Alcatel Idol 4S review: King of the mid-range?
It's better than many but with prices falling around it, how will it fare?
- Great screen
- Good cameras
- Decent price
- Crowded market
- No fingerprint reader
Alcatel is pushing out of its budget-brand comfort zone with a well-specified mid-range offering. The screen and cameras are attractive, but prices of better rivals are falling fast.
Price$ 599.00 (AUD)
Just last week we raved about the $399 Moto G4 Plus redefining what value meant in the current phone market. Now, just a few days later, here’s Alcatel with an offering that, despite being $200 dearer, may rival it.
We’ve always thought of Alcatel as a quirky French company which not only makes the machines that power the internet and mobile phone networks, but which makes great-value, low-priced phones. It also happens to be the third-highest seller of phones by volume in Australia (after Samsung and Apple). So our view has generally been positive.
But Alcatel’s APAC Managing Director was more specific. The customers behind Alcatel’s high volumes are apparently kids with no money, old people, poor people and the type of people who set off alarms when their credit-rating is checked. We were also told that the Idol 4S is gunning for Gen-Y users with an attention span of eight seconds or so.
We’re not really a fan of pigeon-holing but it’s certainly interesting to hear someone do that for their own products. Nonetheless, at $599 this is priced as a mid-range Android phone (but high-priced for Alcatel). That Alcatel is reaching so high, we hoped it would give the big boys a run for their money. We weren’t disappointed.
5.5-inch, 1440x2560, 534ppi display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 Chipset, two quad-core processors, Adreno 510 GPU, 3/32GB RAM, NFC, Dual nanoSIM (one is shared microSD (up to 256GB) slot), 16/8-megapixel cameras, 2160p (4K) video, microUSB, 3000mAh battery, VR headset, 154x75x7mm, 149g. Full specs here.
Compared with Sony’s flagship
We’ll start by listing the rival specs of Sony’s recently-launched, hugely-disappointing flagship, the Xperia Performance. Remember that it retails at $999.
5-inch, 1080x1920, 441ppi, screen, 23-megapixel rear camera, 13-megapixel front camera, Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 quad-core processor, Adreno 530 GPU, 32/3GB RAM, NFC, nanoSIM, microSD card (up to 256GB), Android 6.0.1 (Marshmallow), microUSB, Fingerprint reader, Fixed 2,700mAh battery, 144x70x9mm, 164g. Full specs here.
So for $400 less Alcatel has a bigger, higher-resolution screen, Dual SIM cards, bigger battery and it comes with a VR headset (and plastic case) for free. Granted it’s not as quick when using power-intensive apps (Sony’s two, high-end dual core processors are faster than Alcatel’s Octa-core), but for day-to-day use, few would notice much difference. The camera is supposedly much better on the Sony but frankly, the Idol’s was very good indeed. Really the only usage difference is Sony’s fingerprint reader. Hmm.
Build quality really isn’t far off the big boys’ flagship phones and certainly up there with the likes of Oppo’s R9 flagship and HTC’s One X9 which cost similar. The metal band that runs round the middle is reminiscent of Samsung’s Galaxy S7 Edge while the shiny back looks classy and sophisticated.Read more: Review: HTC One X9 and OPPO R9 - mid-range Android phones
What really stands out is the 5.5-inch AMOLED screen. We normally only see the bright, colourful AMOLED units on much more expensive phones so this was a treat. Add to that the 1440x2560 resolution (with a high-density 534 pixels per inch) and you’re looking at one of the best screens on the market. It gets very bright too.
The power button is at the top of the left side while the volume switch is at the top of the right side. Below that is something called a Boom Switch, which, “Does interesting things.” It can be configured in different ways but for the main part, when the phone is off you can instantly take a picture or rapid-fire pictures depending on how long you press it. If you press it just while looking at the main screen, the background wallpaper will run through a flashy animation. It can also boost bass in music and create funky “Gen-Y” animations.
All in all, this phone handles like every other (more expensive) phone we’ve tested lately including the excellent Huawei P9 (whose value we were raving about just a couple of weeks back), the above-mentioned Oppo and HTC plus the Moto G4 Plus.
BatteryRead more: Sony Xperia X Performance review: Sony’s most disappointing product in years
The 3,000mAh battery is a quite large for a phone this thin. We found it just lasted the full day in general use (the testing of all phones lately has been complicated by the battery vampire that is Pokemon Go, lately) but so long as you steer clear of that it was fine.
We were very impressed with the cameras both for stills and video. The main, 16-megapixel camera was fast and accurate in focusing, decent in low light, offered good colour accuracy and sharpness. Meanwhile, panoramas looked good and so did landscapes in general. The 8-megapixel camera on the front is also sharp and offers various degrees of “Beauty” airbrushing, if that’s your thing.
