Alcatel Idol 4S Review

Introduction


The smartphone market is all too often one of extremes. It's easy to throw down $700 on a new phone and expect screaming performance, innovative new features, and an attractive design incorporating plenty of premium-feeling materials. It's also easy to cut every corner you can find, delivering a phone that captivates shoppers with its incredibly low price tag – while leaving them wanting just about everywhere else.

What's much trickier, though, is setting proper expectations in the middle-of-the-road $200-to-$500 space. Which aspects of the phone do we still demand a lot from, and which are we willing to let slide in the name of value? And dare we even ask for a few extra bonuses along the way?

With the new Idol 4S, Alcatel is attempting to walk that tightrope, giving us a $400 smartphone that's well built, offers competitive performance, and can hook shoppers up with extras like the custom-designed VR headset it comes contained in.

In the box:

  • Alcatel Idol 4S
  • Micro USB cable
  • Fast charging adapter
  • Feature guide
  • SIM tool
  • JBL earbuds
  • Alcatel VR goggles

Design

Alcatel's really intent on drawing attention to those speakers

Alcatel Idol 4S Review
Alcatel Idol 4S Review
Alcatel Idol 4S Review
Alcatel Idol 4S Review

One of the first things you're likely to notice about the Idol 4S's design is that the phone's glass (which you'll find both front and back) doesn't quite stretch all the way to the handset's top and bottom edges. Instead, you have a few millimeters of metal frame sticking out, housing the phone's stereo speakers. Oddly, the speaker grilles are visible on the phone's front and back alike, though the speakers themselves only face forward.

The other component that really screams for attention is the phone's side-mounted circular “Boom key” button, a multi-purpose interface for calling upon a number of software features. Its look is reminiscent of the power button on older Xperia models.

Those two idiosyncrasies aside, the Idol 4S is pretty standard-looking smartphone fare. You've got a raised camera bump on the back, flanked by its LED flash and sitting atop a rear fingerprint scanner. Down on the bottom edge there's your (oddly off-center) micro USB port; the headphone jack lives up top. On the phone's right side, above the Boom key, resides the volume rocker, while the left edge is populated by the power button and combo SIM/microSD tray.


Alcatel Idol 4s

Alcatel Idol 4s

Dimensions

6.06 x 2.97 x 0.28 inches

153.9 x 75.4 x 6.99 mm

Weight

5.26 oz (149 g)

Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016)

Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016)

Dimensions

5.97 x 2.99 x 0.31 inches

151.7 x 76 x 7.8 mm

Weight

5.96 oz (169 g)

Motorola Moto G4 Plus

Motorola Moto G4 Plus

Dimensions

6.02 x 3.02 x 0.39 inches

153 x 76.6 x 9.8 mm

Weight

5.47 oz (155 g)

Sony Xperia E5

Sony Xperia E5

Dimensions

5.65 x 2.73 x 0.31 inches

143.6 x 69.45 x 7.99 mm

Weight

5.19 oz (147 g)

Alcatel Idol 4s

Alcatel Idol 4s

Dimensions

6.06 x 2.97 x 0.28 inches

153.9 x 75.4 x 6.99 mm

Weight

5.26 oz (149 g)

Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016)

Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016)

Dimensions

5.97 x 2.99 x 0.31 inches

151.7 x 76 x 7.8 mm

Weight

5.96 oz (169 g)

Motorola Moto G4 Plus

Motorola Moto G4 Plus

Dimensions

6.02 x 3.02 x 0.39 inches

153 x 76.6 x 9.8 mm

Weight

5.47 oz (155 g)

Sony Xperia E5

Sony Xperia E5

Dimensions

5.65 x 2.73 x 0.31 inches

143.6 x 69.45 x 7.99 mm

Weight

5.19 oz (147 g)

To see the phones in real size or compare them with other models, visit our Visual Phone Size Comparison page



Display

Quad HD on a mid-priced phone is nothing to shake a stick at

Alcatel Idol 4S Review

We love it when mid-rangers share the same sort of components we see in high-end flagships, and Alcatel is giving us just such a high-quality part in the form of the Idol 4S's 5.5-inch quad-HD (1440 x 2560) AMOLED panel. It's bright, and offers just the sort of overblown-but-still-quite-nice-to-look-at (if somewhat less than accurate) saturation OLED screens are known for.

