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Sneak a peek at three new sub-$300 Alcatel phones

They're not ready yet, but here's a hint at what's to come with the Alcatel 5, 3 and 1 smartphones.

Josh Miller/CNET

Alcatel is a phonemaker that often slides under the radar, but the company has made some pretty great value handsets in the past, so we like to keep an eye on what it's planning.

Ushered into a sun-lit luxury suite at CES 2018, Alcatel didn't share many details about its upcoming crop of new phones for the year. Rather, it took this time to preview three categories of devices, each selling for under $300 (price converts to AU$380, £220)

They'll all have a few things in common: an 18:9 screen ratio, a fingerprint reader on the back and face unlocking capabilities. You'll be able to program different fingerprint to simultaneously unlock and open an app, say your inbox or the camera. 

A note on face unlock: Expect that to look a lot more like the unsecured version we see on the Samsung Galaxy S8, rather than Apple's Face ID, which has been deemed secure enough to handle mobile payments.

Alcatel 5, 3, 1: What's the difference?

The Alcatel 5 series will hover in the $300 range. The multiple phones making up this tier are going to have the most advanced hardware of the bunch, with the best-looking designs. For example, the Alcatel 5 phone we saw had a backing that resembled brushed-metal, and a shiny metallic trim.

Meanwhile, the Alcatel 3 devices will sit at about $200 and under (converts to AU$250, £150). It was a phone from that model that had the largest screen and body, and a dual camera on its rounded, shiny back. 

Finally, any phone in the Alcatel 1 range will cost $100 or less, which is insanely cheap (that's AU$130, £70). The mock-up we saw didn't even have a working screen, but it did show off the smallest body design and a grippier backing. There aren't a ton of sub-$100 smartphones, and although they're far from glamorous, we're always happy to see ultra-affordable options for first-timers and other cost-sensitive buyers.

Keep in mind that there will be multiple phones in each series. Why so many? Because Alcatel will work with regional carriers and retailers to streamline which particular models sells in which country. As a result, you might see a dual-camera 5-series Alcatel in one country, but only a single-lens variant in another. 

Alcatel promised it'd get into the nitty-gritty specs next month, closer to the Mobile World Congress show that takes place every year in Barcelona, Spain. ¡Olé!

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