The 5.5-inch Alcatel A30 Plus is the phablet counterpart to the 5-inch A30. Available unlocked exclusively on Amazon, it costs $79.99 for a version that puts advertising on your lock screen, or $129.99 to go ad-free. It’s affordable no matter which model you buy, and if you’re in the market for a big-screen phone that won’t strain your wallet, it’s a decent option. But for smoother performance and features like a removable battery, a fingerprint sensor, and a water-resistant design, the Motorola Moto E4 remains our Editors’ Choice.
Design, Features, and Display
The A30 Plus is essentially just an A30, but bigger. The design language is identical, with a silver, metallic-looking strip along the decidedly plastic sides, a rather large bezel on the front with distinctive holes for the speaker and earpiece, and a textured, removable back cover.
The phone measures 6.0 by 3.0 by 0.3 inches (HWD) and weighs 5.6 ounces, making it taller and wider, but not much heavier than the A30 (5.6 by 2.8 by 0.3 inches, 5.2 ounces). It’s smaller than the Moto E4 Plus (6.1 by 3.1 by 0.4 inches, 7.0 ounces), which packs a bigger battery. But it’s a bit too big to comfortably use with one hand, especially taking into account the large top and bottom bezel, though at least it won’t weigh down your pocket.
Along the sides are the standard array of buttons and ports. A volume rocker and ridged power button are on the right, an off-center micro USB charging is port on the bottom, and a 3.5mm headphone jack can be found on top. Peeling off the back cover gives you access to the SIM card slot and a microSD card slot that worked with a 256GB card, but unlike the Moto E4, the battery is sealed in and can’t be swapped out. There’s also no water-repellent coating, so you’ll want to keep it safe from splashes and rain. Also missing is a fingerprint sensor, which is disappointing as they’re now common on many lower-priced devices.
The front of the phone features a 5.5-inch, 1,280-by-720 IPS display. The resolution works out to 267 pixels per inch, which is a bit sparse, but Alcatel somewhat makes up for it in size and viewing angles. It’s also on par with other phones in this price range like the E4 Plus (267ppi). Screen brightness is fine for indoor use, but outside it gets too reflective to see well under direct sunlight.
Network Performance and Connectivity
The A30 Plus is unlocked and supports GSM (850/900/1800/1900), CDMA (0/1), UMTS (1/2/4/5), and 4G LTE bands (2/4/5/7/12/13/17), so you can use the phone on AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon’s carrier networks; Sprint users are out of luck. In network testing in midtown Manhattan (using an AT&T SIM), the A30 Plus showed a top download speed of 6.9Mbps and an upload of 8.2Mbps. Lopsided numbers like this are typically due to network congestion, but they’re relatively solid for the area.
Connectivity protocols include Bluetooth 4.2 and Wi-Fi on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, a rare feature in this price range. Unfortunately, the A30 Plus couldn’t find the 5GHz Wi-Fi network in PC Labs.
Call quality is mediocre. Transmissions are uniformly muddy, making it hard to understand certain parts of conversations. Fortunately, strong noise cancellation makes up for this to some degree and earpiece volume is decently loud, so you should still be able to talk in a noisy environment. There’s a single, front-facing speaker on the phone’s bottom bezel that gets reasonably loud.
Processor, Battery, and Camera
Under the hood, the phone is powered by a MediaTek MTK6738 processor clocked at 1.5GHz. In the AnTuTu benchmark—a measure of overall system performance—the A30 Plus scores 34,945. It’s a solid result that doubles the dated Snapdragon 210 powering the A30 (16,672), and comes just shy of the Snapdragon 425-powered Moto E4 (36,934).
That said, the A30 Plus doesn’t feel as smooth as the Moto E4. Despite both phones having 2GB of RAM, the A30 Plus experienced a fair bit of sluggishness when swiping between apps. There were also moments the phone would hang for several seconds when trying to open the camera. High-end gaming isn’t possible on this hardware, but that’s to be expected with most phones in this price range.
Battery life is on par with most of the other Amazon-exclusive phones we’ve tested. The A30 Plus clocked 5 hours, 45 minutes in our rundown test in which we set screen brightness to maximum and stream full-screen video over LTE. That’s over an hour longer than the A30 (4 hours, 13 minutes), and just ahead of the Moto E4 (5 hours, 30 minutes), though the latter has a removable battery so you can carry a spare. If you want significantly longer battery life, your best option is the Moto E4 Plus, which lasted for an impressive 11 hours and 44 minutes.
The 13-megapixel rear camera is passable. In decent lighting, particularly outdoors, you can get clear shots without too much noise or blurriness. Colors are a bit on the drab side, but enabling HDR mode punches things up a bit.
In more challenging environments, like a cloudy day or darker indoor areas, photo quality degrades. The camera struggles to focus, is slow to snap, loses fine detail, and sometimes blurs. It’s able to record 1080p video at 30fps, but there’s no optical image stabilization resulting in jittery footage.
The 5-megapixel front-facing camera is stronger, taking clear selfies with proper lighting.
The A30 Plus runs Android 7.0 Nougat with a lightweight skin that doesn’t make many changes to Google’s vision. As with other Amazon Prime phones, you get ads on the lock screen and a removable widget on the home screen unless you pay an additional $50 for the ad-free version.
The phone also has some bloatware. You’ll find 10 preloaded Amazon apps along with a handful of others like Facebook, IMDb, Instagram, Messenger, and NextRadio. Out of a total of 16GB, over half is taken up by the OS and preloaded apps, leaving you with just 6.57GB of storage. Fortunately, you have that microSD card slot if you need it.
For $80 with Amazon ads or $130 without, the Alcatel A30 Plus gets you solid network connectivity and a big screen for a reasonable price. But if you’re willing to go for a smaller screen, the Moto E4 runs smoother and offers a number of attractive features you don’t get here for an equally low price. If you’re set on a 5.5-inch phone, the Moto E4 Plus has a gigantic battery that can keep you going for hours, but it’s nearly double the price.