What's a little less successful is Alcatel's attempt to give the Idol 4S a curved-at-the-edge “2.5D” glass effect for its screen. The handset's lines, pinching in down the long edges, sure evoke the general style of phones like the Galaxy S7 edge, but that's not quite what we actually have here. Instead, a thin seam around the periphery reveals a sandwich of multiple glass layers, apparently designed to mimic a curvier phone. Technically, it's a pre-installed 2.5D screen protector, but it's not like anyone's about to pry it off and risk ruining their brand-new phone. Ultimately, it looks OK, but we can't shake the feeling that the Idol 4S is trying too hard to be something it's not.



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20 Comments

1. sebbellic01

Posts: 305; Member since: May 03, 2016

7 seems a little low, I was expecting a 8.5 after reading the review

4. Acdc1a

Posts: 470; Member since: Jan 21, 2016

Better phones available for the same price being the first con is what led to the rating.

5. jellmoo

Posts: 2531; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

Which phones are these?

7. SYSTEM_LORD

Posts: 1168; Member since: Oct 05, 2015

OnePlus 3, and the soon to be reviewed Axon 7

9. Acdc1a

Posts: 470; Member since: Jan 21, 2016

Don't forget last year's flagship and near flagship phones that are better speced for less money.

15. uzimafioso

Posts: 469; Member since: Jul 15, 2014

Errr Moto G4 Plus is better at its price because of a better fingerprint sensor, battery endurance as well as the durability factor of having glass on both sides of the phone. If you see price vs specs, that'd be a 9 and this would be a 7 because of 1440p on SD652. 1+3 is a better buy as well as the LG G5 discounted at $410, since they're also 9 for using SD820 at their respective prices.

11. zeeBomb

Posts: 2318; Member since: Aug 14, 2014

The idol 3 > 4

19. RORYREVOLUTION

Posts: 3131; Member since: Jan 12, 2010

For me, this phone needed a 820 and at least 4GB of RAM. Yes it does have the QHD display over the OnePlus 3 but the 3 has way superior performance.

3. may_czos

Posts: 955; Member since: Nov 22, 2014

Written reiew needs two things: 1. Information that fingerprint scanner is for the US only (and maybe Canada). 2. 4S has one of the brightest OLED displays on the market

6. madlaw1071

Posts: 7; Member since: Jun 25, 2009

Review gets it wrong on 1st page. The speakers project sound thru the front and back. Author tries too hard to be critical and fails miserably.

8. SYSTEM_LORD

Posts: 1168; Member since: Oct 05, 2015

Yeah, I heard about that in Flossy Carter's review. Maybe the author reviewed this phone with a low expectations attitude to start, thus why this phone (and many others like the Mi5) got surprisingly low scores.

10. StephenS

Posts: 18; Member since: May 02, 2016

Sorry, but I beg to differ. You cover those front grilles, and it mutes the audio output. There might be a tiny amount of bleed-through around back, but these speakers are front-facers only. Even peering in the grille holes with a light, you can see that the speaker components only exist around front.

12. madlaw1071

Posts: 7; Member since: Jun 25, 2009

I've seen several youtube reviews where the phone is placed face down and there is no loss in audio quality. Perhaps your unit was defective? I'll have mine any day and will see for myself.

13. StephenS

Posts: 18; Member since: May 02, 2016

The speakers are recessed from the screen, so if the phone is flat on its face, you can still hear them because they're not flush with the table.

16. madlaw1071

Posts: 7; Member since: Jun 25, 2009

There are views on YouTube where the speakers on the front are blocked and the sound comes out the back loud and clear. Again, it sounds like you have a defective unit and you should contact the company for clarification.

14. T-rex unregistered

Does anyone have any idea what Stephen S. said in the camera section of this review?

17. cripton805

Posts: 1485; Member since: Mar 18, 2012

Can anybody tell me what makes any feature a gimmick? It seems to me like reviewers pick and choose what is a gimmick and what is not. While they might not use a feature, these extra features might be a selling point to everyone else. Do you want all of the phones to be bare bones? A bit confused about this since theyre going to do something a little bit unique yo make themselves stand out from the rest.

18. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

it's easy... if he didn't like the brand, he'll call it "gimmick"..

20. kreemer

Posts: 28; Member since: Apr 26, 2013

...I'll take '...qualitatively sounds better...' any day!

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

Idol 4s
  • Display 5.5" 1440 x 2560 pixels
  • Camera 16 MP / 8 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 652, Octa-core, 1800 MHz
  • Storage 32 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 3000 mAh(13h talk time)

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