What would you think if you were sent a phone with the highlight that it was totally reversible display, and you could make calls while holding it upside down? You’d probably be forgiven for thinking that there wasn’t much else on offer. I may have skimmed through most of the detail when I looked at the specs of this phone, or maybe the advert seemed a bit too good to be true. Either way, ladies and gentlemen, the Idol 3 from Alcatel OneTouch has totally blown me away. This is the best phone I have tried in a while (I only recently tried the LG G4!), and I can safely say that as of now, this is the best phone you can buy for £200.
(I do say this a week before the launch of the new Moto G, the Moto G being my previous ‘best phone you can buy for £200 or under.)
Quick look at the specs
Anyway, let’s start by having a quick look at the specs:
- Available in 4.7″ or 5.5″ (our review unit is 5.5″).
- Single Sim 16GB (11GB available)
- Android 5.0.2 Lollipop
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 615, Octa Core 1.5Ghz CPU
- 2GB RAM
- 13 MP rear camera, f/2.0; 8MP front camera, large viewing angle
- Dual front speakers, 2 x 1.2W
- 2910 mAh battery
- 7.4mm thin, 152.7 x 75.14 x 7.4mm dims, 141g
- Symmetrical design
- Diamond cut, brushed metal effect
A few things stand out there for me, the OctaCore processor with the 2GB of RAM, the 13MP front camera with f/2.0, and the very impressive dual front speakers. Add to that the 2910mAh battery, and you have a very good phone on paper. Does it all add up? Read on!
Look and feel
If you haven’t quite figured it out yet, I have fallen in love with this phone, and it all starts with the look and feel of this.
Featuring a brushed metal effect all around the bezel, and a soft, back, this features a symmetric design, with the front dual speakers clearly highlighted on both top and bottom of the phone. The top does feature a front facing camera, so you can normally tell.
On top is the 3.5mm port for your audio headset, and the bottom features the micro USB port. The right side has your volume rocker keys, while the left has your power key, which is slightly unusual these days, but not too bad.
The SIM tray sits next to the power key, and needs one of those special tools to pop out. In the SIM tray is the micro SD card slot too.
The back doesn’t open, and that tray is your only access to the inside of the phone.
The back features the camera and the flas, and the ‘idol’ logo as well as the Alcatel OneTouch logo at the bottom. Once again, this has a beautiful finish and a premium feel.
The phone comes with Android 5.0.2 with Alcatel OneTouch skin on. The skin has some nice features. For example, you have the ability to wake up on knock, though it isn’t as reliable as some other phones.
The lock screen features shortcuts to 5 apps, as well as phone and camera.
The main phone allows you the usual set of icons on the home screen as well as widgets, and the standard App Drawer.
Annoyingly, the phone is full of many games and apps that come out of the box, and in my opinion take up useful space. Luckily, you can delete most of these. There is, obviously, the suite of Alcatel OneTouch apps that comes with the phone, which you are not allowed to delete. While mostly useful, I found myself sticking to the standard set of apps I normally use.
While occasionally the Feedly app seems to quit itself, I could not really fault the performance of the phone. It isn’t the fastest phone I have ever tried, but there isn’t any obvious lag in apps. It works, and it works well. The processor and the RAM combo obviously works very well for this phone.
The screen features a 401ppi screen, with beautiful colours and sharpness. On top of it all, it actually works in bright sunlight too. Very impressive.
Add that screen to the powerful speakers on front, and you are definitely on to a winner. The speakers are by no means a gimmick, and I have been using this phone on speaker mode to listen to my Spotify lists. It isn’t tinny, it isn’t shrill, and it just works.
One of the things ‘budget’ phones often struggle at is the camera. You have to make those savings somewhere. I am happy to say that I was pleasantly surprised with the camera on this phone. It may be the 13MP Sony IMX214 sensor, or just the f/2.0 aperture, but it has a great performance, specially in low lights, and it captures the colours brilliantly. The sharpness of focus is not the best, but I am merely being picky here.
This isn’t all. The front camera is brilliant too, and selfies, as I have been trying out, come out quite brilliant too.
The annoying? The OneTouch Stream. This isn’t very unlike the Blinkfeed or news feeds different phones put on their home screens. However, unlike most of them, you do not have the ability to turn this off sadly.
You can arrange and organize a bit, and turn some things off, but overall, you are stuck with it.
It gives you weather, your agenda, top news, and apps to download.
At almost 3000 mAh, the battery is definitely one of the positives in this phone. It generally lasts me a usual work day quite comfortably, being around 30 to 40% when I plug it in at night. I have managed to squeeze out two days of use over the weekend too.
Wait, what about the reversibility?
Oh yes. What I thought was a gimmick, and what made me think this was all this phone had, works, and works very well. I still think it is bit of a gimmick, and to be honest, we have been using phones the proper way for a very long time, but it is amazing how the human hand/brain/face starts to use an upside down phone without realizing it. Well, I have at least. Yeah, I can live without that feature, but I am not complaining either. It is a good feature!
More information on this is available on the Alcatel OneTouch website:
This is due to be released at the end of this month, and can be pre-ordered via Amazon, for £200:
The 4.7″ version can be pre-ordered via Amazon, for £159:
It is available in Dark Grey, Silver or Gold.
I think Alcatel OneTouch are on to a winner with the Idol 3. All this phone for £200? Go (online) and get one now! You will not regret it.