In this age of high-tech and expensive smartphones, it’s becoming harder and harder to get the attention of consumers. But Alcatel bravely competes and stays alive and kicking in the mobile tech industry by creating affordable smartphones with relatively cool designs.
Although Alcatel might not be able to compete with the other smartphone giants like Apple or Samsung, the Alcatel One Touch Idol is a great smartphone to have for its price. The phone has a simple yet elegant design, it has the perfect screen size, and it takes decent photos. The phone also performs quite well when used for browsing and casual gaming. It can practically do everything that you would want from a smartphone, and the best part is, it wouldn’t burn a hole in your pocket.
Alcatel One Touch Idol’s design is simple with just a hint of elegance. It’s not a head turner like other high-end smartphones, but once you hold it in your hand, you will find that it’s worth a second look. You’ll also notice that it’s unbelievably light. It only weighs 110 grams and is 7.9 mm thick. With these very slim statistics, it’s one sexy phone!
We reviewed the silver model, but the Idol actually comes in other fun colors: cranberry pink, magic blue, mint green, red, and slate. The silver model might seem toned down compared to the other colors, but it actually looks more sophisticated. The brushed metal finish makes the phone look “expensive”.
At the top right of the phone, you’ll find the lock screen. The placement is similar to the iPhone 5. The left side of the phone houses the Micro SD slot, while the right side houses the Micro Sim. Since the back plate is non-removable, you won’t have to open the phone in order to insert the SIM or micro SD slot. It’s worth noting though that it’s quite difficult to insert the SIM and the micro SD. If you try using your finger, it will take a few minutes before you can finally pop it open.
At the bottom of the screen display, there are three capacitive Android buttons, which allows easy access to the last page, the home screen, and the most recent apps used. There’s no physical button, which is kind of a bummer. I like having an embossed button. I usually blindly grab my phone and feel where the home button is, so I know which side is up. It’s like letting your fingers rest on the “home keys” on the keyboard. You’ll know where the other letters are even when not looking. In addition, the “back button” is located at the left side of the home button. Most Android phones or at least the Samsung smartphones have the back button on the right side. So, it takes some getting used to.
I found that the 4.7-screen is perfect for my hands. The screen is not too wide allowing me to type with one hand or reach out to buttons at the bottom of the screen with just my thumb. Other smartphones like the S3 or the Note II are just too big for me; I have to operate them with two hands all the time.
The screen size and the overall design is quite impressive considering its price, but its resolution is not as impressive. It has a resolution of 540 x 960 pixels, which translates to just 236 ppi (pixels per inch). If you’re used to using mobile gadgets with Super AMOLED and Retina displays, you’ll clearly see the difference. When looking at the screen, the color of the app icons is quite pale.
The Alcatel One Touch Idol has an 8 MP rear camera and a 2 MP front facing camera. With an 8 MP camera, you’d expect it to take crisp and sharp photos. But the photos taken with the rear camera is decent at best. But if you don’t compare it with cameras from other high-end smartphones like the S4 or the Sony Xperia Z, then Idol’s camera can be quite sufficient. It won’t let you take “award-winning” shots, but it gets the job done of snapping photos to capture memories.
It comes with a LED flash, which definitely helps when taking photos indoors under low light. But there are limitations when taking photos indoors, so you have to get the right amount of light if you want to snap high quality photos.
This photo was taken indoors under low light using the rear camera. As you can see, there’s a huge difference between the Happy Lemon photo that was taken outdoors and this Buddha photo. It looks too grainy.
Now, it’s completely a different story for the front facing camera. The spec says it’s a 2 MP camera, but when taking photos under low light, it seems worse than a VGA camera. In order to take decent selfie photos, there should be plenty of natural light. So, basically, you can only enjoy using the front camera when you’re outdoors or under perfect lighting conditions.
This can be a pain if you use your smartphone for video chat. You probably need to turn on the fluorescent light, your lamp, or stand next to an open window, so the person you’re talking to can see you clearly.
