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Alcatel Idol 4S review: King of the mid-range?

Nick Ross | July 15, 2016
It's better than many but with prices falling around it, how will it fare?

Just last week we raved about the $399 Moto G4 Plus redefining what value meant in the current phone market. Now, just a few days later, here's Alcatel with an offering that, despite being $200 dearer, may rival it.

We've always thought of Alcatel as a quirky French company which not only makes the machines that power the internet and mobile phone networks, but which makes great-value, low-priced phones. It also happens to be the third-highest seller of phones by volume in Australia (after Samsung and Apple). So our view has generally been positive.

But Alcatel's APAC Managing Director was more specific. The customers behind Alcatel's high volumes are apparently kids with no money, old people, poor people and the type of people who set off alarms when their credit-rating is checked. We were also told that the Idol 4S is gunning for Gen-Y users with an attention span of eight seconds or so.

We're not really a fan of pigeon-holing but it's certainly interesting to hear someone do that for their own products. Nonetheless, at $599 this is priced as a mid-range Android phone (but high-priced for Alcatel). That Alcatel is reaching so high, we hoped it would give the big boys a run for their money. We weren't disappointed.

Key specs

5.5-inch, 1440x2560, 534ppi display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 Chipset, two quad-core processors, Adreno 510 GPU, 3/32GB RAM, NFC, Dual nanoSIM (one is shared microSD (up to 256GB) slot), 16/8-megapixel cameras, 2160p (4K) video, microUSB, 3000mAh battery, VR headset, 154x75x7mm, 149g. Full specs here.

Compared with Sony's flagship

We'll start by listing the rival specs of Sony's recently-launched, hugely-disappointing flagship, the Xperia Performance. Remember that it retails at $999.

5-inch, 1080x1920, 441ppi, screen, 23-megapixel rear camera, 13-megapixel front camera, Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 quad-core processor, Adreno 530 GPU, 32/3GB RAM, NFC, nanoSIM, microSD card (up to 256GB), Android 6.0.1 (Marshmallow), microUSB, Fingerprint reader, Fixed 2,700mAh battery, 144x70x9mm, 164g. Full specs here.

So for $400 less Alcatel has a bigger, higher-resolution screen, Dual SIM cards, bigger battery and it comes with a VR headset (and plastic case) for free. Granted it's not as quick when using power-intensive apps (Sony's two, high-end dual core processors are faster than Alcatel's Octa-core), but for day-to-day use, few would notice much difference. The camera is supposedly much better on the Sony but frankly, the Idol's was very good indeed. Really the only usage difference is Sony's fingerprint reader. Hmm.

Handling

Build quality really isn't far off the big boys' flagship phones and certainly up there with the likes of Oppo's R9 flagship and HTC's One X9 which cost similar. The metal band that runs round the middle is reminiscent ofSamsung's Galaxy S7 Edge while the shiny back looks classy and sophisticated.

 

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