Alcatel IDOL 4S Review
Introduced last February at the 2016 Mobile World Congress, Alcatel showed off its new flagship device — the IDOL 4S. As you may have noticed from its name, the company has already dropped the ONETOUCH moniker. It is also veering away from its usual budget offering and aims to target the mid-range class with this new device.
Another first for the company is the inclusion of a VR (virtual reality) headset along with the package — offering the experience without needing to buy an expensive phone like Samsung’s current flagship handsets.
Design and Construction
The IDOL 4S sports a 5.5-inch display which is pretty common for flagship handsets today. They also fitted it with a Quad HD (2560 x 1440 resolution) display which makes the images crisp and sharp for using with the VR headset. Additionally, the screen is made of AMOLED so blacks are deep and colors are well-saturated.
It has noticeable bezels but due to its 2.5D display that curves on both sides, it appears to be thinner than how it actually is. Also, it employs on-screen buttons that consist of Back, Home, and Recent Apps.
If you’re used to seeing plastic material with Alcatel’s previous smartphones, the IDOL 4S doesn’t follow this trend. It has glass reinforcement at the back which adds a premium look and feel. Just like up front, the back glass panel also curves at the sides which actually feels nice to hold. The only downside of having both glass on both sides is that its slippery and slides out of the pocket easily.
Placed at the upper middle part is the main camera. The sensor is protected by chrome trimmings and is noticeably protruding at the rear.
Up front is an 8-megapixel camera for selfies and video chats.
The IDOL 4S that we have apparently has no fingerprint sensor built-in, unlike the international version that has one placed at the back. One possible reason is to keep costs down in addition to others.
In the middle, we have a metal chassis which makes the entire handset solid. Chrome embellishments also adorn the metal piece and flows throughout the frame. Seen above is the Power/Wake button next to the SIM tray and storage expansion.
They are situated on the top left side of the handset so reaching for the Wake/Sleep button from doesn’t come naturally and requires to reposition your hand when you come from navigating the phone, for example.
The silver trims show more accents on the four corners as it widens the gap — leaving a more accessible base when it rests on the palm of the hands.
The right side is populated by the volume rocker and lined along it is what the company calls the Boom key. It resembles Sony’s power/lock button but it serves several purposes depending on what you’re doing. More on that later on.
Up top is a lonely 3.5mm audio jack and a pinhole for one of the microphones. Also seen here are two antenna bands leaving a gap on its metal chassis.
Down below is pretty much the same — with its micro-USB port and microphone flanked by another pair of antenna bands.
The IDOL 4S also boasts stereo speakers that fire both up front and at the back. This is to give a more immersive experience when you’re playing games with its VR headset or just hand-held.
Being bundled with a VR headset, the package IS the headset which is pretty clever. Above is how you’ll be greeted when you remove the device out of the box. It opens up to reveal all the accessories including the phone which is already mounted to the headset, as if ready for use.
The bundle includes the VR headset, usual charging accessories, and a special JBL in-ears that’s wrapped in chrome finish. Additional ear buds are also present to fit all ear types.
Display and Multimedia
The IDOL 4S carries a 5.5-inch display and uses AMOLED technology which, in turn, really gives enjoyable deep blacks. Its 2K resolution panel also contributes largely in making the display nice to watch on. It also has wide viewing angles and decent outdoor visibility. We would say that Alcatel did things right in the display department.
Running the sound department are JBL-certified front-facing stereo speakers that deliver sound up front and at the rear. One of the main reasons of this implementation is so that users won’t get muffled sound whether you hold it up using both hands or even when you place it face down on the table.
Indeed, the sound produced even at its loudest still had details and distortion was kept to a minimum. It could easily suffice as a music player in the middle of the table when hanging out with friends or when you’re alone sound tripping in your room.
The device is also loaded with WAVES MaxxAudio app that lets you tweak the audio output for music or movie. It’s a good added feature but the default settings are usually enough for most users.
OS, UI, and Apps
The IDOL 4S is built-in with 32GB of expandable storage. Out of that, about 23GB is usable with almost 9GB taken up by the system software.
There are pre-installed apps like Fyuse, Deezer, and TiZR Lifecasting in addition to preloaded 3D content for its VR and a couple of games.
Navigating through its UI is smooth and lag-free. It’s also running on Marshmallow 6.0.1 OS so users will enjoy the updates and functionalities of the latest available Android system.
As we’ve mentioned earlier, Alcatel included a separate button and called it the Boom key which you could specifically assign functionalities and personalize your experience with the phone. For example, it improves audio quality when playing music, live streams your media when shooting a video, and even gives you extra powerups when playing specific games.
Out of all those, we specifically liked assigning the Boom key the Camera shortcut whenever the screen is on. So whatever we’re doing on the phone and we see something we want to take a photo of, just one press without looking brings us to the Camera app. Once there, the Boom key could also act as a physical shutter button which is always something I personally like to have on a phone.
