In addition to the muscular display of the major manufacturers, we also find it important to occasionally test what kind of devices the lesser gods bring on the market. That's why we took the Alcatel One Touch Pop C7 under our wing for a few days.
With a 5 inch display, 5 megapixel camera and 1.3GHz processor it seems like a pretty interesting option and we wonder how Alcatel manages to keep the price so low. Is there perhaps a catch?
Alcatel is certainly not the only manufacturer that seems to use the release of as many models as possible with small differences between them as tactics. Moreover, there are more relatively unknown manufacturers that fish in the same pond with budget-friendly devices. For example, Acer makes the Liquid Z5 and Archos makes the 50 Titanium. But also the big names try to do the honours. The LG L90 and Motorola Moto G are interesting candidates.
What's with the device?
The box in which the Pop C7 is delivered does not immediately show that it is a budget device. As we are used to from premium brands, it contains a quick start guide, headset and USB cable with adapter plug. However, the quality of the accessories feels clearly inferior to the major manufacturers. Moreover, the headset is of a sad level in terms of wearing comfort and sound quality.
The Pop C7 is a large but otherwise inconspicuous phone. The only embellishment on the phone is the chrome grill in front of the ear loudspeaker and an edge around the camera lens. At the top left of the screen is a minuscule white notification light. Below the screen we see three capacitive keys.
The functions of two of these keys are typical for Android. However, the third and rightmost one is strikingly enough a menu button, while this function is already processed by software in Android and therefore no specific button is needed anymore. The presence of such a button can make the learning curve smaller for people who are not yet familiar with Android.
Sitting on the right side of the unit, close together, the volume and power buttons. The top and bottom are for the headset and USB ports respectively. A large part of the sides and the entire back are covered by an exchangeable cover. In our test device, this has a black soft-touch coating with a just distinguishable bluish glow.
The Pop C7 is well put together and, partly due to its weight, feels solid. Despite its weight it lies comfortably in the hand because of the rounded sides.
The Pop C7 held it in our hands with ease for more than 1.5 days. On an average test day, we call for 30 to 40 minutes and mainly use applications such as WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook and e-mail. All this as much as possible via WiFi and with the screen brightness on automatic. Especially if you leave the device completely alone, the battery remains very stable. In one night it only lost 2% of its charge.
If this is not enough, the Pop C7 has two specific battery saving functions. First of all there is the power saving mode which allows functions such as WiFi, Bluetooth, auto sync and data connection to be turned off completely when the screen is turned off. To exclude certain apps from these rigorous measures, you can add them to the white list.
Finally, there is the ultimate savings mode. Only the telephone, contacts, messages, calendar and alarm functions can be used here. In fact, your smartphone becomes an 'ordinary' mobile phone.
The sound quality of the Pop C7 is of course not insanely good, but it can go through amply. At a lower volume level, the sound is not super clear but good quality. When the volume is set to maximum, the sound is quickly a little shrill.
Apart from small interface adjustments, the functionality of the phone function is fully in line with standard Android. With the help of smartdial the desired contact can be quickly found via the numeric keypad to start a call.
The screen of the Pop C7 has a resolution of 854 × 480 pixels and therefore a pixel density of 196 pixels per inch. These are not really specifications that make us happy. The image quality of this screen is incredibly poor. In fact, the worst we have ever seen in a very long time. Of course it's nice to have a big screen, but with this resolution everything looks a little out of focus.
In addition to the size and resolution, there is another factor that is important for monitors, and that is the viewing angle. Normally we don't spend too many words on this because that's not necessary. In the case of the Pop C7 we have to go into it a bit more. Actually, the image is only somewhat to peek at when you look at it perpendicularly. As soon as the camera is tilted even one degree over its width axis, the image fades and discolours. When tilted over the longitudinal axis, this is considerably less serious, which almost makes us suspect that they have used the screen wrongly. In any case, in practice it is terribly annoying because you tend to hold your phone slightly tilted in your hand.
The Pop C7 runs on Android 4.2.2 and that is unfortunately another version of two generations back. An update to Android 4.4 is therefore not to be expected. About Android Alcatel, just like many other manufacturers, lays a shell to adjust the appearance and/or functionality. This is usually done with varying success. The version of Alcatel is not the most flashy addition, but it looks neat and not too childish. Moreover, there are a few nice features and dexterities in it.
In this way, in addition to unlocking the phone, the phone function, message app or camera can also be opened directly from the lock screen. Behind the status bar hides the Android notification screen as usual, with a screen with shortcuts to functions from the settings menu on the other side. This has been slightly modified and expanded by Alcatel. When the battery has less than 15% capacity left and there are no notifications, this section opens automatically when the status bar is dragged down.
