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Swap to a speaker, battery, or LED mode on Alcatel’s budget A5

Why it matters to you

Alcatel introduced three new budget smartphones at World Mobile Congress, but only one brings a line of modular accessories.

Alcatel’s retiring its Pop and Pixi lineup of smartphones for a new moniker — the A and U series. The company announced three new smartphones and a 2-in-1 Windows device at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and they’re all unsurprisingly aimed at the budget market.

Of the three smartphones, the A5 is the most unique because it comes with a myriad of accessories that enhance the user experience. The A3 and the U5 don’t really bring anything new to the table, and the Plus 12 Windows 2-in-1 is a larger variant of last year’s Plus 10.

More: BlackBerry KeyOne: Our first take

Alcatel A5

Alcatel’s 5.2-inch A5 essentially brings Motorola’s Moto Mods to budget devices, though perhaps not in the simplest fashion. The A5 offers sub-$50 replaceable backs, some of which are purely cosmetic, but others offer more uses. For example, there’s a speaker with a kickstand you can attach to the back of the A5, as well as a battery pack that doubles the phone’s battery life.

It’s very similar to Motorola’s Moto Mod launch, which offered a JBL speaker mod as well as a battery pack mod, and more. But Motorola’s mods were separate accessories that magnetically snapped to the phone.

The plastic backs for the A5 are literally the back of the smartphone — you can’t just take one off as you’ll have to replace it with something. Taking them off is like taking off the back of a phone with a removable battery.

The highlight Alcatel is touting is the LED, an accessory that covers the back of the A5 with colorful LEDs. Using various apps, you can light up the back of the A5 with different patterns and colors to match your mood. Or you can even use the camera to automatically pick three colors of your outfit or whatever you point at to change the phone’s wallpaper and app icon colors to match.

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The LED back also lights up with the icon and matching color of select apps when you get a notification from them, like Facebook or Twitter. If you’re playing music, you can have the lights dance to your tunes.

The phone itself only has a 720-pixel resolution, and it’s powered by MediaTek’s 6753 with 2GB of RAM. It has a 2,800mAh battery that charges via the MicroUSB port, and you’ll only find 16GB of internal storage, though there’s support for a MicroSD card. The rear camera only has 8 megapixels with electronic image stabilization, and the front is packed with 5, though it uses a wide-angle lens.

Unfortunately, the A5 only runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow. It’s the only smartphone in this list that’s likely coming to the U.S. We don’t have any pricing or availability details yet.

Alcatel A3

The A3’s distinct feature is the fingerprint’s sensor ability to add various fingerprints to launch apps from the app screen — something a lot of smartphones can do these days. The 5-inch HD device is powered by MediaTek’s 6737 processor with 1.5GB of RAM.

Again, you’ll find 16GB of internal storage with a MicroSD card slot that allows for more, and a smaller 2,460mAh battery that charges via MicroUSB. It also runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow.

The 13-megapixel rear camera is overshadowed by a 5-megapixel front camera that offers better features, such as the capability to capture a selfie with a tap on the fingerprint sensor (which is on the back.)

Alcatel U5

The 5-inch U5 is the runt of the litter of smartphones from Alcatel today. It has some of the selfie-camera functionality of the A3, but it’s powered by MediaTek 6737M processor with 1GB of RAM. It only has 8GB of internal storage with MicroSD card support, Android 6.0 Marshmallow, and a 2,050mAh battery.

It has a 2 megapixel front camera and a 5 megapixel rear one.

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Pricing and availability for the A3 and U5 were not disclosed yet, but they will not be coming to the U.S.

Alcatel Plus 12

If you’re in need of a low-cost, low-powered Windows 10 2-in-1, the Alcatel Plus 12 may be a decent option that offers 4G LTE connectivity. It features a 11.6-inch 1080-pixel resolution display, and it’s powered by an Intel Celeron N3350.

You’ll find  4GB of RAM, as well as 64GB of internal storage with an embedded 32GB MicroSD card. There’s a 5-megapixel front camera, and the tablet has a 6,900mAh battery. It charges via a USB Type-C port, and there’s a fingerprint sensor that’s compatible with Windows Hello.

The tablet laptop hybrid features a detachable 4G LTE keyboard that also doubles as a Wi-Fi hot spot for up to 15 devices. It has a 2,850mAh battery, and a Qualcomm MDM9207 chipset.

We’ll update this post when we learn more about pricing and availability.