Alcatel Idol 4S Review

Interface and Functionality

And Boom (key) goes the dynamite


Alcatel delivers the Idol 4S running Android 6.0.1, and while it can't resist the urge to fancy-up the interface a little bit, the company's additions aren't too extreme as Android UI overhauls go. We get some gesture commands, lockscreen shortcuts, and a cute Amazon Fire Phone-like fake 3D effect when you tilt the handset, but the big deal here is what can be done with the phone's hardware Boom key.

The Idol's software allows the Boom key to be configured for several main uses: you can set it up to grab a screenshot, launch a specific app, or even pull up the phone's camera. With that latter case, long presses and short presses can differentiate between shooting modes (single vs. burst), but it's still unfortunate that the Boom key lacks a two-stage mechanism for something like half-press for focus and full-press for shutter – like we might expect from a dedicated shutter button.

All that is pretty straightforward, but then there's the general “Boom effects” feature, which is nothing short of confusing. Rather than continuing to give the Boom key very specific functionality, setting it to Boom-effects mode results in different operation depending on what app you're in. It can enhance voice clarity in calls, apply special effects to a video, turn on bass enhancement in music playback, or even trigger a nitro boost in a racing game. But by trying to do so much, it can be hard to keep track of just what it's supposed to do at any given time.

Another feature whose implementation leaves a little to be desired is the phone's fingerprint scanner. The rear placement isn't our favorite to begin with, but the more serious issue is the scanner's difficulty at recognizing authorized prints. It always gets there eventually, but a minimum of two scans to unlock quickly became the norm, with three or four not unheard of before the scanner would finally let us in.

Processor and Memory

One of the best-performing Snapdragon 600-series phones to date


When we first heard that Alcatel was bringing us a phone with a quad-HD display and a Snapdragon 600-series processor, we had our doubts; was performance going to suffer just so Alcatel could wow us with all those pretty pixels? But this ain't your momma's Snapdragon, and the Idol 4S runs the Snapdragon 652 (née 620). Qualcomm changed the name in order to emphasize just how advanced this chip is compared to other 600-series Snapdragons, and it's not lying.

For instance, comparing benchmark results with the Snapdragon 617-powered Moto G4, the Idol 4S pulls in scores that are twice as high in many tests. Real-world usage of the phone similarly reflects the power of the 652 chip, with smooth scrolling and fast response times. And while it still has a ways to go to catch up with top-shelf silicon like the Snapdragon 820, it's an extremely solid choice for a budget handset like the Idol 4S.

Alcatel gives the phone 32GB of internal storage, which is both a good amount and more than we'd necessarily expect, as well as the ability to boost that even higher with a microSD card. And to the company's credit, there's a prominent file explorer that ships with the phone, helping you keep an eye out for big files eating up that space.

We're also happy with the decision to hook the Idol 4S up with 3GB of RAM; it's not clear 4GB would offer an appreciable performance benefit, and this feels like a bit of a sweet spot.


AnTuTu Higher is better
Alcatel Idol 4s 82146
Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016) 50288.33
Motorola Moto G4 Plus 47205
Sony Xperia E5 32392.33
Vellamo Metal Higher is better
Alcatel Idol 4s 2610
Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016) 1080
Motorola Moto G4 Plus 1460
Sony Xperia E5 987.66
Vellamo Browser Higher is better
Alcatel Idol 4s 4862
Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016) 3238.66
Motorola Moto G4 Plus 2856
Sony Xperia E5 2626.66
JetStream Higher is better
Alcatel Idol 4s 52.364
Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016) 24.459
Motorola Moto G4 Plus 21.993
Sony Xperia E5 19.728
GFXBench T-Rex HD on-screen Higher is better
Alcatel Idol 4s 24
Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016) 19
Motorola Moto G4 Plus 18
Sony Xperia E5 15
GFXBench Manhattan 3.1 on-screen Higher is better
Alcatel Idol 4s 9.5
Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016) 7.2
Motorola Moto G4 Plus 4.5
Sony Xperia E5 6
Basemark OS II Higher is better
Alcatel Idol 4s 1570
Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016) 1012.66
Motorola Moto G4 Plus 1001
Sony Xperia E5 583
Geekbench 3 single-core Higher is better
Alcatel Idol 4s 1499
Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016) 743
Motorola Moto G4 Plus 719
Sony Xperia E5 538
Geekbench 3 multi-core Higher is better
Alcatel Idol 4s 4988
Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016) 4120.33
Motorola Moto G4 Plus 3142
Sony Xperia E5 1440.33

Connectivity

Nothing fancy, but still solid LTE band support


The Idol 4S is being sold as an unlocked handset, and it's got the radio compatibility to work with your choice of T-Mobile or AT&T's network – all their LTE bands are supported. If you live elsewhere or are planning to go with another carrier, keep in mind that we're looking at LTE bands 2, 4, 5, 7, 12, and 17.

The phone supports Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2, and NFC connectivity.

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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: 475; 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: 2628; 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: 475; 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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