On each of the five home screens there's room for five lines with four apps each or you can fill up the screens with widgets of course. Oddly enough, when selecting widgets, there is no option to cancel the selection. It seems like they forgot this for a moment at Alcatel. At the bottom of the screen we find the so-called hotseat. In this hotseat, in addition to the link to the menu, three more apps can be placed that are visible on each start screen.
Like the phone function, the operation of the phonebook is no different than with standard Android. The appearance has changed slightly by Alcatel but the three tabs for groups, all contacts and favorites have been retained. In addition to email accounts, contacts from Facebook and Twitter can also be synchronized. Next, the type of contacts that are visible can be adjusted or filtered.
Setting up a different mail account than Gmail was not as easy as expected and we are used to it now. You can choose from Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, live and others. Unfortunately the app didn't succeed to automatically retrieve the Exchange data from an Outlook account when we entered it at 'other'.
Another point where we were surprised by the Pop C7 is the keyboard. Already when the device was put into use, we got the message that it has SwiftKey. This is one of the best known and most used keyboard replacements for Android. The behaviour and appearance of the keyboard can largely be adjusted to your personal preferences. With Flow you can enter text by sliding your finger over the keyboard.
Nevertheless, we have to admit that we don't like it very much. The symbols keyboard has a curious layout. The input is on the slow side and not very precise. Although this can be partly caused by the touchscreen and the processor of the Pop C7. The word prediction is not too good but that became better when we only ticked Dutch as our preferred language. Unfortunately it is not possible to switch quickly between different languages. To avoid these inconveniences you can of course also use the standard Android keyboard or download another replacement from the Play Store.
The previously mentioned settings screen behind the status bar can be used to quickly enable or disable functions such as WiFi, WiFi hotspot, Bluetooth, GPS and data connection. This is one of the most enjoyable features of Android.
With Google's Chrome and an Alcatel browser, the Pop C7 has two options for surfing the internet. In terms of functionality and speed they hardly avoid each other. However, Alcatel's own browser does have a bit more onscreen control buttons. Both browsers are pretty much abandoned due to the poor resolution of the screen. This is true with names at pieces of text. In those cases it is possible to zoom by double tapping or pinching with two fingers.
The 5.0 megapixel camera has a very concise interface but it is very clear. On one side of the image is the print button and a switch for photo or video mode. On the other side is the control for the flash, the settings button and a button to turn on the camera at the front. Via the settings, an HDR, panorama, night or sports mode can be switched on. Advanced settings include location data, picture size, self-timer, ISO and exposure.
The camera shoots pictures very fast. So fast even that focusing sometimes seems to shoot a bit and that is reflected in the result. In good light conditions, colors and details are displayed pretty well. Unfortunately, photos always suffer from noise at all times.
Adobe Reader, Calendar, ALCATEL help, AVG AntiVirus PRO, File Manager, Calculator, Currency Converter, Deezer, Downloads, Google Drive, Evernote, Facebook, Photos, Gallery, Sound Recorder, Google+, Hangouts, Setup Wizard, LED Flashlight, LinkedIn, Maps, Music, My Tracks, News and Weather, Notes, OfficeSuite, One Touch Backup, One Touch Center, One Touch Live, PicSay, Play, Radio, Shazam, Skype, Tasks, Tethering, Time, Twitter, Ultimate Savings, Viber, Video Player, Weather, WhatsApp, Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Transfer and YouTube.
Although there isn't really anything spectacular in between, this is, especially for a budget phone, a pretty complete package with a premium app like AVG and a number of common applications like Evernote and Shazam. Although the latter can also be downloaded for free from the Play Store.
For the first time in a long time we had a Pop C7 with games installed on it. These are Green Farm 3, Kingdoms and Lords, Little Big City, UNO & Friends, Wonder Zoo. Funny games to start with but you can't remove them when you're tired of them.
The Pop C7 is a good example of the principle that screen size is not sacrosanct. An old version of the Android operating system and a mediocre camera can be overlooked. Especially when the price is right for it. But a lousy screen is such a bummer for us that the Pop C7 completely disqualifies itself.
Should the need arise to purchase a new, but budget-friendly, mobile phone, we advise you to ignore the Alcatel One Touch Pop C7. Consider instead a 50 Euro extra and look for a more recent phone with perhaps a slightly smaller screen but with a better resolution. You will be grateful to yourself in the coming years.