Alcatel Idol 4S Review

Call Quality

Low-distortion, just how we like it


While making outgoing calls, we were really pleased with the audio quality coming in through the Idol 4S: clean, intelligible, and largely interference-free. Unfortunately, the same can't necessarily be said for how things sound on the other end, and parties we called reported occasionally difficulty in hearing us – though to be fair, that may be more a consequence of the cellular connection than anything.

Battery Life

Long life + fast charging = win


Looking at the specs, it's hard to know what to expect from the Idol 4S in terms of endurance. It's got a large 3,000mAh battery, sure, but also a big, bright, high-res display and a pretty capable processor; would the hardware suck that battery dry in record time?

The good news there is “no,” and the seven hours of screen-on time we measured in our custom test fares quite well in comparison to other modern handsets – though placing the 4S behind some seriously battery-sipping mid-rangers like the aforementioned Moto G4.

Recharge times were pretty darn fast, with the Idol 4S going from zero to 100% in just 83 minutes.

Battery life (hours) Higher is better
Alcatel Idol 4s 7h 1 min (Good)
Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016) 10h 59 min (Excellent)
Motorola Moto G4 Plus 7h 30 min (Good)
Sony Xperia E5 6h 10 min (Average)
Charging time (minutes) Lower is better
Alcatel Idol 4s 83
Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016) 139
Motorola Moto G4 Plus 113
Sony Xperia E5 114

Conclusion


We haven't touched on the Idol 4S's VR viewer so far, and maybe there's a good reason for that. Like a few other aspects of this phone, it feels like an afterthought; as if rather than designing a mid-ranger from the ground up to offer a great VR experience, some marketing team took notice of the phone's quad HD screen and thought, “let's ship it in a VR headset and bundle a bunch of VR software.”

The plastic VR viewer is sturdy, has nice optics, and as we'd only expect from a custom model like this, fits the Idol 4S really well. But it's also little more than a fancy (and not even that fancy) Google Cardboard headset, lacking the extra electronics of Samsung's Gear VR. What was also very frustrating was the absence of any focal/pupil-distance adjustment, which we could forgive on a literally built-from-cardboard viewer, but would hope a more premium model like this would incorporate – the consequence of that being that we found it impossible to use without eyeglasses, and uncomfortable to use with.


None of that really impacts the phone itself that much, though – it's just a bonus that fails to totally deliver. So what about the actual Idol 4S?

Well, it's really not bad at all. It does a whole lot pretty well, and without costing a ton, either. The problem is less the Idol 4S than its competition, and it's really hard to look at the Idol 4S aside phones like the OnePlus 3 and still feel that you're getting a good deal.

That's what makes this mid-range space so very, very tricky for manufacturers: customers expect a lot, and know they don't have to look much further – or pay much more – to get it. Perhaps that's what drove Alcatel to sprinkle the Idol 4S with so many gimmicks: the VR headset, Boom key, audio enhancements, 3D camera tricks... the list goes on. Some of those might be cool on their own, but they just don't add up to a phone that's quite as impressive as the Idol 4S needs to be.

Alactel even throws in a free Incipio case for the Idol 4S when you order. And while it seems that the manufacturer is trying to win us over with extras, there's a lot to be said for keeping the phone more straightforward, delivering a solid, fewer-frills smartphone at a lower price. Because at $400, the Idol 4S probably isn't the first Android we'd recommend.

Software version of the review unit: Android 6.0.1; Build Number: 4AGB-UEB10



Pros

  • Fantastic stereo speakers
  • Bundled VR headset and JBL earbuds are nice additions
  • Solid battery life and fast recharge times
  • Snapdragon 652 processor doesn't let us down

Cons

  • Better phones available for the same price
  • Boom key tries to do way too much
  • Hit-and-miss fingerprint scanner
  • Camera adequate at best

PhoneArena Rating:

7.0

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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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