 series. The phone felt fast and nothing felt like it took forever. Apps loaded quickly and games didn’t stutter or lag under MediaTek’s chip. Overall it was a good cost effective choice once again but I still feel like it’s still behind the Snapdragon 410, albeit not by much, but it also affects other areas(see Software and Battery).
The software feels like a blast of the past. The Pop Astro runs Android 4.4.4 Kitkat in a time where Lollipop 5.x is the standard and Android M was just announced. There is no telling when the Astro will receive an update to Lollipop and this lack of updates comes with the low end territory. I would recommend to look for a phone with Lollipop out of the box to prevent disappointment down the line. To make matters worse, Alcatel’s skin feels dated and clunky. A capacitive menu button harkens to the days of old and takes some time to get used to since the multitasking button replaced it over the past couple of years. Google Now is launched by holding the Home button and Recent Apps is launched by holding the menu button. That’s not to say that KitKat is bad. It actually works pretty well as it should but It feels like a missed a opportunity since the LG Leon, released around the same time, launched with Lollipop.
Alcatel’s launcher is pretty bare bones as is the notification pane. No notification toggles but the standard KitKat quick toggles button is on the top right corner next to the settings button. It’s kind of strange to see the lack toggles as soon as you pull down the pane as major companies like Samsung and LG felt the need for it. An argument can be made that Lollipop replaces the need for toggles with it’s two swipes for settings but that argument is only valid if the Astro sees a Lollipop update.
Side note: The flashlight app in the app drawer is actually a toggle that changes the icon when pressed (light flashing). The clock app in the app drawer shows the correct (analog) time and has a second hand that moves as it should. This is one of the coolest things on this phone that I wish every manufacturer should copy. Seriously I love it. Something as simple as an animated app icon.
Another strange quirk was that the YouTube app quality maxed out at 360p. This phone is qHD and it wouldn't allow even 480p videos. Videos looked choppy and ugly to say the least.
Battery was good but I think I was spoiled but the LG Leon. I was able to get a consistent 3 hour on screen time and it lasted me throughout an entire day (9am-11pm). The phone charges fast enough with about 3.5 hours from 10% to full with the included charger. My 2 amp Galaxy S6 charger was able to charge the phone in about 2 hours. Its enough for day to day use but you will be charging it every night. I lost about 5% charge overnight off the charger compared to 3% on the LG Leon. Both phones performed similarly to each other but the LG Leon gave me about 45min-1 hour extra on screen time.
The Alcatel Pop Astro is a bit of a head scratcher. It looks good, performs well, and lasts long enough on a charge but there isn’t enough positives to outweigh the negatives. The limited storage is a problem, the front facing camera performs terribly, and the software design is dated. This is a recently released phone and Alcatel doesn’t have a good track record of updating their phones. Come to think about it, what was the last Alcatel phone to receive an update? While it might seem like a good choice in store, prepare to buy an memory card and never take selfies as long as you have the phone. Since the phone is priced the same as the LG Leon, it’s easy for me to recommend the Leon over the Pop. Unless you got to have to have it in white.
The Alcatel Pop Astro is $149.99 for T-Mobile Customers or $6.24 a month for 24 months with no interest. The insurance deductible for this phone is a mere $20.