Alcatel One Touch Idol Ultra Review

8
Introduction and Design
Introduction

Alcatel One Touch Idol Ultra, the phone that got a respectable fourth placing in our thinnest handsets roundup, is finally hitting shelves, many months after the initial CES announcement way back in January.

Planted in the affordable midrange segment, the slimmest member of Alcatel's One Touch line is just 0.25" (6.45mm) thick. It still sports a respectable 4.7" HD Super AMOLED display and 8 MP camera, but the rest of the specs are an underwhelming MediaTek processor and 1 GB of RAM, plus there is no microSD slot.

The design is an eye-grabber, though, and if the price is right, the One Touch Ultra might have a shot at midrange fame if it gets the rest of the components right. Is it so? Read on to find out...

In the box

  • In-ear stereo headphones
  • MicroUSB-to-3.5 mm audio jack adapter
  • MicroUSB cable
  • Wall charger
  • Warranty and information leaflets

Design

Thin design is always elegant, if not always comfortable to grab and hold, and the One Touch Ultra fits the cliché. Its slender, rounded unibody chassis is also feathery light at 4.06 oz (115 g), leaving the impression of a rather sophisticated handset. Only the 8 MP camera module protrudes a couple of millimeters from the soft-touch plastic on the back, sticking out in an otherwise seamless design concept.


Alcatel OneTouch Idol Ultra
Dimensions

5.29 x 2.7 x 0.25 inches

134.4 x 68.5 x 6.45 mm

Weight

4.06 oz (115 g)

Huawei Ascend P6
Dimensions

5.22 x 2.58 x 0.24 inches

132.65 x 65.5 x 6.18 mm

Weight

4.23 oz (120 g)

LG Optimus F7
Dimensions

5.19 x 2.69 x 0.38 inches

131.7 x 68.2 x 9.6 mm

Weight

4.7 oz (133 g)

Nokia Lumia 720
Dimensions

5.04 x 2.66 x 0.35 inches

127.9 x 67.5 x 9 mm

Weight

4.52 oz (128 g)

Alcatel OneTouch Idol Ultra
Dimensions

5.29 x 2.7 x 0.25 inches

134.4 x 68.5 x 6.45 mm

Weight

4.06 oz (115 g)

Huawei Ascend P6
Dimensions

5.22 x 2.58 x 0.24 inches

132.65 x 65.5 x 6.18 mm

Weight

4.23 oz (120 g)

LG Optimus F7
Dimensions

5.19 x 2.69 x 0.38 inches

131.7 x 68.2 x 9.6 mm

Weight

4.7 oz (133 g)

Nokia Lumia 720
Dimensions

5.04 x 2.66 x 0.35 inches

127.9 x 67.5 x 9 mm

Weight

4.52 oz (128 g)

Compare these and other phones using our Size Comparison tool.



Alcatel had to make some compromises to achieve that svelte unibody wrapper, and the main one is that there is no standard audio jack. Yep, you read that right, headphones are plugged in the microUSB port at the top with a dedicated adapter. No biggie, as long as you remember to carry the adapter hooked up to the 3.5mm plug of the included headphones.

The Idol Ultra also compromised with storage expansion, in the footsteps of HTC, omitting a microSD slot. On the right is the micro SIM covered with a protective flap, with a lock mechanism that is situated too deep. You have to push the card quite a bit until it clicks, and good luck taking it out with your fingernails trimmed.


Besides the covered microUSB port at the top, we also get the chrome-like power/lock key there, which is not a very comfortable choice for placing that one on larger screen phones. It is easy to feel and press, though, and with a good tactile feedback, just like the volume rocker on the left.



Display

The One Touch Idol Ultra is outfitted with a 4.7” 720x1280 pixels display panel. Its AMOLED technology displays vivid, eye-popping cold colors with an excessive amount of saturation. The screen flaunts excellent good viewing angles and deep blacks, underscored by Alcatel's choice of a cityscape wallpaper by default, with a dark background.

It could use more peak brightness for when you are outside under direct sunlight, though the low reflectance and high contrast help for decent visibility in this scenario. The phone doesn't use Gorilla Glass for the screen's protection, but the competitor's Asahi DragonTrail glass, which should be extra durable, too.



Interface and functionality

Alcatel uses a simple interface overlay on top of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, seemingly based on the Go Launcher, with rounded icon corners and standard homescreens/app drawer layout. It looks trim, and doesn't try too hard with a bunch of unnecessary widgets or excessive animations and transparencies that would bog down the processor.


The software engineers at Alcatel have preloaded a few utility apps like Skype, Torch, Deezer, two radio apps, network share options, and have integrated connectivity switches in the notification bar for quick access to the most used settings.

The stock keyboard is TouchPal, which is one of the very good keyboard apps in the Play Store. It is pretty comfortable to use with one hand on the 4.7” screen, and provides Swype-style functionality for keying things in quicker.



