Alcatel A5 LED hands-on

Alcatel unveiled no less than four devices at MWC 2017, and while there was no new flagship to supplant the Idol 4S, the company’s headline A5 LED handset is… well, it’s a distinctive _phone_ that will appeal to some.

The €199 device is distinguished by its modular design, featuring removable LED covers that Alcatel believes will entice “energetic entertainment seekers.”

I went hands-on with one of the handsets fitted with the most straightforward LED cover, which lit up to display a range of notifications. If LED isn't your thing, there’s also a 3,000mAh battery pack model and a speaker/kickstand combo.

These swappable back plates are the device’s main selling point, and made for arguably the most fun demo of MWC so far, but things are a lot less entertaining when it comes to the A5’s specs.

Alcatel A5

Alcatel made one particularly baffling decision in this regard.

The A5’s 5.2-inch IPS display is stuck on 720p, which is doubly odd given its cheaper sibling, the A3, gets the Full HD treatment. For many, if not most tasks, this isn't an issue, but it compromises rich media and is odd given the _phone_ is intended to woo hip youngsters.

My other gripe is there’s no Nougat – Android 6.0 Marshmallow is as tasty as it gets – but on the plus side you get a near stock experience. There’s a few touches of paint here and there, like the increasingly inevitable selfie software (in Alcatel’s case, dubbed Face Beauty and Face Show), but for the most part the software is as the phone gods intended.

Speaking of cameras, the 8-megapixel rear snapper might not sound like much, but I was surprised by how capable it was. The conditions in Barcelona were near perfect, however, so I can't speak to how it would perform in more challenging situs. The primary shooter is joined by a 5-megapixel front 'selfie' cam.

Related: Best Android phones

Alcatel A5

I didn’t notice any performance issues in my fiddle with the A5. There’s an octa-core Mediatek processor clocked at up to 1.5GHz and 2GB of RAM running the show, which should prove ample for most tasks. Graphically intensive games could be a sticking point, but we'll have to test it in full before we can say for sure.

Storage is capped at a measly 16GB, though, as with most Android devices, you have the option of expanding this via a microSD card slot. There's a 2,900mAh battery under the hood to keep things moving, but a final problem (for me) exists in the A5's size – it measures a positively porky 7.7mm in girth and felt chunky to hold compared to similar devices.

Opening impressions

The Alcatel A5 LED is certainly a handset that stands out from the crowd, and if modular phones are your thing, it's worth a look.

In fairness, Alcatel was very upfront about the challenges the device faces, admitting it wasn't going to be to everyone's taste and isn't designed for hardened phone nerds.

The big question is whether you can get more phone for your money, and while we need to live with the A5 for a bit before properly judging it, my suspicion is it will pale in comparison to affordable wonders like the new Moto G5, which is available at the same price point but boasts superior hardware and newer software.

WATCH: MWC 2017

Are you intrigued by the Alcatel A5? Let us know in the comments.