Budget phones are a dime a dozen — almost literally. There are so many on the market that it’s hard for any one in particular to stand out. However, when you’re offering specs that generally cost more for a price that’s much less than the competition, you’re going to turn heads.

Recently, Alcatel quietly launched the A30. This barebones device has minimal, but reasonable specs and really packs nothing particularly special, but it also costs just $60 unlocked. Is it any good? I’ve spent the past several days finding out…

The best gifts for Android users

Hardware and Display

With budget phones, you really can’t ask for a lot when it comes to hardware, and the A30 really isn’t an exception to this. Like most cheap phones, it’s plastic all around, but it’s also a pretty nice plastic overall. It feels good in the hand, doesn’t feel as cheap as the phone is, and provides a nice amount of grip that even many flagships don’t provide.

The back of the phone has a “dot matrix” design which is different and looks pretty good in my opinion. It won’t win any awards, but it’s a nice touch which further helps with the grip. The back is also removable, revealing the non-removable 2,460 mAh battery, microSD card slot, and the nano-SIM slot.

Flipping the phone back over, you get the 5.0-inch 720p display. Really, there’s nothing special at all about this panel. Viewing angles and colors could be much better, but aren’t all that bad. Brightness is passable but can be tough outdoors. Plus, there’s the lack of glass on the display, instead swapped for a fingerprint-prone plastic. However, that’s all to be expected for a cheap phone, and given the $60 price, what you’re getting is actually pretty good, and that’s basically the summary of this phone.

Specifications and Performance

The same rings true with the specs. Under the hood, the A30 is powered by the Snapdragon 210 processor paired with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage. That’s nothing to write home about, but again, considering this phone is $60, it’s pretty great. Other devices this cheap cut the RAM in half, if not more so, and cut down the storage tremendously.

In real-world usage, that package does fairly well. For the most part, using apps on this phone is fine, although slow, and basic, casual games do fine as well. You’re not going to be getting the ideal experience on this phone, but you’re getting something you can use, that works. There’s plenty of lag, but most of it is predictable and boils down to certain portions of the interface. The lockscreen is a great example of this, but it’s easy to look past.

Software and Ads

With a cheap phone, you have to make compromises. However, Alcatel and Amazon have turned a $99 phone into a $60 phone without making too many. To accomplish that, the A30 comes pre-loaded with Amazon ads. While ads on your phone sound really bad at first, it really isn’t.

Amazon’s ads on the A30 essentially boil down to an ad on the lockscreen mixed in with your notifications, or a full screen one if no notifications are present. Then, there’s Amazon’s suite of apps on the phone itself and a widget (that you can remove) out of the box giving you Amazon recommendations. It’s not intrusive or annoying, and personally, I was totally fine with it.

As for the software itself, Alcatel follows the same example from its other devices. The A30 is pre-loaded with Android Nougat out of the box with a clean, near-stock build of the OS. Really, there’s nothing to complain about at all. Google Assistant even works!

Camera

The camera is probably the number one feature of a super-cheap phone which suffers as the price is cut. However, the Alcatel A30 actually takes some pretty decent shots. The 8MP sensor takes shots that might be overexposed, but they’re always pretty decent all things considered. My main complaint would be the speed of the camera, which is painfully slow, especially when taking shots with HDR on. Outdoor shots look good, and indoor stills taken with a decent amount of light are passable as well.

Battery Life

The 2,460 mAh battery inside of the Alcatel A30 is an ideal size for a phone like this. It can easily get users through a full day, if not more on a single charge. There’s no fast charging on board, but in all reality, you don’t need it. The included microUSB charger also works well enough, but you can easily use any other charging cable or station if you’d like.

It Works on Verizon

The biggest thing that caught my attention with the A30 is that it works with Verizon. Most cheap phones only work on GSM carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile, so it’s great to see a new option for those who require Verizon’s superior rural coverage.

For the several days I used the A30, it was using my primary Verizon SIM and I was quite happy with the performance. Signal didn’t seem to differ at all versus the same SIM in my Pixel XL and call quality was pretty good as well. You can, of course, still pick up the GSM model, but it’s nice to see that there’s now an ultra-cheap smartphone available that actually works on the Big Red.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, the Alcatel A30 isn’t for everyone. Phones this cheap shouldn’t be either. By all means, if you can afford something like the Moto G5 Plus, go for that. However, if you just need something to get you through a couple of months between phones, or you truly can’t afford anything more expensive, this is a solid option. Amazon offers the a30 in its GSM and CDMA variants both with and without ads starting at $59.99.

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