Alcatel One Touch Idol runs Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean, but you can always upgrade it to the latest version once you’ve got the phone set up. Alcatel has included a few bells and whistles to the interface on top of the stock Android. One of the nice additions is access to the notifications screen even if the phone is locked. You simply need to swipe down, as you would in any Android phones, and you’ll see all the recent notifications. It’s a little addition, but it makes a huge difference. It’s an efficient way to quickly look at any important messages you might be expecting while you’re on the go.
Another nice feature is the One Touch Cloud Backup. If you love backing up your data like contacts, notes, and other important stuff, this is definitely helpful. You can set this app to schedule weekly or monthly backups and store the information in Box.net, Dropbox, or the internal storage.
With its slim design, I expected it to perform poorly when it comes to battery life. But this smartphone surprised me a little bit. It is packed with a Li-Ion 1800 mAh battery. When I first used it, it took me two whole days to empty its juice. But I have to note that I only used it for browsing, taking a few photos, downloading new apps, and Facebooking. I wasn’t able to use its phone features right away as I had a hard time inserting the Sim card. But after that, I used it normally including the phone features; the battery lasted around 12 hours. So, it definitely lasted the whole day I was out, and I only had to charge it once I got home.
Speed and Performance
Now, let’s take a look at what’s under the hood of this slim and sexy smartphone. The Alcatel One Touch Idol has a dual-core 1 GHz processor and 1 GB RAM. When using Antutu Benchmark, it scored 5768. Basing on these numbers alone, you might get turned off. Although numbers and benchmarks are crucial when buying gadgets, the “feel” of the phone when you use it is more important. You know how in American TV shows people would give other men and women a score based on their hotness level? It’s kind of the same with benchmarks and gadgets. If a gadget scores a “10”, it doesn’t mean you have to take it home right away. There are still many factors that can affect your decision.
For example, when I used the Alcatel One Touch Idol, I had a very nice experience. I was able to play casual games like Little Big City and Candy Crush without noticeable lags. Now, playing games with heavy graphics like Dead Trigger or Real Racing might be more demanding. But the thing is, you really don’t use your phone for hardcore gaming.
I was able to browse the internet, use Facebook, watch movies, and send emails almost seamlessly. So, if you’re simply need a smartphone that allows you to do these activities, you might be able to overlook it’s processing power and benchmark scores.
What we like about it:
- Great screen size
- Simple and sexy design
- Super light
- Performs well when playing casual games and doing other “regular” tasks
What we don’t like:
- Hard-to-open SIM and Micro SD slots
- Not very impressive screen resolution
- Poor performance of the front facing camera
All in all, the Alcatel One Touch Idol is a decent smartphone for its price. It’s official SRP is P11,990. The S3 Mini is around the same price as well. But if you want a bigger screen size, this phone definitely fits the bill.
You won’t be considered as “one of the cool kids” in parties when owning this phone, but it gets the job done (although the Iron Man brand that is associated with this model might add some “cool factor”). It allows you to surf the web, play some games, talk to your friends, and access your favorite social networking sites. So, if these are the things that you plan to do with your smartphone and you don’t want to spend your entire bonus or max out your credit card, the Alcatel One Touch Idol is perfect for you.
Alcatel OneTouch Idol Specs:
1GHz dual-core MediaTek MT6577 processor
PowerVR SGX531 GPU
4.7-inch qHD (540×960) IPS capacitive display
236ppi with Gorilla Glass
Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean)
512MB of RAM
4GB of internal storage, expandable via microSD up to 32GB
8MP AF camera with LED flash, 720p@30fps HD video recording
2MP front-facing camera
microUSB v2.0 / 3.5mm audio jack
Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Wi-Fi Direct, Wi-Fi hotspot
Bluetooth v4.0 with A2DP
Li-Ion 1,800mAh battery
133 x 67.5 x 7.9mm (dimension)
Official SRP PHP 11,990. Also available on Sun Postpaid Plan 600