Alcatel OneTouch IDOL 3 4.7 review: Does it deliver?

Earlier this year, I got the chance to review the IDOL 3 5.5, and I absolutely loved it. In fact, I called it the best budget phone of the year. The display, speakers, camera, design, and performance all impressed me when I considered it costs only $250. Now, I have gotten a chance to play with its smaller, even less expensive twin, the IDOL 3 4.7. Once again, I popped the SIM card out of my Nexus 6 and switched over to the IDOL 3 4.7 for a full week. Let’s see if this little guy impressed me as much as its larger sibling.[spacer color=”264C84″ icon=”fa-android”]

Design

IDOL 3 4.7 front 2The IDOL 3 4.7 has exactly the same design as the 5.5” version, and that is not a bad thing at all. Sure, there is nothing flashy or super high end about the design, but it feels solid, well built, and nicely weighted in the hand.

The recessed speaker grills at top and bottom create a different, eye catching look, and the plastic chrome accents around the edges help distinguish this phone from every other black slab phone that is roaming the streets. Thankfully, Alcatel OneTouch kept the same brushed plastic back design from the larger IDOL 3 which looks nice and resists nasty fingerprints.

Coming from the Nexus 6, this 4.7” device seems tiny, but it is extremely easy to hold. Combine that with a weight of only 110 grams (3.8 ounces), and this phone becomes easy to manage and use with one hand.

Of course, there is still the problem with the power button that was present on the IDOL 3 5.5. The volume controls are located in a normal position on the right side of the phone, but the power button is located about the SIM card tray at the top of the left side. This proved to be just as awkward as it was on the larger IDOL 3, especially since most other phones have power buttons on the right side.

Since the IDOL 3 4.7 is a smaller device, the power button is not as difficult to reach it was on the 5.5” version, but it still does not feel natural or comfortable. Thankfully, Alcatel OneTouch included double-tap to wake and sleep, so you will not be using the power button for much more than actually turning it on or off.

Speaking of the SIM card tray, this phone uses a microSIM card (so those of us with a nanoSIM will need an adapter). More important than that, there is a second slot in the tray for a MicroSD card. With internal storage of only 16GB, a MicroSD card will definitely come in handy. The IDOL 3 4.7 spec sheet says it can handle cards up to 32GB, but I had no problem using my 64GB card in this phone.

The overall design of the IDOL 3 4.7 is nice, especially for a sub-$200 phone. Like its big twin, it is almost perfectly symmetrical from the front, which plays a key part in the Reversible UI features I will talk about in the software section of the review. The solid, simple, well-built design and feel of the IDOL 3 4.7 is fantastic and exceeds what I expected from a $179 phone.

Display

To get the cost down for the IDOL 3 4.7, the screen resolution was reduced to 720p. Although that sounds low by today’s standards, the 312 PPI screen is still plenty sharp enough for the average person. Just like the 5.5” IDOL 3, this version comes with an IPS LCD that Alcatel OneTouch says is enhanced by Technicolor. I have been just as impressed with this screen as I was with the IDOL 3 5.5. Colors look great, there is good contrast, and this display can get extremely bright. I like having my screen on a high brightness setting, but I never had to bring the brightness above 25% unless it was an extremely bright day outside. There will definitely not be a problem seeing this display outdoors.

Although AMOLED is my screen type of choice, there is no denying that this LCD panel does a fantastic job. Whites are nice and bright, blacks are dark, and viewing angles are great. Overall, this is a fantastic screen that is enjoyable to look at.

Android and UI

Screenshot_2015-01-01-00-08-40I still love my stock Android, and Alcatel OneTouch has done a fantastic job keeping true to it while only adding a few extra tweaks and features. This phone comes running Android 5.0.2 out of the box, and for the security conscious among us, I received the Stagefright fix immediately after setting it up.

While the device does not appear stock, after using it for a few minutes you notice that the only things that have been changed are some icons, some stock apps, and a few extra settings. When it comes to adding useful features, Alcatel OneTouch knows how to do it.

First off, you have double tap to wake and sleep which is fantastic to have, especially with that weirdly placed power button. I found that it works extremely well and I rarely had to double-tap more than once to get it to respond.

