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printed December 11, 2017
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Review: Alcatel A50 / Pulsemix

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Sep 21, 2017, 3:45 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   @phonescooper

Alcatel's A50 / Pulsemix is an inexpensive Android device that features swappable rear covers. Care to put on a light show? The LED cover bestows the A50 with colorful patterns on the back that light up with your music. Speaking of music, take advantage of the stereo speakers that snap onto the back of the A50, or charge up your battery with the power pack cover. Here is Phone Scoop's review of the Alcatel A50 / Pulsemix.

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Is It Your Type?

The Alcatel A50 / Pulsemix is an inexpensive Android smartphone that offers SnapBak modular accessories. It's ideal for young users who like the idea of the light-up LED panel, stereo speakers, and extra battery power. You might call it a poor man's Moto Z.

Editor's Note: Alcatel is selling this phone in two variants — the A50 and Pulsemix — but they are identical for all intents and purposes. The A50 is available from Amazon.com and directly from Alcatel, while the Pulsemix is available from Cricket Wireless. Other than the camera sensors, the A50 / Pulsemix are the exact same phone. Alcatel sent us the A50 for review along with the SnapBak accessories.

Body

The A50 is a simple smartphone. I'd call the the design somewhat boring and staid. Alcatel opted for a black glass panel on front and a silver shell for the sides and rear surface. I appreciate that the back is almost shiny, rather than some dull gray, but the appearance is still conservative. The well-defined corners and flat-ish side edges give the A50 a blocky silhouette. Were I a kid, I would not call this a fun phone, at least with the standard back.

I appreciate the glass, which has a great feel to it. It's set into a thin plastic frame that I'd call annoying. The frame is sharp enough along the edges to dig into your hand, but not significant enough to form any sort of protective rim.

The rear shell is a single piece. The shell is made of plastic, though Alcatel attempted to make it look like metal. The bulk of the surface is smooth. Deep, chrome-like grooves separate the smooth portion of the rear panel from two diamond-patterned bands (one on top, one on the bottom). These do help break up the phone's look a bit in a way that's helpful. Alcatel carved a chamfer into the rear edge of the phone, though it doesn't have quite the nice shine that real metal would deliver.

A50  

Due to the 5.2-inch screen and thick bezels, the A50 is a mid-sized device. I'd call it a bit too big for most kid-sized hands, or anyone with small hands for that matter. The phone fits into pockets ok; however, the blocky shape can be uncomfortable from time to time.

The fit and finish of the phone is fine. As noted, the glass on front has a nice quality to it. The rear shell could be much sturdier. It fits against the chassis well enough and there were no gaps in the seams, and yet it feels somewhat flimsy on its own. The phone has a good weight to it.

The display vanishes into the black bezels, which are thicker than I like to see. The capacitive home button is represented by a small white circle. This key and the invisible back and app-switcher buttons to other side work well as long as you can find them.

The excellent profile and textured surface of the screen lock button make it easy for your thumb to locate it on the A50's right edge. Travel and feedback are perfect. The volume toggle, positioned just above the screen lock key, has a more subtle profile and smooth texture. Travel and feedback are rather mushy on that one.

A standard headphone jack is located on the A50's top edge, while the USB-C port and speakerphone are on the bottom.

I do like the two patterned sections of the rear panel, as they give the phone what little personality it has. The camera module protrudes quite a bit. About the only other thing adorning the A50's rear is the Alcatel logo, painted on in gray.

Camera Module

Camera Module

Unlike the Motorola Z modular system — which relies on magnetic, hot-swappable modules — the A50 requires you to remove the entire rear shell of the phone to make use of the SnapBak covers. When viewed this way, I suppose it's more accurate to call them alternate rear covers, rather than modules. Whatever we call them, the A50's rear panel requires some effort to remove. There's a notch in the lower corner, but the clasps hold on fairly tight. Little hands might struggle pulling the panel off to switch backs.

Inner Pins

Inner Pins

Removing the A50's rear panel lets you access the SIM and memory card slots, but the battery is not removable.

The Alcatel A50 is, on its own, rather non-descript. The swappable SnapBak rear covers define it. Without them, it's a boring old Android handset. Alcatel did manage to assemble the phone in good fashion, and it functions as intended.

A50

A50

Screen

The A50's display measures 5.2 inches across the diagonal and has 720p HD resolution. That's not the best-ever combo. Text and icons could be sharper. The LCD panel puts out a decent amount of light and I was able to use the screen indoors with no problem. The phone lacks protection from fingerprints and it takes about 5 seconds to oil up the glass with a nasty layer of grime. This really gets in the way of visibility outdoors, even when you crank the brightness all the way up. It's gross and frustrating, particularly when you want to use the camera.

Colors lean a bit cool to my eyes, and there's a definite blue shift when the phone is tilted to and fro. The display suffices, but it could be a lot better.

Signal

I tested the A50 on AT&T's network in and around New York City. (Cricket also uses the AT&T network.) The phone did a decent job of holding onto the network most everywhere I took it. I was able to connect calls on the first dial each and every time, and the phone didn't drop any calls while I tested it.

Data speeds left a little to be desired, but that's not surprising given the affordable nature of the handset. I was able to enjoy my social networks without issue. Photos loaded in Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook rapidly enough. Streaming media over the network, particularly YouTube and Spotify, was fraught with buffering.

Sound

The A50 isn't the best voice phone I've used. The earpiece delivers mediocre volume levels even when cranked all the way up. I was able to hear calls at home and in a non-moving car with no problem. Locations like a coffee shop, shopping mall, or city environment easily drowned out the A50's meager earpiece. Clarity was fine most of the time, but I would have appreciated warmer tones. People I spoke to through the A50 said I didn't sound very good.

The speakerphone is adequate at home or in a non-moving car. It's not loud enough for a moving car, busy street, or noisy office space. Clarity is rather crummy.

Ringtones and alerts are just barely loud enough. Thankfully the vibrate alert got my attention most of the time.

Battery

Alcatel gave the A50 a relatively generous 2,800 mAh battery. Considering the lower-resolution display and mid-range processor, the A50 is well-matched to the ample power supply. Users should get through an entire day with absolutely no trouble at all. The A50 often had plenty of juice to spare at the end of the day. The LED and stereo speaker SnapBak accessories did not have any discernible impact on battery life, even after using them for several hours. The phone does a good job getting itself from breakfast to bedtime.

There is no support for rapid charging. Of course, one of the SnapBak accessories is a battery pack.

Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, WiFi

The A50's secondary radios all functioned properly. Bluetooth was painless to use. I made several calls via my car's hands-free system, though they sounded a bit rough. Music had a pleasing tone when passed through a good pair of Bluetooth headphones. The phone had no issue connecting to other phones, accessories, and PCs for swapping files and such.

Google Maps and the GPS radio worked well. The phone consistently located me within a few seconds and was accurate to about 25 feet. Real-time navigation between points was mostly painless.

The WiFi performed admirably. The phone doesn't have NFC.

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