Modular phones aren't quite dead yet, but the Alcatel A5 doesn't impress


The Alcatel A5 has swappable back covers that enhance the phone, kind of like the Moto Z phones.
The Alcatel A5 has swappable back covers that enhance the phone, kind of like the Moto Z phones.

Image: raymond wong/mashable

Modular phones were supposed to be the next big thing in mobile. But interest in phones with swappable parts waned as companies like Google and LG abandoned their pet projects.

All hope isn’t lost, though. Lenovo’s still staying the modular course with its “Moto Mods” for the Moto Z phones, and now you can add Alcatel’s A5 to an extremely small list of device’s with customizable components.

Alcatel’s A5 is “modular” in the same sense the Moto Z is: it offers something more like augmentation than a full device overhaul. 

Left to right: Regular cover, Extended battery cover, A5 without cover, LED cover, and Speaker with kickstand cover.

Left to right: Regular cover, Extended battery cover, A5 without cover, LED cover, and Speaker with kickstand cover.

Image: raymond wong/mashable

Pop off the A5’s back cover and you can swap in other “customizable back covers” (CBCs) to enhance it. If you’re thinking this all sounds like a less elegant version of the Moto Z, which doesn’t require any cover to be removed, you’re right.

Without a cover, the A5's guts are exposed.

Without a cover, the A5’s guts are exposed.

Image: raymond wong/mashable

Hell, the CBCs Alcatel showed off for the A5 are all virtually the same. One of them is a speaker with a kickstand that adds slightly more bass and louder sound and another is a 3,000 mAh battery pack.

The speaker with kickstand cover adds slightly more bass and enhances volume.

The speaker with kickstand cover adds slightly more bass and enhances volume.

Image: raymond wong/mashable

Unlike the Moto Z’s “Mods” that snap right onto the phone’s back, you really need to use a fingernail to pry the A5’s covers off. I struggled to successfully remove the covers a few times.

One thing I did appreciate is that the phone doesn’t turn off when you swap in a new cover. 

The extended battery cover.

The extended battery cover.

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

Specs-wise, the A5 is not very exciting with mid-range hardware: 5.2-inch 720p display, 1.5GHz octa-core MediaTek 6753 processor, 16GB of internal storage, 2GB of RAM, 2800 mAh battery, 8-megapixel rear camera with LED flash and 5-megapixel selfie camera.

It’s a total snooze-fest for anyone who likes nerding out over the latest and greatest phone tech, but, hey, modular phones aren’t technically dead… yet.

Given the specs, hopefully the phone and covers will at least be cheap.

A close up of the CBC connector.

A close up of the CBC connector.

The LED cover.

The LED cover.

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE



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