Alcatel IDOL 4S [Review]

By - September 2016

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Previously known mostly for its budget smartphones until the close to mid-tier IDOL 3 last year, Alcatel is looking to make another splash with its successor to the IDOL 3 with the IDOL 4s. Like most of these mid-tiers nowadays Alcatel wants to give you as much as they can at pricepoint of $400. Compared to prices on smartphones such as the iPhone 7, Galaxy S7 pushing around $800 it sounds like a no brainer if you don’t need all that premium and just something to get you through your daily routines and maybe have a bit of fun here and there. Is it the mid-ranger to beat?

Style

First off to get into that “premium design” Alcatel decided to ditch its smooth plastic backing on the IDOL 3. It has instead a glass body that pretty much covers the front and back of the device. While it does look slippery it’s not too bad and pretty similar to that of the Galaxy S7/Edge glass builds. Of course if you are still concerned Alcatel has teamed up with Incipio to make a wide array of cases to keep you covered.

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There is a decent amount of buttons on the IDOL 4S and their placement maybe hit or miss for some. The power button is on the left while on the right side is the volume toggle. Sounds good right? Go down a bit further and you run into the “Boom” key. The Boom key is an interesting part of the IDOL 4S and lets you do some cool things here and there which is fine. Problem is feels so much like a power button you might be tempted to press it more often than you expect. On the back is the fingerprint scanner. While it does work pretty good I find it better with a case on. Since it’s on the back it kind of meshes with the whole back so at times you might not be sure if you are touching it or not correctly.

Also its microUSB port is moved over to the right instead of in the typical middle positioning. This is moreso for easy charging when using it with its included VR headset.

Display

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Usually with these mid-range devices you are getting 1080p displays but alas Alcatel has slapped on a QHD/2K AMOLED screen on its 5.5″ frame. It can get pretty bright and looks for a phone costing you $400. Alcatel did a good job with this and might one of the standpoints of the IDOL 4S, you wont be disappointed.

Hardware

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So Alcatel put in some nice hardware for the IDOL 4S with it carrying a Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 chipset alongside 3GB RAM and 32GB of onboard storage which can be expanded to over 200 thanks to microSD card support. Combining all these together and you get a pretty solid running smartphone. I have used it on a few outings and have no complaints about it. Its snappy and quick and should be just fine for everyday use. It also has a 3,000mAh battery that is capable of Quick Charging so you can get back in the action in no time if you find yourself running low. There is another hardware features such as dual speakers that sound pretty decent for music playing or catching some YouTube clips.

Software

The IDOL 4S is running Android 6.0 Marshmallow and its pretty stockish if you ask me. There are some gestures and shortcuts and pull down menus of course but nothing too crazy. While there is no bloatware with it being unlocked Alcatel has included a ton of apps to try to give you as much functionality out of the device. Will you use all or any of them? Probably not but some are interesting to mess with it. A good amount of them are dedicated to the VR headset that is included with the IDOL 4S.

Camera

Using a Sony IMX 298 / Toshiba T4KC3-121 Sensor you think the photos of the IDOL 4S would be awesome but the shots are pretty hit or miss with its 16MP shooting. Outdoors with good lighting the shots are pretty good and color accurate but anywhere else such as indoors and colors will look inaccurate and sometimes washed out. It doesn’t kill the device in general but could be better.

 

VR Mode

One of the selling points of the IDOL 4S is that it comes with a VR Headset. Realistically the VR headset is the packaging it comes in which leads to some clever marketing and makes for a cool unboxing. As for the VR Headset, it feels like a well put together product but it’s just missing some things.

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There is no way to make the lens adjustable for focus and the button placement on the bottom rather than the top takes some getting used to. The device doesn’t actually plug into the headset either ala Google Cardboard so power is really dependent on the IDOL 4S.

Verdict

I like where Alcatel has come from and how they have tried to fit into the affordable mid-tier market. The IDOL 4S gives you just about everything you could want in a smartphone from a bright vibrant display to dual facing speakers to throwing in a VR headset. It does have some competition in its price range and I think it being around the $350 mark would do it more justice.

 

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Jason Million is Managing Editor. Jason currently uses a Samsung Galaxy S6 with T-Mobile among other gadgets. Hailing from the streets of NYC, always trying to have a blast or catch a bite to eat. As well as enjoying technology to the fullest. Any other questions hit him up.