Alcatel OneTouch Idol Alpha Review

on Monday, December 22, 2014
Pros: Cons:
+ Nice looking design  - Display and backlight have some issues 
Good size  - Runs on older incarnation of Android 
+ Well priced - No expandable storage


"The Idol Alpha is good value and is a really good-looking device. It is let down a little by the backlight issues on its screen, but at just under £300, it is still a quality device."

Nowadays, if a smartphone does not feature great design, it won’t get a look-in. A couple of years ago, it was a bonus, but now it’s a necessity, as HTC and Apple would no doubt concur. But it’s not only the top-end phones that need to look good these days – even if you’re in the value category, good looks are important – something that Alcatel has obviously realised and put into action with its latest release, the One Touch Idol Alpha.
This device is pretty enough to compete with any of the top phones, and with the added bonus of some Art Deco details, it really does stand out from the crowd – and not only is it one of the best-looking smartphones out there, but it is on sale for under £300. So do its technical features match up to its aesthetics?

Alcatel One Touch Idol Alpha: First impressions

The Idol Alpha looks great, thanks to its curvy, chamfered edges, metal body, metal keys and see-through plastic inserts sitting below and above the display. And it does look different, helping to set it apart from the rest of the crowd.
If you weren’t familiar with Alcatel’s phones, we reckon you’d put it in the same bracket as the HTC One (M8) and the iPhone, and others of that ilk, but you would be wrong, Yes, even though it has such a great design and a slim chassis, this little beauty will only set you back £290 SIM-free when it appears on shelves.

Measuring in at only 7.5mm thick (which is, in actual fact, 0.1mm slimmer than the iPhone 5s), the Idol Alpha also only weighs 117g – a mere 5g more than the iPhone. The metal body is a delight, with its chamfered, polished edges. We are also fans of the transparent panels that sit above and below the display. This really has to be one of the best-looking smartphones of 2014. The usual trio of Android touch buttons can be found just above the transparent panel – press them and the panel fills with a blue/white light – very nifty.
It’s a pity, though, that the back cover, which can’t be removed, is made of plastic. Our review model did have a gunmetal back panel, which at least looked like it was metal – so it’s still better than the fake leather and chrome of Samsung’s latest handsets.

Alcatel One Touch Idol Alpha: On display

The screen measures in at 4.7 inches – exactly the same size as that on the iPhone 6 – with its HD resolution of 720 x1280. Although we have been very keen on the likes of the LG G3 and HTC One (M8) recently, we have to say that the size of this phone is just perfect for comfortable holding. Even if you have small hands you’ll be able to get to the top corners with the tip of a thumb. Okay, so you’re not getting the cinematic experiences offered by the LG G3, but it does slide easily into a pocket.

We would expect HD resolution at this price, but we were disappointed both by the viewing angles and the backlight, which often leaked through the edges of the screen.
Look at the display straight on and there are no issues, but turn the handset vertically or horizontally and you’ll see the backlight fading and the colours altering. It’s a sign of a slightly less pricey phone that the backlight can be seen as a bright line of light along its four edges when you’re not looking at it head-on. Nonetheless, contrast and colours are decent. It doesn’t match up to the likes of the HTC One (M8) and Samsung Galaxy S5, but at this price we can forgive it.

Alcatel One Touch Idol Alpha: Performance and Software

Under the hood sits a 1.2GHz quad-core chip teamed with 1GB of RAM. The phone runs Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. It’s not the latest version of Android, which is a pity because some of its cheaper rivals already feature 4.4 KitKat – they include Motorola’s Moto G and HTC’s One mini 2, which are also expected to get the 5.0 update as and when it appears.

Onboard storage measures 16GB – although actually only 13.3GB is available as the rest is eaten up by preloaded apps and the operating system. It’s a pity you can’t expand storage, as there is no microSD card slot – something Apple also falls down on.
Performance wise, the Alpha isn’t as speedy as you might think. Android is not always as responsive as we’d hoped, as some swipes and taps failed to register and there was a little pause before apps fire up. But of course this is not a flagship device and we should lower our expectations a tad. You must remember the price of the phone – and then performance seems perfectly acceptable. Having said that, we suffered no crashes or stuttering, but it is just not as slick as some of its more pricey rivals.

Alcatel One Touch Idol Alpha: Snapper

The rear snapper is a 13-megapixel model, which should be decent enough, but it doesn’t live up to our expectations. The camera app is a tad slow, particularly when you are swapping between the rear snapper and the 1.3MP front snapper. Photos were a mixed bag – in decent light photos were fine but in darker light conditions they suffered from graininess and noise. The good photos benefited from sharp, clear detail and well-balanced colours.
The app is straightforward and simple to use. There are only four shooting modes – Night, Sports, Panorama and HDR. Five other variables are on offer – exposure, ISO, time, location and size.

Alcatel One Touch Idol Alpha: Our conclusion

Coming in at a tad less than £300, the Idol Alpha is good value for money. It looks good too – probably one of the best-looking devices of the year – and its 4.7in display will be perfect for lots of consumers.
On the downside, there are backlight issues, and distortion and washed out colours when you view the screen from anywhere but head-on. And performance isn’t quite up there with the big boys.
Nonetheless, while you might find phones with better displays, at this price, there is plenty to make the Alpha a remarkably attractive device.


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