Alcatel Idol 4S Review
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.
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
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.
- 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
- Better phones available for the same price
- Boom key tries to do way too much
- Hit-and-miss fingerprint scanner
- Camera adequate at best
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- 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)