Microsoft, which is the only one that can change all of these, doesn’t seem to be very interested in saving Windows phones, so the company hasn’t launched any new flagship devices this year. Instead, the company prefers to continue improving Windows 10 Mobile and working with partners on launching their own devices.
Alcatel is one of the companies that believe in Windows phones, so it decided to embrace Windows 10 Mobile with a device that excels in terms of looks and specifications.
The Alcatel IDOL 4S is offered with Windows 10 Mobile after previously being launched with Android in an approach that we’ve already seen before at HTC. The company launched the HTC M8 with Windows Phone after originally having released the device with Android.
On paper, the Alcatel IDOL 4S seems to be one of the best Windows phones to date, so we decided to give it a try to see if this device is as good as so many people claim it to be. Read on to find what the Alcatel IDOL 4S is all about.
Before anything, it’s worth mentioning that the Alcatel IDOL 4S with Windows 10 Mobile received several hardware upgrades over its Android sibling, so it comes with features that make it a flagship in all regards.
In terms of build quality, the IDOL 4S is a beautiful piece of art, and it comes with front and back glass panels and a metal frame. At first glance, the IDOL 4S looks a lot like the Samsung Galaxy S6, and there were many people here at Softpedia who thought we were actually testing a Samsung phone model.
This, however, contributes to a pretty exquisite look, and it’s nice to finally see such a premium feeling on a Windows 10 Mobile device. The same thing happened when we reviewed the HP Elite X3, so it’s living proof that Microsoft’s partners also have the know-how and the resources to build high-quality devices.
First and foremost, the Alcatel IDOL 4S comes with a 5.5-inch AMOLED display with a resolution of 1080x1920 pixels, with a 71.9 percent screen-to-body ratio and 401 ppi pixel density.
This means the phone has quite small bezels, and you can really feel that when holding it in hand, easily surpassing other high-end phones on the market, such as the iPhone 7 Plus, which has a screen-to-body ratio of 67.7 percent.
The display provides stunning colors and contrast, and it’s just as good as the panel used on more expensive phones out there, but there’s one thing that potential buyers must have in mind.
The IDOL 4S does not support Glance screen, which is kind of a must-have on a Windows phone these days, especially because no other notification system is available - the phone does have a LED, but Windows 10 Mobile doesn’t provide any customization options, so it’s pretty much useless. In other words, you’re stuck with the typical notification system that lights up the screen when receiving a message, even though hardware-wise the phone has what it takes to offer so much more.
Alcatel IDOL 4S Windows 10 Mobile apps
There’s also another thing that we need to mention here. Alcatel decided to use Asahi Dragontrail Glass for scratch protection and not the super common Gorilla Glass, and there’s a good reason for that.
First and foremost, Dragontail is the creation of Japanese company Asahi and has the same role as Gorilla glass. It can protect your phone against scratches, but it’s worth knowing that Gorilla Glass is more effective because its chemical composition is harder. Dragontail is typically used on Japanese phones and low-end models, so Alcatel most likely picked it to keep the price low.
There’s also double-tap to wake, and it works just like expected, mostly because the screen is super-responsive, although we’ve noticed that at random times it’s too responsive and trying to scroll up or down actually translates into a tap that launches an app.
#CPU, RAM, and STORAGE
As we’ve said a little bit earlier, the IDOL 4S with Windows 10 Mobile comes with several upgrades over its Android sibling, and one of the biggest differences is the processor.
The Android version of the phone features a Qualcomm MSM8976 Snapdragon 652, whereas the Windows flavor comes with a Qualcomm MSM8996 Snapdragon 820 chip. The processor comes in a quad-core configuration, 2x2.15 GHz Kryo and 2x1.6 GHz Kryo, and is paired with 4 GB RAM, up from 3 GB RAM on Android.
There’s also a GPU upgrade, from Adreno 510 to Adreno 530, as well as more storage, as Windows 10 Mobile users get 64 GB, while Android fans receive only 32 GB storage.
“SNAPDRAGON 820, BABY!”
The aforementioned configuration makes the Alcatel IDOL 4S super-fast, and thanks to Windows 10 Mobile optimizations, which are getting better every day, the phone opens apps and performs tasks in a second. It rarely gets hot when performing regular tasks, but it’s cooling down just as fast as it’s heating when launching more demanding apps or games.
We’ve rarely felt the IDOL 4S slow, and when it happened, it was mostly because of Windows 10 Mobile. The operating system is evolving, there’s no doubt about it, but certain improvements here and there are still needed.
The Snapdragon 820 processor, however, puts the Alcatel IDOL 4S alongside the HP Elite X3 in the group of the most powerful Windows phones to date. And when looking at the bigger picture, this is one of the most powerful phones on the market right now, as the 820 chipset is the best mobiles can get these days.
When it comes to cameras, Windows 10 Mobile users also receive more than their Android siblings. The phone comes with a 21-megapixel main camera with the typical feature package, including phase detection autofocus, dual-LED flash, touch focus, HDR, panorama, and other things like that.
The camera can also shoot videos in 2160p @ 30 fps, while front-facing 8-megapixel camera comes with 1080p support and LED flash.
Alcatel IDOL 4S camera - it looks like a Samsung, it feels like a Samsung
Now some real-life performance details. Although it does come with some improvements, the Alcatel IDOL 4S still feels slow when taking pics, and you can easily notice the lag after pressing the shutter. The whole thing becomes even more obvious when shooting in burst mode and the camera becomes even slower.
On the other hand, photo quality is generally very good, and we’ve noticed that the majority of pictures have above the average color and contrast settings.
When optimal light is available, the Alcatel IDOL 4S shoots photos with natural colors and balanced contrast. When the amount of light drops, however, the amount of noise also increases, and photo quality is getting worse the darker it gets.
