Alcatel's new Idol 4 and 4s are hot pieces of art: hands-on

Alcatel is among the biggest handset makers worldwide, but you wouldn't necessarily know this from the news – Alcatel can't seem to penetrate the mainstream media channels strongly enough, possibly because it's been entirely focused on the more affordable end of the market so far.
This may or may not change this year, but Alcatel sure is pushing hard. That much has become clear today, as Alcatel has just announced its new headliners: the Idol 4 and Idol 4s.

Based on specs, the Alcatel Idol 4 and Idol 4s can be classified as mid-range smartphones. They have more or less affordable price tags, and they try to deliver a relatively clean and streamlined take on Android, without gimmicky features and bloatware. They are also among the most beautiful smartphones we have seen in the last couple of years.

'Quality build made of glass and metal' – this description could be used for a surprisingly large number of phones these days. But we typically wouldn't add much to it, simply because it's often hard to tell one phone from the other. Generic shapes devoid of character is what seems to be the norm these days. "There's only so many ways you can make a rectangular smartphone," they tell us. Well, with the Idol 4 and 4s, Alcatel is showing us it doesn't have to be this way. The company's new phones have their own style, their own distinguishing features that make them look unique, all the while staying familiar and universal. What's more, their specific design aesthetics don't stand in the way of comfort – in no way did the new Idols felt unpleasant to hold at any moment, quite the contrary.

The Idol 4 is the mainstream product: an impressively thin, 5.2" 1080p smartphone with the Snapdragon 617 processor. It may not sound like much, but the size is perfect, the screen is pleasant to look at, and the system performance is very good – noticeably better than competing offerings, even some models from big name companies like Samsung or LG. Couple that with the expected pricing of about $280, and the value in this promising handset is immediately apparent.

The Idol 4s is the beefed up version of the 4. The screen is 5.5 inches with 1440p resolution, but the phone is still nice and easy to handle. The Idol 4s should be priced somewhere between $400 and $500, but the price is justified: it'll make use of the most powerful chipset in the 6xx series: the Snapdragon 652, which comes with faster CPU and GPU. It's by no means a slouch.

Like their predecessors, the new Idols are extremely symmetric, and they offer you a fully rotating interface: this means that if you happen to accidentally hold your phone upside-down, you'll still be looking at pretty much the same thing, as if you're holding it correctly. Sound channels routed to the stereo speakers also get swapped depending on the way you're holding the phone, so that you always have a correct audio picture. The Idol 4 and 4s even have another pair of stereo speakers on the back, so if your phone is placed head down on a table, you don't need to worry about missing an event – your phone is smart enough to fire up the sound through the rear-facing speakers. How cool is that?

Alcatel's approach with the Idol 4 and Idol 4s is neither "more is less", nor "less is more". To be more specific, the company is looking to deliver more on the user experience front, and less on the dubious features/apps front. What this means is that it won't try to wow you with obscure gestures and software gimmicks, but instead will try to make using your phone a more pleasurable experience: with nice and fluid performance, coherent interface and meaningful additions and alterations to the Android system. Needless to say, we find the new Idols lovely, and we just can't wait to spend more time with them. We have to close with a drop of bitterness, though, because Alcatel is yet to reveal release date details for these two. But that's OK. True love is worth waiting for.



13. assassinsaad

Posts: 11; Member since: Dec 29, 2012

Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 Pro is better than these two mobiles

9. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

Not sure how these are justifiable over a OnePlus One, which I presume has an even more powerful processor (SD 801 vs SD 652) and can be obtained for a better price on eBay or Amazon. Or is the 652 faster?

10. Furbal unregistered

652 is much faster than the 801

11. aj_74

Posts: 2; Member since: Nov 18, 2011

I would recommend reading GSM Arena's Galaxy A9 review (the A9 also uses the SD 652) and comparing the benchmark results to those found in their OnePlus 2 review. Both phones have 1080P displays for the GPU to push, but the OnePlus 2 adds an extra GB of LPDDR4 RAM to its already potent SD 810 SoC. You would think the OnePlus 2 would destroy the A9, right? Geekbench 3: OnePlus 2 - 4429 Galaxy A9 - 4759 Basemark OS 2.0: OnePlus 2 - 1622 Galaxy A9 - 1529 Basemark OS 2.0 Single-core: OnePlus 2 - 5301 Galaxy A9 - 4455 Basemark OS 2.0 Multi-core: OnePlus 2 - 16798 Galaxy A9 - 22334 Basemark X: OnePlus 2 - 21937 Galaxy A9 - 15290 GFX 3.0 Manhattan (onscreen): OnePlus 2 - 22 OnePlus One - 12.9 Galaxy A9 - 13 Antutu 6: OnePlus 2 - 62,500 (avg. score from all sources) Galaxy A9 - 64591 The A9 stomps the OnePlus One in every category except the GPU benchmarks, which is I why I only included the OPO's Manhattan results. From that you can see that the SD 652 and 801 are about even in the GPU dept when outputting at 1080P. This means that the OPO will likely outperform the Idol 4s in the graphics dept since the Idol 4s sports a more demanding QHD resolution. The big takeaway here is how close the A9 is to the OP2 in terms of overall performance. The A9 bests it in some categories, while the OP2 wins in others. The latest version of Antutu shows them in an overall dead heat (no pun intended). With the SD 652 you're getting SD 810 CPU performance and SD 801 GPU performance. Not a bad deal for a mid-range offering. The big concern I have with the Idol 4s is where VR content is concerned. You really need a powerful GPU to output 3D VR games onto a QHD display. In that area the 4s falls short, which is odd considering it ships in a VR headset. However, if the VR stuff isn't important to you the SD 652-based Idol 4s is an intriguing package. Before you go jumping on the OPO (which is my daily driver, btw) or the Idol 4s you might want to consider the Redmi Note 3 Pro from Xiaomi. Its SD 650 chipset has the same Adreno 510 GPU as the 652, but loses 2 of the A72 CPU cores (making it a Hexa-core processor). You lose the 4s's stereo speakers and boom key (which is a gimmick anyway), but gain a 4000mAh battery and rear fingerprint sensor. The RN3 Pro's 5.5" 1080P display puts it on even ground with the OPO in the GPU dept, but the SD 650 still outperforms the 801 in single and multi-core CPU benchmarks. Did I mention the RN3 Pro goes for $250? Food for thought.

12. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

Very informative. Thank you very much. Already own a OnePlus One (since 2014), just didn't expect a so-claimed "mid-range" CPU to perform that well. Thanks for shearing.

6. monoke

Posts: 1209; Member since: Mar 14, 2015

Gorgeous designed phone. Man if it only had flagship internals.

5. ibap

Posts: 873; Member since: Sep 09, 2009

"Fully rotating interface"? Really? Ever picked up your phone and had the earpiece and mouthpiece in the wrong places? Doesn't work well. What we really need is something tactile so you know you've picked it up properly.

7. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

there is a chance for that, but i guess even this phone owner wont mind this feature.. at least it have stereo speaker, and stereo mic (which may can record stereo vids)

8. LG_G2

Posts: 1; Member since: Feb 21, 2016

Not sure what you mean,but of course it works no matter which way you hold it.there's a mic on both ends of the phone.just like the idol 3.

4. 2faraway

Posts: 75; Member since: Mar 26, 2014

so what!!? you gonna rate them 5.5-6.0?!

1. neops

Posts: 297; Member since: Jan 28, 2014

I wouldn't call it hot piece of art. More like a little bit of this and a little bit of that. 2,5D glass, chamfered metal, white antenna bars, mesh, a sony button. There's a chance that accumulating too many cute things, you have a wordy overall result.

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