Camera

A lot of fancy effects for a pretty standard camera


The Idol 4S has a 16MP main camera, with a Sony IMX 298 main sensor – the same as you'll find on the OnePlus 3 or the Huawei Mate 8. Around front, there's a wide-angle (84-degree) 8MP selfie cam with its own well-hidden LED flash.

Maybe more than anything, Alcatel's camera ambitions seem dictated by software. In addition to the standard auto/pro/panorama/video modes of your usual smartphone camera, Alcatel adds in its micro-video mode and software from Fyuse that creates “3D” photos by filming a subject from multiple angles and using phone sensors to let you twist the handset to view all those angles in playback. It's all a bit gimmicky, without significantly improving the camera experience.

Image quality

Not a piece of junk, but don't expect to be wowed

It's so frustrating when you have what should be a very capable camera, and just can't seem to get consistently good pics out of it. So is the case with the Idol 4S; most of the time, images look fine – at least at full crop, as it doesn't take much zooming for things to become a noisy mess. But every now and then you'll get a shot that's not quite in focus, or looks muddled and dull despite an abundance of scene lighting.

That's particularly frustrating as Alcatel emphasizes the phone's fast auto-focus speeds. Fast is good, but sharp is better, and the Idol 4S let us down more than once. We also ran into issues with motion blurring in auto mode due to shutter speeds which should have been much higher – again, despite the presence of copious light.


Taking a pic Lower is better Taking an HDR pic (sec) Lower is better CamSpeed score Higher is better CamSpeed score with flash Higher is better
Alcatel Idol 4s 1.9
2.1
797
661
Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016) 2.2
3.7
No data
No data
Motorola Moto G4 Plus 2.2
3
650
395
Sony Xperia E5 2
5.7
712
558

Video recording

A pleasantly surprising 4K experience

You no longer need a best-in-class flagship smartphone to record ultra-high-res 4K video, and between its 16MP sensor and Snapdragon 652 processor, the Idol 4S has what it takes to scratch your beyond-HD itch.

4K recording performance didn't let us down; we just wish we could say the same for 1080p and 720p, neither of which looked as sharp as we'd expect.

Re-focusing was also a bit of a slog during video recording, with the camera struggling to re-acquire objects moving into the frame.


Multimedia

Great hardware, unnecessary software


Front-firing stereo speakers are always a treat, and the Alcatel Idol 4S manages to implement them quite well. They're loud, crisp, just bassy enough, and with adequate stereo separation. Considering how incredibly conspicuous they are, jutting out from the sides of the phone's screen, we'd expect nothing less.

Alcatel bundles the phone with a set of JBL earbuds. With alternate tips to accommodate various ear canal sizes, they're a solidly made accessory, but they didn't manage to impress us quite as much as the on-board speakers.

All that hardware is fine, but then there's the software, where Alcatel offers Waves MaxxAudio tweaks. If you like fiddling with levels and equalizers, maybe this package is right up your alley – and there's even an auto-mode to handle those settings for you – but audio “enhancement” software in general feels misguided. Shouldn't a phone with a good audio system try to make its playback as quantitatively accurate as possible, and not what qualitatively sounds “better?”

Headphones output power (Volts) Higher is better
Alcatel Idol 4s 0.559
Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016) 0.53
Motorola Moto G4 Plus 0.52
Loudspeaker loudness (dB) Higher is better
Alcatel Idol 4s 76.5
Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016) 78
Motorola Moto G4 Plus 72.6
Sony Xperia E5 75


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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: 2633; 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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