Alcatel IDOL 4S camera sample
Alcatel IDOL 4S camera sample with optimal light
Taking photos in complete darkness is impossible, and videos recorded in low light seem to suffer from the same focus issue that we’ve complained about before: the phone often loses the focus point and refocusing is needed, but this is clearly a software bug that can be addressed in a future update.
Read Also: Lets Talk About: Mobile Phones Reviews, Alcatel IDOL 4S with Windows 10 The VR Experience
All in all, it’s not the best camera we’ve seen, but it’s one of the best, especially in the Windows Phone lineup. We’ve heard many people saying that the Lumia 950 XL still has the best camera in the Windows Phone world, and we’d put the Alcatel not too far behind it.
Just like the Android version, the Alcatel IDOL 4S comes with a 3,000 non-removable li-ion battery which easily gets the job done. In plain English, it can get you an average of one day per charge, obviously depending on the things you do on your phone.
On average, we got nearly 30 hours of battery life with moderate usage, and this involves using Twitter and reddit a couple of hours per day, browsing, emails, calls for nearly an hour, and WhatsApp chats. We didn’t test it with games because it’s pretty clear that battery performance here can be very different from one person to another.
“AT LEAST ONE DAY PER CHARGE.”
The device comes with a USB Type-C slot for recharging, and the entire process takes nearly 70 minutes to complete from less than 10 percent. This is when the phone gets hot, but it’s obviously normal.
There is no wireless charging and no fast charging, which is quite a setback, but you should be fine with it given the fact that charging doesn’t take too long.
The Alcatel IDOL 4S is one of the phones that support Continuum, so you can connect it to a larger screen and convert it into an almost fully-featured PC running Windows 10 Mobile. The experience is very similar to the one with the HP Elite X3, and you can read more about it here.
The IDOL 4S comes with a fingerprint reader for Windows Hello, so you can configure it from the Settings app to protect your phone the easy way. This is a feature that brings it in line with other high-end phones on the market already coming with a fingerprint sensor, and one of the things we’ve missed the most on the Lumia 950 XL.
Surprisingly, the Alcatel IDOL 4S has quite a fast sensor and scanning usually takes place correctly, although unlocking the phone per se takes more time than on an iPhone, for instance. Although, the finger needs to be dry and clean.
“DEDICATED CAMERA BUTTON.”
The fingerprint sensor is placed on the back, just like it’s the case on the HP Elite X3, but as compared to HP’s model, it doesn’t come with a more prominent border. Given the fact that the back is entirely made of glass, it takes a while to get used to the position of the sensor, so you might have a hard time scanning your finger without looking at first.
The phone also comes with a dedicated camera button, and while this is, in essence, a good thing, there’s something that’s really odd. The camera button is placed exactly where you’d expect the lock button to be, so it happened several times during the test to press it when I actually wanted to lock or unlock the phone. And what’s worse is that there are no options to change this in Windows 10 Mobile.
And last but not least, the phone features stereo speakers, and they’re quite loud, although they lack the bass that we’ve seen on other high-end devices. It’s still a pleasure to watch videos, though, and talking on the phone with the speaker in a noisy place is not at all an issue.
We said it before, and we’re saying it again: Windows 10 Mobile is just not there yet. Devices like the HP Elite X3 and the Alcatel IDOL 4S show that Windows 10 Mobile has a lot of potential to compete against Android and iOS, but due to several shortcomings, it’s still lagging behind its rivals.
One of the reasons is the lack of apps, but we’ve talked about this in the past, and we’re not going to do it again because everyone knows why this is happening.
But at the same time, the Alcatel IDOL 4S comes with hardware that Windows 10 Mobile customers can’t use because there’s no software support in the operating system.
“WINDOWS 10 MOBILE NOT READY JUST YET.”
And the best example is the LED notification light. Although the phone does feature such tech, you can’t enable and configure it, and this is quite an issue given the fact that there’s no Glance screen available.
On the other hand, Windows 10 Mobile is improving, and the operating system is much faster and stable now than it was at first. Apps load quicker, everything is more responsive and crashes almost never happen.
If you’re not the kind of user who’s into apps and like Windows 10 Mobile, there’s no doubt you’re going to be pleased with it. Everything is exactly where it’s supposed to be, and given the fact that Windows 10 Mobile looks and feels a lot like Windows 10, the entire operating system is super-familiar to PC users.
Alcatel IDOL 4S - Windows 10 Mobile, still the most beautiful OS out there
THE BOTTOM LINE
Dammit, Microsoft! Get your stuff together and make Windows 10 Mobile worth the effort because this phone deserves a better operating system.
The Alcatel IDOL 4S is without a doubt one of the most awesome Windows phones on the market, and it features pretty much everything you’d want on a phone.
As compared to the HP Elite X3, it has the dimensions of a phone addressed to those without ridiculously-sized hands, and with a little effort, it can also be used with one hand.
It’s fast and responsive, it has an awesome screen, and the battery lasts at least one day, which is in line with the majority of other high-end phones currently on the market. Furthermore, it comes with support for Continuum, which many believe is the feature of mobile, so you won’t feel left behind when the Windows 10 Creators Update brings new options such as window support in Continuum.
The IDOL 4S is also the first phone that pushes Windows 10 Mobile in the VR world, but as we’ve said, this is an industry that needs many more investments from Microsoft and its partners. But it once again shows the potential of this phone, which pushes Windows 10 Mobile beyond its limits.
In the end, Alcatel proved that Windows 10 Mobile deserves a chance. With the right phone and the right software improvements, Windows 10 Mobile can truly become a rival to Android and iOS. Of course, not without apps, but let’s not talk apps today.