Alcatel One Touch Insight 993D Review
JM Balicano | On 25, Nov 2012
While quad-core devices duke it out for flagship supremacy in the mobile market, some of last year’s high-end specs are beginning to trickle down into the mid and low range, allowing many budget-minded Pinoys to enjoy performance that would have cost them more than Php20K a year or two ago.
The Alcatel One Touch Insight 993D is somewhat of an example of this, coupling some decent specs with a large 4″ display that will deceive you into believing it’s more capable than it really is. It even looks the part of a flagship, with Alcatel having given the Insight 993D a number of nice design details that set it apart from other phone manufacturers that only let the screen do the talking for them.
Still, at just Php9,999, something’s got to give, right? Well, that’s true. The Alcatel One Touch Insight 993D might look like something close to a flagship device, and it’ll even play the part for awhile. That is, of course, until you push it into doing more than the chipset can handle. Still, the entire package holds a lot of promise. Read on to find out if the Insight 993D is the phone for you.
Build Quality and Design
While the Alcatel One Touch Insight 993D is an affordable phone, it doesn’t compromise anything in terms of the materials used or the design approach that they took with the body of the handset. In fact, the Insight 993D doesn’t even feel cheap at all. The body is constructed from thick, solid plastic, and the phone has a heft to it that allows you to appreciate that you’re holding something substantial – powerful, even. It also exudes a bit of class because of the metallic strip that runs along the edges of the phone and how it stands out against the rest of the body.
This being a touchscreen phone, the front is obviously dominated by the 4″ screen, but Alcatel does a good job of adding a bit of character to what space is left. The screen is a bit recessed into the body and protected by thick glass.
This design detail helps define the general screen area from the rest of the space. Just above the screen and still within that recessed area, there’s the Alcatel branding, while just above it is the slit for the speaker grill that’s used for taking calls, as well as the front-facing camera. There’s also the proximity and light sensors right next to the Alcatel branding. Then along the bottom are the three capacitive control buttons: back, home and menu.
You can find the volume rocker on the right side of the Alcatel Insight 993D, slightly to the top, while the left side of the phone is completely bare of any ports or hardware controls. At the top, there’s the 3.5mm headset jack to the left and the power/lock button to the right. At the bottom is the micro-USB port, right smack-dab in the middle.
Flipping the Alcatel Insight 993D on its back, you’ll find the 5mp autofocus camera with an LED flash and a loudspeaker grill right below it. Toward the bottom of the textured back, there’s the OneTouch branding, and at the bottom edge, there’s a bit of a slit that will allow you to pry open the back cover to get the battery, SIM slots and microSD slot.
I like how well the details stand out on the phone, which is actually rather difficult to do on a full touchscreen device. Most phone manufacturers let the screen draw most of the attention, but Alcatel did their best to create an identity for the Insight 993D through the design.
One thing I don’t like is the layout of the capacitive keys, more specifically, how they were ordered. Most phones I’ve handled would place the menu button on the left, home button in the center, and the back button on the right. However, the Alcatel Insight 993D is the exact opposite. I imagine this will weird out 90% of the population who are right-handed, but realistically, it’s something that anyone can easily get used to.
The OS and Software: Almost Stock ICS
The Alcatel Insight 993D launches with Android 4.0 ICS right out of the box. Sure, Jelly Bean 4.1 has already been out for some time, but it isn’t as much of an upgrade over ICS as ICS was over Gingerbread 2.3 and Honeycomb 3.0, so you’ll still get much of the functionality that makes Android so good these days. One thing that I like about the Insight 993D is that they didn’t overdo it on their custom skin. In fact, they barely touched it. Sure, manufacturer skins like TouchWiz and Sense offer a lot of functionality, but they also bring with them a lot of bloat that can bog your phone down more than it should. About the only changes that Alcatel made to the stock ICS UI are the icon set and the quick toggles in the notification area.
One minor thing that bugged me is that Alcatel didn’t try to unify the look of the icons. The icon set that comes with the Insight 993D feature squares with rounded edges, however, non-stock icons don’t get that rounded-square treatment. Thankfully, the app drawer automatically keeps the stock apps in one screen while all your non-stock apps that you’ve installed from the Play store are all kept separate. Of course, if you install an alternative launcher like Go Launcher or Apex Launcher, it becomes a different story.