Just like on the larger IDOL 3, my favorite feature continues to be the Reversible UI. Basically, this allows the entire UI of the phone to orient itself depending on how you are holding it. So if you take it out of your pocket upside down and turn it on, the UI on the phone will be facing the correct way. With a speaker and microphone at both ends, you can answer a call with the phone upside down too and may not even know it.

If this sounds strange and useless to you, I have to admit that I thought the same thing until I tried it on the IDOL 3 5.5. It has been a feature I have missed since I switched back to my Nexus 6, and I loved having it again on the IDOL 3 4.7. I continue to hope that other manufacturers incorporate this feature into their phones too.

Camera

IDOL 3 4.7 cameraThe camera on the IDOL 3 5.5 wasn’t amazing, but it was good enough and took pictures that would look nice on social media. Since the IDOL 3 4.7 has the same camera on both front and back (5 MP and 13 MP, respectively) as its larger twin, I was expecting a similar result.

However, the camera on this IDOL 3 was extremely disappointing. Pictures always seemed to look over sharpened even without zooming in. Color reproduction was pretty nice, if you could get exposure to cooperate. I found that the camera had the tendency to over expose and highlights were extremely blown out. Turning on HDR definitely helps with this problem, but it is sad to rely on HDR for every shot.

The camera was quick to focus and usually picked the right object to focus on. When it didn’t, there is tap to focus on the default camera app.

The front facing camera suffers from the same over sharpened photos that the rear camera has. The selfies you take here are not going to win any awards but are good enough to be usable with Snapchat and other social media site.

I hate to say it, but the cameras on the IDOL 3 4.7 just are not good. They are definitely usable and can produce okay pictures, but I almost never took one that did not look over sharpened. Since this phone has the same camera as the bigger IDOL 3, I am hoping that a software update can fix the current problems and allow this phone to take better looking pictures.

[df-gallery url=”http://www.androidguys.com/gallery/alcatel-onetouch-idol-3-4-7-camera-samples/”]

Speakers

IDOL 3 4.7 frontHere, we have the exact same speakers and audio tweaks that were on the IDOL 3 5.5. There are dual, front-facing speakers powered by JBL, and as you would expect, audio is great. Just like on its big twin, the bass leaves something to be desired, but mids and highs are fantastic. The speakers can get loud, but do not suffer from distortion or poor audio at those high volumes.

These are definitely the best speakers you are going to find on a phone that costs less than $200, and I would wager they could hold their ground against phones more than twice as expensive.

Performance

Along with the screen, Alcatel OneTouch also scaled back the internals of the IDOL 3 4.7 from the 5.5. Here, you will find a Snapdragon 420, 1.5 GB of RAM, and a 200mAh battery to keep it all running. You can check out the full list of specs here:

[graphiq id=”4Lnv6wex74V” title=”Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 4.7″ width=”600″ height=”400″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/4Lnv6wex74V” link=”http://smartphones.specout.com/l/2956/Alcatel-OneTouch-Idol-3-4-7″ link_text=”Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 4.7 | SpecOut”]

At first, I was worried about performance on the IDOL 3 4.7 because I had suffered some problems on its larger twin in the past. After using the 4.7, I have to attribute all of those other problems to the preproduction hardware and software that was running on the 5.5” version. The IDOL 3 4.7 ran like a dream, and I never suffered any performance problems at all.

I am not a heavy gamer, but I can tell you that this phone was not built for high end games. You will have no problems playing basic games on here, but do not expect to run graphically intensive games too much on this phone. The IDOL 3 was built for the average person who needs a good phone that is going to perform well and last a long time, and I can definitely say that this phone meets that challenge.

I moved my entire life onto the IDOL 3 4.7, and it took everything I could throw at it like a champ. Multitasking was quick and fluid, maneuvering websites and apps was simple and lag free, and just running around the OS was enjoyable and smooth. I am definitely impressed with the IDOL 3’s performance.

Battery

The battery for the IDOL 3 4.7 went through more than a 900mAh reduction, down to 2000mAh from the 2910mAh battery in the 5.5” version. That being said, this phone also comes with a lower resolution screen, less RAM, and a less power hungry processor. With the great battery life that I got from the IDOL 3 5.5, I was expecting similar results from its smaller sibling.

