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Alcatel launches ‘affordable but uncompromising’ A3 XL 6-inch phablet

Alcatel, a subsidiary of TCL, may not have the same stateside brand recognition its manufacturing partner Blackberry. But the smartphone maker has done well for itself abroad, especially in midrange and low-end market. In 2014, Alcatel became the world’s fifth-largest smartphone maker. And in May of last year alone, it shipped nearly 4 million units. So it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that Alcatel’s sticking with what works. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas, it took the wraps off the A3 XL, an affordable smartphone with a middle-of-the-road processor, fingerprint sensors, and high-speed cellular connectivity.

“Our audience are those who really live on-the-go, are creative, socially active and are highly engaged with their communities of friends, family and work colleagues,” Vittorio Di Mauro, Alcatel senior vice president of the company’s smart connectivity division, said in a press release. “The new Alcatel A3 XL enables them to watch their best HD movies and get an all-around fabulous multimedia experience, including gaming that involves high-volume data transfer. In short, it gives them a lot of bang for their buck.”

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The A3 XL is the first in a new line of “affordable but uncompromising” smartphones from Alcatel, and its specifications underline the point. The A3 XL boasts a whopping 6-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) IPS screen that’s “fully laminated” — i.e., in contact with the protective glass atop it. Above the screen lies a 5-megapixel selfie camera with a built-in dual flash; around back sits a 8-megapixel camera; and under the hood is a a quad-core MediaTek processor, a 3,000mAh battery, and a wireless radio that supports up to LTE Category 4 speeds.

Those aren’t the A3’s only headliners. A rear fingerprint sensor lets a crafty user unlock the smartphone with a tap, or trigger actions like answering calls, taking photos, encrypting documents, and switching between apps. An “enhanced” speaker system, meanwhile, offers improved clarity and sounds over the midrange competition.

At a hotel suite near the Las Vegas Convention Center, we were afforded the chance to take the A3 XL for a spin. We struck by its lightness — despite measuring roughly the same thickness as the Google Pixel, the A3 XL lacks its heft. That’s likely a result of its textured, all-plastic exterior, which felt thin but durable in the hand. Perhaps most surprising, though, was the A3 XL’s ergonomics: unlike most phones in the 6-inch size category, it boasts curved sides that fit snugly in the palm.

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“Our mission is to make smartphones more affordable and accessible, and to provide an enjoyable experience to people everywhere,” Di Mauro said. “We’ve done that with the Alcatel A3 XL — it’s a great option for anyone seeking a full suite of features without blowing a hole in their budget.”

The Alcatel A3 XL will launch at the $200 price point in Asia Pacific, Midle East, Africa, and Latin America during the first quarter of 2017. It’ll become more broadly available in the second half of the year, when it will begin shipping in a “vibrant range of colors and 3D patterns.”