The Chipset: Like a Sedan in Sports Car Clothing
The Alcatel Insight 993D is a pretty phone – gorgeous even. However the Qualcomm MSM 7227A chipset that powers it leaves a bit to be desired. You’ll only get a 1GHz single core CPU and Adreno 200 GPU. This pairing is decent enough and should power you through most apps, Also, navigating through the homescreens and app drawer is quite snappy, but once you start pushing with multitasking or some 3D games, you’ll quickly be reminded that you’re only paying Php10K for this phone.
The Screen: A Definite Upgrade
Okay, so the 4″ TFT screen is the obvious selling point of the Alcatel Insight 993D, and while some might whine over the WVGA resolution 480×800, it’s really not that bad. In fact, at 233PPI, it’s still quite sharp, and surprisingly bright and vibrant too. Of course, once the fonts get too small, you’ll start wishing the screen was a bit sharper. Another gripe is that the viewing angles aren’t too good and you’ll immediately notice a lot of color shifting as soon as you start tilting the screen. What makes this a bit worse is that the thick protective glass reduces viewing angles further. Realistically speaking though, I can’t imagine anyone who would use their phone with the screen tilted at an angle, so viewing angles aren’t that much of an issue really, and with the screen as bright and vibrant as it is, you’ll be enjoying a lot of content through it, whether you’re reading an eBook, browsing the web, watching a movie, or playing games.
Also, the large 4″ screen should improve how quickly you compose messages. It’s not as cramped if you try to type on a QWERTY touch keyboard in portrait mode, but when you switch to landscape mode, texting becomes so much more comfortable. It also doesn’t hurt that the screen on the Alcatel Insight 993D is very accurate. There were hardly any mis-types at all when I tried to type out “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog” a few times.
Internal Storage: Don’t Buy a MicroSD Card (Yet)
One thing I hate is not having enough space on the phone to install all of the apps that I want. You won’t encounter that problem on the Alcatel Insight 993D with the 4Gb of ROM that it gives you. You’ll get a whopping 1.32Gb of storage for apps, along with 1.69Gb of USB storage for a decent enough music library that you’ll only have to refresh once a week. The review unit Alcatel gave me also came with a 4Gb MicroSD card, so there won’t be any need to buy a large capacity card just yet.
Camera: All the Basics Covered
If you want to use the Alcatel One Touch Insight 993D as a cameraphone to replace your still camera, it will do a serviceable enough job. It comes with a 5mp autofocus rear-facing camera that takes good enough shots under any lighting condition. Truth be told, I wasn’t expecting the primary camera to do well in poor indoor lighting conditions, but it surprised me when it came out better compared to the shot I took with the LED-flash enabled. Check out the camera samples below:
There’s also a VGA front-facing for those self-shots or for video calls on Skype.
Gaming: Great for the Casual Gamer
Note: At the time I was reviewing the unit, a software update was available for download, so any rendering issues discussed in this section may have already been resolved.
I tested the Alcatel One Touch Insight 993D on a range of games: The Dark Knight Rises, Dead Trigger, Agent Dash, Temple Run: Brave and Angry Birds Star Wars. All of the games played, however, some surfaces ended up not being rendered at all in The Dark Knight Rises, so Batman would be looking up at a floating crook at times so it wasn’t exactly what I would call playable. It’s one of the most taxing games that can be found in the Play store though, so I’m surprised it even played at all.
It did much better on Dead Trigger, which is another taxing 3D game, although some of the textures in the main menu and sometimes in-game weren’t being rendered properly, but it was still quite playable and not too laggy.
Agent Dash is a fast-paced, Temple Run-inspired 3D game, and it played just fine on the Insight 993D as long as you had enough free RAM available going into the game. However if you try to play it without clearing up any RAM, some elements in the menus end up not being rendered.
“Alcatel Insight 993D is great for casual games that aren’t too taxing on the system.”
The rest of the games that I used to test the gaming capabilities of the Insight 993D played just fine. Temple Run: Brave ran very smoothly and responded instantly to any swiping or tilting of the phone. I also appreciated Angry Birds Star Wars on the large 4″ screen since some of the levels can get rather large.