Alcatel mounted a 16-megapixel main shooter on the IDOL 4S and it comes with an f/2.0 aperture, phase detection auto focus, and dual-tone LED flashes. Below are some sample shots:
In general, the camera takes detailed photos with good colors and contrast. There are noticeable grains at night and the bright areas tend to be a bit overexposed, but it is a common trade-off for showing more details in a low light situation. Its front-facing selfie camera also captures natural skin color with appropriate levels.
Its camera can shoot up to 4K video and has EIS for added stability while recording. We tested it on 1080p resolution and below are some samples.
At night, colors appear to be a bit washed out and details are not that sharp. It effectively shows depth of field when it changes focus so that’s always a good thing.
Performance and Benchmarks
Inside, the IDOL 4S features an octa-core Snapdragon 652 processor clocked at 1.8GHz coupled by 3GB of RAM. This configuration proved to be a fast tandem as we haven’t experienced any major lags or random app crashes throughout our week with the handset. Playing games was fluid and switching between apps was snappy.
We used it as a secondary phone that’s always connected to Wi-Fi for browsing social media sites, taking photos, and playing games which it all did effortlessly.
As for our standard benchmarks, below are the following scores:
- AnTuTu: 72,708
- Quadrant Standard: 42,303
- Vellamo: 2,958 (Multicore), 2,640 (Metal), 5,034 (Chrome Browser)
- 3DMark: 872 (SlingShot)
We had problems running PCMark as it kept stopping in between the tests and not wanting to continue. It could be some compatibility issues in the software but we’re not totally sure.
The bundled headset is a nice touch to further make the IDOL 4S enticing to consumers. It is made of plastic which is light and looks slightly similar to Samsung’s Gear VR. It also works the same way with its clip on design.
Once the straps have been attached and the phone mounted with VR launcher accessed, you can wear the headset and start exploring. We’re not sure if there is a design flaw with the ergonomics of the headset, but wearing it was uncomfortable for my nose which hampered my enjoyment of using it.
Navigation while wearing the headset — touch-sensitive back and select buttons tucked underneath.
Nevertheless, we played the preloaded VR content from the phone and it was pretty immersive even without any headphones on. This is due to its dual stereo speakers that add significant depth to the overall sound.
Apart from stored content like 360-degree photos and videos, there are also games like Lamper VR which will require you to move your head to direct the firefly. For me, it’s pretty fun at first but gets nauseating later on. Titans of Space, on the other hand, is an enjoyable experience as you tour the galaxy.
Graphics-wise, the display shows vibrant images and realistic deep blacks thanks to its display. Although we could still notice a few jaggies in the details and frame rate once in a while drops.
Connectivity and Call Quality
The handset employs a hybrid dual-SIM setup that forces you to give up the second slot in exchange for expanding its storage. It has all the basic connectivity options including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, plus LTE. Call quality is also clear and voice was very audible on both ends.
Battery capacity for the IDOL 4S is at 3000mAh and is non-removable. From 100%, we looped a video while the device is on Airplane Mode, has 50% of display brightness, and 50% volume. The result is 9 hours and 35 mins of continuous playback before the battery was depleted of power.
That’s pretty long, but so is its charging time. From 0%, it took around 6 hours to fully charge.
The Alcatel IDOL 4S is definitely a step up from the successor in terms of design and performance. It now has a touch of premium build thanks to its glass and metal combination, vivid and detailed 2K display, speedy Marshmallow UI and decent battery life.
Stereo speakers are also one of the things we really liked about it which is powerful enough to not require headphones when using it with the VR. The addition os the Boom key, although somewhat gimmicky, has its own perks.
There are some downsides like the long charging time and occasional warming of the device when used for extended periods of time. Although this could be overlooked when you factor in the free VR headset. It’s not the best kind but is good enough for those who want to try out the technology.
The Alcatel IDOL 4S has a reported price of Php28,999.
Alcatel IDOL 4S specs:
5.5-inch AMOLED display @ 1440 x 2560, 534ppi
1.8GHz Octa-Core Qualcomm MSM8976 Snapdragon 652
32GB internal storage
expandable up to 200GB via microSD
16MP f/2.0 rear PDAF camera with dual-tone LED flash
8MP front camera with LED Flash
4G LTE, 3G HSPA+
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (dual-band)
Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow
Non-removable 3000 mAh Li-Ion battery
153.9 x 75.4 x 7 mm
What we liked about it:
- Glass/metal form factor
- Sharp Quad HD display
- Responsive UI
- Speedy performance
- Stereo speakers
- Boom key
What we didn’t like:
- Takes too long to fully charge
- Heats up when used as VR for long periods of time