Known for making value smartphones, Alcatel has been relatively quiet in the U.S., but the company still has a strong market share worldwide. That first part could be changing — their latest handset is the Idol 4S, and it’s poised to compete in the increasingly competitive midrange premium market, going head to head with the likes of the OnePlus 3 and ZTE Axon 7.
The premium 2.5D glass body and and full metallic frame of the Idol 4S remind us of the uber premium Galaxy S7. Measuring 153.9 mm x 75.4 mm x 6.99 mm and weighing 149 grams, the device is super sleek and lightweight, and is very comfortable to hold and grip. Overall, it’s a really attractive phone that looks a lot more expensive then it is.
The QHD AMOLED (2560 x 1440) 534 ppi display on the Idol 4S is excellent. And unlike the lower res display that is included on the OnePlus 3, Alcatel has opted not to skimp in the display department so that you can actually use the Idol 4S for VR.
Speaking of VR, Alcatel is throwing in Idol 4S VR “goggles” with the phone. In addition to this VR headset, Alcatel also has the Idol 4S bundled with a case from Incipio, JBL earbuds, and a tempered glass screen protector. The idea here is that you get a everything you’d want from a mobile experience with the purchase of the phone. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better smartphone bundle value elsewhere.
As for the VR headset itself, it’s actually not too bad. Together with the Idol 4S. we’d describe its VR performance as somewhere between Google Cardboard and the Samsung Gear VR. It’s not going to replace the PlayStation VR or Oculus Rift, but it’s fun for enjoying 360º video and some basic gaming.
The fingerprint reader located on the backside of the Alcatel Idol 4S is exclusive to the U.S. model. We wholeheartedly prefer having the fingerprint on a device’s backside, as it’s much more practical to operate. In any case, the fingerprint reader works well and is fast and responsive for unlocking the display.
The rear camera has a 16 MP Sony IMX 298 sensor with auto-focus, an f/2.0 aperture 75º wide-angle lens, and dual-tone flash. In general, the camera snaps pics super fast, and the built-in camera app gives you access to plenty of manual settings. You can also record 4K videos, slow-mo videos and even 360º video all from within the same camera app.
Actual photo quality is what we have come to expect from this price range — just OK. When shooting in daylight, photos tend to be much sharper. As soon as you go indoors or take low-light photos, shots get grainy and the camera struggles more to get everything into focus (it doesn’t help that the flash makes photos overly yellow). Overall, the camera is acceptable at this price point. You can see sample photo files in our album here.
Powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 SoC, the Idol’s performance is hardly in league with more expensive flagship phones out there, yet it’s still plenty fast. The truth is that most people won’t notice a difference in day-to-day performance when comparing it to more expensive premium flagship phones, and to us it feels peppy. When it comes to benchmarks, the phone earned a score of 36498 in Quadrant and 81955 in AnTuTu. These benchmarks indicate that the phone is a bit faster than the iPhone 6, a bit slower than the Galaxy Note 5 and not nearly as fast as flagship Android smartphones like the Galaxy S7 Edge or the LG G5. How does it compare to its more direct rivals? The Idol 4S is much slower than the ZTE Axon 7 and OnePlus 3, but it still feels plenty fast enough for most users.
The Idol 4S comes running Android 6.0 Marshmallow with a relatively clean Android overlay that doesn’t come with too much bloatware besides several VR apps. Preloaded apps include Onetouch Music, Fyuse, Littlstar, YouTube 360 and the Alcatel VR Store.
The 3,000 mAh battery inside of the Idol 4S is respectable, and the device can charge to 100% in 100 minutes. We consider it to be fortunate that the charger is micro USB and not USB Type-C, although transfer speeds are slower for the use of USB 2.0.