The Alcatel Insight 993D is great for casual games that aren’t too taxing on the system, but don’t get your hopes up if you want to turn it into a monster of a gaming machine. It’s not. The Adreno 200 GPU is capable enough for some basic 3D gaming, but keep your expectations in check.
Dual SIM Standby: Get Two Phones in One! (Kind of)
One value added feature that a lot of Filipinos will appreciate is the dual SIM functionality that the Alcatel Insight 993D comes with. The great thing about the implementation of dual SIMs on this phone is that both SIMs are enabled and on standby, so you can receive calls and messages to either SIM at the same time. However only one SIM is 3G capable while the other will only let you browse at 2G speeds.
One thing I don’t like about how dual SIM functionality is handled on this phone is it doesn’t give you the option of choosing which SIM you want to use when you want to text, make a call, or use your data connection. A preferred SIM has to be specified for texts, calls and data. So in effect, if you receive a message to SIM2 but have SIM1 specified for texts, your reply will automatically be made through SIM1. It’s not a big gripe, although it’s not a small one either, but at least the Insight 993D allows for both SIMs to be on standby, unlike other phones where you would have to manually press a button to switch between active SIMs.
Other Features: 3G Browsing and an All-day Battery
The Alcatel Insight 993D comes with complete wireless connectivity options, giving you Bluetooth 3.0, GPS with A-GPS, WiFi b/g/n, and data connectivity up to 3G HSPA. The stock Android browser is much faster than its Gingerbread predecessor at rendering webpages, which allows you to really maximize the 3G speeds you’ll be getting. You can also activate location-based services that make use of GPS, such as turning the Insight 993D into a replacement GPS navigation device to help you get to locations you aren’t familiar with.
The Insight 993D comes with a 1,500mAh Lithium battery, which is officially rated to power the phone through 4 hours of 2G calls, 3 hours of 3G calls, 9 hours continuously playing music, and 420 hours on standby. When I had the phone, I was able to use it for 28 hours straight before the battery was drained down to 5% capacity. This was after 30 minutes of 3G browsing, 6 hours connected to WiFi while downloading a huge file, and the rest on standby with the occasional text or call.
Should You Buy It?
Overall, Alcatel has done a good job with the Insight 993D. It has a solid build quality and classy design that will allow you to place it next to some of last year’s flagships without anyone knowing the difference. The large 4″ WVGA screen will allow you to better appreciate content, whether you’re looking at photos, watching movies, reading eBooks or browsing the internet. It’s a bit underpowered now that some dual core phones are coming in at right around the Php10K mark, but in most cases, you won’t notice the difference. Gaming was a little disappointing because even when the Adreno 200 GPU was supposed to be capable enough to run some of the more system intensive 3D games, rendering issues would ruin the experience. However, if you’re only looking to use it as a portable media player for music and videos, the Insight 993D does a good job.
“Alcatel One Touch Inisight 993D has a solid build quality and classy design that will allow you to place it next to some of last year’s flagship smartphones without anyone knowing the difference.”
The Alcatel One Touch Insight 993D covers all of the basics, but the experience isn’t perfect. However, at only Php9,999, it is almost the perfect phone if you want to transition from a less capable budget handset but don’t want to splurge on a quad-core flag ship. Overall, this is the phone for you if you’ve already explored the capabilities of budget Android phones and want something with a little more oomph.
Alcatel Insight 993D Specifications
- 4″ WVGA screen (480 x 800 pixels, 233PPI)
- 1GHz single core Qualcomm MSM 7227A chipset with Adreno 200 GPU
- Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
- 512Mb RAM
- 4Gb ROM (1Gb reserved for OS, 1.32Gb for apps, 1.69 for USB storage) expandable up to 32Gb via MicroSD
- 5Mp rear-facing autofocus camera with LED flash, VGA front-facing camera
- WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
- Bluetooth 3.0
- GPS with A-GPS
- HSPA up to 7.6Mbps
- 3.55mm audio jack, micro USB port
- 1,500mAh battery
- Dual SIM standby
- Price: Php9,999