Earning the title of world’s thinnest smartphone in the market certainly gives the Alcatel One Touch Idol Ultra some attention. It’s an impressive feat but one that comes with a bit of a drawback. Read on and find out in our full review of the One Touch Idol Ultra.
Alcatel pushed the limits to make the Idol Ultra the title holder and it did attract some attention. Otherwise, people would just brush it off as just “another mid-range smartphone”. It’s also Alcatel’s way of showing off where all other big-named brands have not yet achieved (or something to that effect).
Design & Construction.
The One Touch Idol Ultra has a very basic design but it starts to work its wonders once you held it in your hands. At 6.45mm, the body still feels very solid and well constructed. The closest device we can think of that can match and surpass this engineering feat is the 5th-gen iPod Touch at 6.1mm.
Of course, there’s a bit of a catch — the camera section at the back panel slightly protrudes so that portion is actually a little thicker than 7mm. Nevertheless, we’re pretty impressed how Alcatel managed to design this unit and still pack it with good hardware.
The design is actually pretty simple, clean and flat. Nothing fancy but the materials looked and felt very solid with the front panel all made up of glass and the back panel covered with a smooth, rubbery finish.
The micro-SIM card slot if found in an enclosure on the right side while the volume controls are on the left. The power button is found on the top along with the sealed microUSB port. There’s no 3.5mm jack since it’s no longer feasible to have it with the thin-ness.
In its stead, they included a 3.5mm-to-microUSB cable adaptor in the box so you can still use an earphone and listen to music or make calls via the microUSB port. It’s a bit of an inconvenience but still a nice little trick to have.
At the back is the 8-megapixel camera along with the LED flash and a noise-canceling microphone and speaker grills. Up at the front is the 4.65-inch AMOLED display incorporating the soft buttons for Android, some sensors and the 1.3MP front-facing camera.
The Idol Ultra packs a 4.65-inch display with HD resolution of 720×1280 pixels. That’s a pretty good 316ppi pixel density. To top it off, they also used an AMOLED capacitive display protected by a Dragon Trail Glass. The display quality is good, as well as the contrast and depth of blacks although we figure it doesn’t have that strong brightness when it comes to outdoor visibility.
Images are clear and crisp, colors are warm and well-saturated, and the 4.65-inch display is enough to enjoy watching a full 2 hours of movie. The yellowish tinge in the display color is slightly noticeable but that’s pretty much expected of any AMOLED display.
The glossy front panel is prone to fingerprint and smudges but that’s typical. The three (3) soft buttons (Back, Home, Recent Apps) at the bottom corner of the panel are well spaced and accessible.
OS, UI and Apps.
The One Touch Idol Ultra comes with Android 4.1.1 Jellybean and enjoys the benefits of hundreds of thousands of apps, games and customization that any user can ever want. The UI is pretty simple but adds a bit of touch of uniqueness. We especially liked the lock screen that offers quick access to phone, SMS and camera in a single swipe and a visualizer that indicates battery charging and charged state/level.
Alcatel’s own UI is basic but clean, the icon set is nice although there seems to be the lack of custom widgets. If you don’t fancy it, there’s always the Google Play Store to turn to if you want to replace the launcher/theme.
The virtual keypad and keyboard for SMS is simple and usable, nothing fancy and laid out evenly. The stock keyboard uses TouchPal but you can easily activate/deactivate it right from the keyboard.
Multimedia and Camera.
Playback of movies is good although we noticed some dropped frames when decoding 1080p movies (we’ve already tweaked MX Player to use hardware decoding but it had very little effect). For regular SD and 720p HD files, playback is smooth though so that should be a relief. The Idol Ultra lacks a built-in 3.5mm audio jack but that is remedied with a micro-USB adaptor. The speakers at the back of the handset isn’t as loud as we wanted it to be so you’d always end up using the earphones.
The rear camera of the Idol Ultra performs well under good lighting conditions. The photos and videos are clear, colors are well saturated and accurate, and the camera snaps photos very fast.
Here are sample photos we took using the 8MP snapper.
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The handset can only record videos up to 720p, a limitation of the chipset. Our sample video below shows a typical quality of the video capture.
Performance and Benchmarks.
During our initial test, the unit was working fine except for a few hiccups here and there. Nothing much to worry about although it feels a bit sluggish for a Jellybean device with 1GB RAM. It became more apparent later on when we did the graphics benchmark using NenaMark 2. The scores were disappointing and frame rates were low at 17.2fps.
Fortunately, there was an over-the-air (OTA) firmware update and after installing it, we noticed some performance improvements especially with playing full HD 1080p videos (less stuttering and drop frames).
Quadrant benchmark score puts the Idol Ultra at 3,224 which is slightly low while the Antutu Benchmark gives it a 6,464 rating.
The one bench result that puzzled us was the NenaMark 2 test that gave the device only 17.3fps. That’s a pretty disappointing frame rate if you asked us, a result that supported our observation on hardware decoding of full HD videos.
Call Quality, Connectivity and Battery Life.
The Idol Ultra has a rated battery capacity of only 1,820mAh so we weren’t expecting the results to be spectacular. Nevertheless, we were surprised that even on real-world tests, the battery life wasn’t up to our lowered expectations.
Playing a looped full HD 1080p movie at 50% brightness and 0% volume (to simulate use of earphones) only gave us a less than decent 3.5 hours of playback time. As for normal use, the battery life seemed a bit inadequate for whole-day use. For heavy usage, we could not push it beyond 4-5 hours. We also noticed the handset would get warm very fast when on the net or during movie playback.
Call quality is decent, clear and the noise canceling mics at the back seem to work quite well in isolating voice from ambient noise. While the device has the basic connectivity options like Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi and GPS, it doesn’t have HSPA+ or LTE mobile connectivity and NFC which we’ve been seeing on more and more smartphones lately.
Alcatel’s thinnest smartphone in the market draws a lot of attention. The slim form factor, the simple yet elegant design, makes for a very compelling first impression. The hardware configuration is decent although it has some shortcomings in a couple departments, especially the battery. Nevertheless, we’re impressed at how much hardware Alcatel was able to pack in this very slim body.
It’s not big in the performance department but what it lacks in muscle it makes up in looks.
The One Touch Idol Ultra is available in Black, Red, Yellow, Green and Turquoise colors. Suggested retail price is Php14,990 and it comes free on Sun Cellular Plan 999.
Alcatel One Touch Idol Ultra 6033X specs:
4.65-inch AMOLED display @ 1280×720 pixels, 315ppi
Dragon Trail Glass
MediaTek MT6577+ 1.2GHz dual-core processor
PowerVR SGX531 graphics
16GB internal memory
3G/HSDPA up to 7.2Mbps
Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n, WiFi Direct, WiFi hotspot
GPS w/ A-GPS support
8 MP camera w/ LED flash, 720p@30fps
1.3MP front-facing camera
Android 4.1.1 Jellybean
Li-Ion 1,820 mAh battery
134.4 x 68.5 x 6.45 mm (dimensions)
What we liked about it:
* Nice, simple yet elegant design
* Very slim profile
* Very good AMOLED display
* Decent camera performance
What we did not like:
* No built-in 3.5mm plug (comes with adaptor though)
* So-so battery life
Disclosure: Sun Cellular provided the review unit for free. They also gave the One Touch Idol that we’re giving away here.