Review | Alcatel Idol 4s Android smartphone

By Charlemagne Losaria

Alcatel has been in the business of mobile phones for as long as I can remember. In the Philippines, they mostly cater to the budget crowd, offering low-end phones. As a result, Alcatel phones have never really turned heads for power users as much as the competition in this part of the world.

Alcatel is hoping to change that and is now eyeing for a spot within the mid-range market with the new Alcatel Idol 4s.

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First seen at the Mobile World Congress earlier this year, Alcatel hopes to change consumer perspective on the brand and consider them as a legit alternative for mid-range smartphones. Let me tell you what I think about the Alcatel Idol 4s after spending two weeks with it as my daily driver.

What’s in the box?

• Unit
• VR headset
• JBL headphones
• 2A fast charger
• USB cable
• User guide and leaflets

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Design and build

The Alcatel Idol 4S is undoubtedly a beautiful device. In my honest opinion, it does not look and feel like a mid-range phone at all.

At a glance, it might remind you of the Samsung Galaxy S6 with its front and back part clad with 2.5D glossy glass. It is beautiful to look at, but the downside it is quite prone to finger prints, as well as being slippery, too.

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The phone’s frame is made of a metallic material. The right side edge features the volume rocker as well as the boom key (we will talk about this later in more detail), while the left side edge houses the power button, as well as the hybrid dual SIM – Micro SD tray.

The 3.5mm headphone jack is located at the top edge and the micro-USB port at the bottom edge. I am not really a fan of the placement of the power button as it is very hard to reach even for someone like myself who have big hands. Good thing that it has double tap to wake and sleep so it less of a nuisance for users.

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The Alcatel Idol 4s has an 8MP front facing camera with LED. It also features front and back firing loud JBL-certified speakers at the top and bottom — and the speaker holes extends up to the back. The speakers also act as the earpiece of the phone.

The overall design of the phone suggests that the phone can be used even when rotated. With its “Reversible OS”, you no longer have to worry about the orientation of the phone when you pick it up from your pocket or bag as the front panel design is consistent. This had come in handy at times while I was using it.

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The back of the phone features the 16MP camera with dual-tone LED flash, as well as a noticeably new Alcatel logo.

Display

The Alcatel Idol 4s has a 5.5-inch 2K QHD AMOLED display with a resolution of 1440 x 2560 pixels (~534 ppi pixel density). This allows the phone to display very sharp icons, images, and text. The color representation is also very good and the screen is readable even in direct sunlight.

Performance

At the helm of the Idol 4s is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 processor, as well as an 8-core CPU clocked at 1.8 Ghz (4 cores) and 1.4 Ghz (4 cores). Combining it with a 3GB RAM, Alcatel made sure there will be no performance bottleneck for the users.

The Idol 4s has built in 32GB storage memory but can be extended further by inserting a micro-SD card in one of the slots in the SIM tray.

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I subjected the phone to extreme testing of a variety of demanding games such as Implosion, Modern Combat 5, Modern Strike, Pokémon Go, as well as a couple of VR games and sure enough, it was able to handle all of these with ease.

One of the downsides of having a powerful engine in a thin chassis is heating. The phone does generate heat fairly quickly when playing games but cools down faster because of the glass material of the back. Overall, I was quite happy with the performance of the phone, and it performs like a flagship phone rather than a mid-ranger.

Camera

For the camera, the Idol 4s has a 16MP Sony sensor-clad snapper with a dual-tone LED flash. It has an aperture opening of f2.0. The camera offers a couple of nifty features such as being able to shoot in Panorama, Manual mode, and slow motion, as well as record 4K resolution videos.

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Alcatel also collaborated with developers of FYUSE, an app that lets you shoot stills in 3D. FYUSE is embedded as a feature of the native camera app but can also be downloaded via the Google Playstore.

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Overall, the camera focuses fast, performs great, and captures sharp stills especially in natural light. However, it tends to suffer noise in low light conditions. To remedy this, one must play around the manual mode. Below are sample shots from the Idol 4s in different situations.

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User interface and features

The Alcatel Idol 4s ships with Android Marshmallow out of the box which happens to double as the VR headset as well. The overall Android experience is almost stock with little customization from Alcatel.

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However, they did add a couple of nifty features such as the boom key which does a couple of different things such as acting like a camera shutter button, turning up the loud speakers and bass to full blast, showing live weather animations on the home screen etc.

 

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Below are screenshots of the user interface of the Alcatel Idol 4s.

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Battery life

The Idol 4s, as thin as it is, comes with a 3000 mAh battery, which lasted me a day on regular use. Playing games and with mobile data activated will noticeably shorten the screen on time.

The good thing is that the Idol 4s is shipped with a fast charger with a rated output of 2A. The charger can charge the device from 0 – 100 percent in more or less 90 minutes, provided you don’t use the device while it’s plugged in.

Conclusion

The Alcatel Idol 4s is Alcatel’s best smartphone to date. It was able to hit all the checks on what a smartphone should be. Its overall design and build is impressive and consistent allowing you to use the device regardless of orientation.

The device performs very well and does not lag at all. The JBL speakers are loud, clear, and “bassy”. The camera produces sharp photos on natural light and the boom key is quite useful too.

The hybrid Dual SIM – Micro SD slot will cater to multiple audiences. The inclusion of a VR headset is also a plus on my book. The only thing that I do not like is it heats up fast when gaming as well as on mobile data.

Currently, I am unable to find the retail price for the Idol 4S in the Philippines. However, in the US, it retails for more or less $400.00.

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