Video was also surprisingly good. 4K resolutions can be captured and quality is impressive. It’s one of the fastest-focusing video cameras we’ve seen – others really struggle to fend off blur unless you stop and rest for a while. It’s also consistent with exposure and white balance while others can vary wildly under changing conditions. However, the Electronic Image Stabilisation can’t help with a wobbling image while walking around - as with most other phone cameras, it’s much better when everything stays still.
Alcatel also includes a functional, light plastic case (similar to Huawei’s) which protects the phone without hiding its design. It also comes in a box that converts into a VR headset! This is very comfy and works rather well (as phones go) although content is limited (or NSFW) at present, it’s very nice to have and, to put things in perspective, Samsung charges $165 for its Gear VR Headset equivalent.
NFC is included and there’s even a DualSIM slot (which is shared with the microSD slot). There’s no fingerprint reader though. This is a shame as unlocking the screen in this way is becoming normal.
We’re not 100 per cent sure what the price of this phone will be when it appears in September: negotiations with carriers are ongoing but we’ve been told that if no agreement can be reached then it will be sold directly at $599.
There’s some interesting competition in this space, however: Huawei’s excellent P9 has an RRP of $799 but can already be bought for under $600. This will likely fall further by September. Meanwhile the excellent Huawei Mate 8 can also be had for under $600 (and falling) and offers a much bigger screen, battery and other features. Oppo’s flagship R9 and HTC’s One X9 are still options but aren’t anything special - we prefer Idol 4S. However, the Moto G4 S is still $200 cheaper and while it’s not particularly exciting, it is a very-well-made Android phone that’s worth considering.
Ultimately, though, this is a good-value phone from Alcatel and a great mid-range choice. Buying it depends on the price you can find for both it and its rivals, though.
- Samsung files artificial muscle patent for use in flexible smartphones
- Review: The new Moto G/G Plus phones add size, features and cost
- Moto Z review: Motorola proves modular smartphones are the future of mobility
- Moto Z: Is this the Droid you’ve been looking for?
- Blackberry announces DETK50, a secure US$299 Android phone
- How to take control of your Android notifications
- 7 things you need to know about Samsung's Galaxy Note7
- Report: Nexus home button animation and 'night light' option appear amid a batch of leaks
- Wiwander international portable hotspot review
- Oppo F1s review: 2016 has another King of the Best Value phones
- Apple iPhone 7 full, in-depth review: Value depends on your relationship with Apple
- Moto G4 Play review: it's OK
Join the newsletter!
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Hisense takes the fight to home entertainment heavyweights with flagship Series 8 and 9 ULED TVs
- 2 Sony's latest Ultra HD OLED debuts in Australia
- 3 Panasonic Ultra HD OLED TV Review
- 4 D-Link Omna 180 Cam HD DSH-C310 review
- 5 Oppo A77 smartphone: Full in-depth review
Latest News Articles
- Belkin Introduces USB-C 3.1 Express Dock HD
- Porsche Design Huawei Mate 10 Will Come To Australia
- Boost Mobile Doubles Data Offering With New Summer Plans
- BlackBerry KEYone Black Launches in Australia
- HTC U11 Plus latest rumours: Release date, price and specs
PCW Evaluation Team
Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.
The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.
The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.
The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic
I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.
It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.
- Huawei Mate 10 Pro Review
- Apple TV 4K review
- Legion Y520 Gaming Laptop review
- Which flagship TV is best? Sony 4K HDR Bravia 2016 versus LG 4K HDR OLED 2016
- 10 Blu-ray movies / Best looking Blu-ray movies
- TPTest AnalystSA
- FTBusiness AnalystVIC
- FTSenior Siebel DeveloperACT
- CCCRM Technical ConsultantWA
- CCNetwork EngineerNSW
- CCIntegration SpecialistQLD
- FTDigital Marketing Executive - PersonalisationOther
- CCJunior to mid-level - Business Analyst ? AgileNSW
- CCJunior to Mid Level - Java/ J2EE DeveloperQLD
- CCApplication Solution Designer (Automation)NSW
- FTMultiple SOC Analyst RolesOther
- CCBusiness AnalystACT
- CCSolution ArchitectNSW
- FTSolution Architect - SalesforceOther
- FTAutomation Test EngineerOther
- CCProgram ManagerNSW
- FTData Centre Systems EngineerOther
- FTTeam and Project Administrator - SalesforceQLD
- FTBusiness Analyst - PEGAOther
- FTFull Stack .Net DeveloperQLD
- FTSoftware Asset ManagerACT
- FTSolutions ArchitectsOther
- CCService management Business AnalystNSW
- FTSenior Security ConsultantOther
- TPSecurity AnalystACT