Processor and memory

The 1.2 GHz dual-core MediaTek MT6577 processor is a rather basic silicon that is not going to wow you neither with its benchmark scores, nor with UI fluidity or app loading times. It's alright for a daily driver, but 720p screens and 8 MP cameras are the maximum it supports, so it feels like it's spreading itself a bit too thin with the Idol Ultra. That's especially true with heavy games, where the relatively weak GPU is struggling, but the interface performance is rather slow as well.

We get 1 GB of RAM, which is the bare minimum for decent multitasking, and 16 GB of internal storage, of which 13 GB are user-available, meaning you won't find much bloat and customizations on the handset. The lack of memory expansion slot is a bummer, so you have to learn how to make do with what's available on the phone.


Quadrant StandardAnTuTuGLBenchmark 2.5 (Egypt HD)Vellamo
(HTML5 / Metal)
Alcatel One Touch Idol Ultra29886763367 / 3.2 fps1296 / 393
Huawei Ascend P65228142202509 / 22 fps1462/453
LG Optimus F75708109172038 / 18 fps2192 / 614


Internet and connectivity

Web pages often exhibit tiling or a slow to render while panning around in the default Mozilla Gecko-based browser, indicating slow redraw rates, likely caused by the combination of weak GPU and unoptimized software. Alcatel also provides the stock Chrome browser that comes with Jelly Bean, where you can't sideload Adobe Flash.


The Idol Ultra supports European/Asian 3G frequencies, with up to 7.2 Mbit/s download speeds. We also get Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, A-GPS and FM Radio with RDS.

Camera

An 8 MP shooter with LED flash sounds good for a midrange device, and Alcatel offers a few scene modes and effects in the camera app to spice its photographic prowess up. These include HDR mode, 360 Panorama, Beauty Face and Night shots. A few laughing mirror and color effects are thrown in as well.


The One Touch Idol Ultra produces a tad oversaturated photos, while the image on the whole is underexposed in normal shooting mode. Detail could be higher for this resolution, and noise is also plenty in most but the brightest of conditions. There are no glaring white balance issues, though, and the pictures come out focused enough, so overall the phone produces bearable photos, as we've seen much worse from slim midrangers.


Video is recorded in 720p resolution with fluid 30 fps, and tends to oversaturate the colors and overexpose brighter areas in the frame, too. The focus wanders a it too much, so the phone often blurs the footage for a split second.

Alcatel One Touch Idol Ultra Sample Video:

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Alcatel One Touch Idol Ultra Indoor Sample Video:

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Multimedia

The grid-style gallery offers simple cropping and color effects application for your pics, as well as autoenhance abilities, but nothing more. The music player categorizes your tunes by artists, albums and playlists, but has no equalizer presets to speak of. The loudspeaker is actually pretty good for such a thin device, strong, and with relatively clean sound. Videos can be played in MPEG-4, DivX or Xvid formats, up to 1080p resolution, but MKVs only play up to 720p.




Call quality

Call quality is nothing to write home about, both in the earpiece, and on the receiving end. The earpiece sounds muffled and a tad hollow, and you have to rack up the volume all the way up for decent hearing. The noise-canceling mics do their job to limit background noises, but relay our voice a bit distorted to the other end, albeit with enough volume.

Battery

The sealed 1800 mAh battery in the Idol Ultra is cited for just 7 hours of talk time in 3G mode, which is way below the 10 hour average in this category, indicating that the phone will have to be kept on the charger more often than even your typical big-screen handset.

Conclusion

The midrange battle is a heated one, and Alcatel One Touch Idol Ultra is well-positioned in terms of price and specs, with its $300 tag for an elegant chassis, HD AMOLED display and 8 MP camera.

These qualities get spoiled by the weakling MediaTek chipset, though, and we wish Alcatel spent a few bucks more for a well-rounded Snapdragon. The slim, stylish body has brought with it some major compromises, too, like insufficient battery capacity, lack of a microSD slot and a finicky micro SIM one, not to mention the adapter needed to plug in a standard headphone set.

Still, if looks are important to you, the Alcatel One Touch Idol Ultra is one of the trimmest and lightest big-screen Androids around. The toughest competitor in this price range would be the Huawei Ascend P6, which is thinner, with a more premium chassis, microSD slot, and better battery life, but subpar camera. The LG Optimus F7 also deserves attention here, with the same screen size and resolution, but beefier battery and better picture quality for a tad lower price.

Another good alternative in the price range we find in the Windows Phone camp with the Nokia Lumia 720, which has a pretty good camera and offers snappy performance, but the screen size and resolution, as well as the app count will be lower than what you get with the One Touch Idol Ultra..

Software version: 4.1.1-01002

Alcatel One Touch Idol Ultra Video Review:

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Pros

  • Very slim and light chassis

Cons

  • Slow
  • Battery life is below average

PhoneArena Rating:

7.0

User Rating:

7.0
1 Reviews

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