Thankfully, I was proven right. I get at least 4 hours of screen time on any phone during a normal day, and this phone was able to meet my battery life needs every day. I have 4 email accounts pulling down every 5 minutes, a love for watching YouTube and streaming music, and text message conversations that continue throughout the entire day.

Every day, the IDOL 3 4.7 lasted me the entire time, and I think it is safe to say it has great battery life. If you are an average user, you should have no trouble making it through the entire day with battery left to spare. If you use your phone more like I do, you should still make it through the day but probably with less battery left over.

If you want to check out a breakdown of battery stats over the full seven days I used it, you can check out the tabs below.

[tabs][tab title =”Day 1″]

  • Day 1 was a Monday, and I started the day around 9:30 AMDay One 2Day One 1
  • My normal days include at least 1 hour of listening to Spotify on LTE and 1 hour watching Youtube over WiFi
  • I constantly text friends or chat with other writers at AndroidGuys
  • I had just received the IDOL 3 and was definitely enjoying playing with it
  • This is what resulted in the 4 hours 40 minutes of screen on time
  • I ended the day around 9:30 with 6% left

[/tab][tab title =”Day 2″]

  • Day 2 was a much calmer dayDay Two 2 Day Two 1
  • I started the day just before 10 AM
  • I still did the normal amount of YouTube and Spotify
  • Text messages and chats still flooded my phone
  • Without having any more apps to set up, screen on time drifted below 4 hours
  • The IDOL 3 went back on the charger around 2 AM with 9% battery

[/tab][tab title =”Day 3″]

  • Day 3 was another busy dayDay Three 3 Day Three 1
  • I did not take the phone off the charger until around noon
  • As you can see, I spent quite a bit of time on Chrome reading Android news
  • The Spotify and YouTube usage stats are remaining constant
  • I racked up 4 hours and 30 minutes of screen time fairly quickly
  • This made me have to reach for the charger sooner than normal at 10 PM

[/tab][tab title =”Day 4″]

  • Day 4 was a fairly normal day in terms of usageDay Four 2 Day Four 1
  • I started the day a little before 11 AM
  • Of course, the normal Spotify and YouTube usage came in
  • I continually chatted and texted during the day
  • After about 12 hours, I had racked up 3 and a half hours of screen on time
  • I plugged the phone back in around 10:45 PM

[/tab][tab title =”Day 5″]

  • Day 5 saw a crazy amount of usageDay Five 2 Day Five 1
  • I started the day around 11:30
  • Same YouTube and Spotify usage as normal
  • That day, I had tons of text messages as you can see by Messenger taking up 9% of the battery
  • This crazy day of usage made me break 5 hours of screen on time
  • I was back at the charger around 10:30 PM

[/tab][tab title =”Day 6″]

  • I have no idea what happened to the battery stats on Day 6Day Six 2 Day Six 1
  • The battery graph is completely blank and nothing I did could fix it
  • You will just have to take me at my word that the battery life was good that day

[/tab][tab title =”Day 7″]

  • Day 7 was another normal day Day Seven 2 Day Seven 1
  • I took the IDOL 3 off the charger at around 10:30
  • Again, the normal YouTube and Spotify usage occurred
  • Nothing out of the ordinary happened that day
  • I clocked 3 hours and 48 minutes of screen on time
  • I was back on the charger at 12AM

[/tab][/tabs]

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IDOL 3 4.7 BackNow that I have finished using the IDOL 3 4.7 as my daily driver, I have to ask myself if I am going to miss it when I switch back to my Nexus 6. The answer is yes, but not all of it. I will not miss the camera, and I will be happy to return to my 2K screen. But there are definitely parts of the IDOL 3 4.7 I am going to miss. Most notably, the Reversible UI feature which I enjoy so much. Also, just the fluidity and smoothness of performance.

Should you go out and buy the IDOL 3 4.7? It honestly depends on your budget. If you are set on not spending over $200 on a phone, I would say definitely. The IDOL 3 4.7 is a fantastic phone with great performance and battery life, and hopefully there will be a software update to improve the camera. If you are willing to stretch your budget a little more, I would advise you look in the higher range. Perhaps even at this phone’s larger 5.5″ brother, which is an amazing phone for the price.

If you are budget conscious, I do not think you can go wrong with the IDOL 3 4.7 and using it has been a great experience. You can pick one up for only $179.99 from the Alcatel OneTouch website or Amazon!

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