Introduction

The Alcatel Idol 3 name is shared between two smartphones that couldn't be any different. Announced during MWC 2015, one is a 5.5-inch behemoth, while the other is a more than pocketable 4.7-inch device. And as luck would have it, we got to review both concurrently, but in different spots in the world.

Alcatel Idol 3

Both devices should be available worldwide, but Alcatel will be using the Alcatel Idol 3 to start a proper offensive on the US market. The Alcatel Idol 3 (5.5) is the company's boldest entry there to date, aiming to bring style, a rich feature set and value in the upper mid-range segment. It comes with 1080p screen resolution and a Snapdragon 615 chipset. So we got to review this one on US soil.

The other one, the The Alcatel Idol (4.7) is the more affordable of the two and it's no surprise it comes with lesser hardware. It's got the same camera as its bigger sibling, but it has a 720p only resolution screen and a Snapdragon 410 chipset. It's the mini in the duo and it's aiming at the lower midrange spectrum of the market. We got to review one in our European HQ.

A quick glance at the long list of features of both phones shows Alcatel means business with its latest products. With IPS screens, dual speakers, 13MP Sony IMX214 main cameras, and lightly customized Android 5.0.2 Lollipop and sleek exteriors they certainly leave the right impression. Both come with the industry first fully reversible design meaning you can talk on either of them holding it with either way up. Not only the UI, but also the active speaker and mic combo will happily rotate to accommodate your preference even mid-call.

Alcatel Idol 3 (5.5) key features

  • Optional dual-SIM variant in select markets
  • Reversible _phone_ design
  • 5.5" 1080p (1920 x 1080 pixels) IPS display with 401ppi; adaptive color and contrast enhancement (Technicolor Color Enhance)
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop with a custom UI by Alcatel
  • Quad-core 1.5 GHz Cortex A53 & quad-core 1.0 GHz Cortex A53 CPU; Adreno 405 GPU; Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 chipset
  • 2GB of RAM; 16GB of built-in memory (32GB for the dual-SIM model); microSD card slot (up to 128GB)
  • 13MP Sony IMX214 main camera with 1080p video capture and digital stabilization; optional manual controls; 8MP front-facing unit with 1080p video recording
  • Cat. 4 LTE (Up to 150Mbps); HSPA (up to 42.2 Mbps download); dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n; Bluetooth 4.1; NFC; FM radio
  • 2,910mAh battery
  • 1.2W front-facing stereo speakers (JBL endorsed)
  • Comes bundled with a JBL headset

Alcatel Idol 3 (4.7) key features

  • Optional dual-SIM variant in select markets
  • Reversible _phone_ design
  • 4.7" 720p (1280 x 720 pixels) IPS display with 312ppi; adaptive color and contrast enhancement (Technicolor Color Enhance)
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop with a custom UI by Alcatel
  • Quad-core 1.2 GHz Cortex-A53 CPU; Adreno 306 GPU; Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 chipset
  • 1GB of RAM; 16GB of built-in memory (32GB for the dual-SIM model); microSD card slot (up to 128GB)
  • 13MP Sony IMX214 main camera with 1080p video capture and digital stabilization; optional manual controls; 5MP front-facing unit with 1080p video recording
  • Cat. 4 LTE (Up to 150Mbps); HSPA (up to 42.2 Mbps); Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n; Bluetooth 4.0; NFC; FM radio
  • 2000mAh battery
  • 1.2W front-facing stereo speakers (JBL endorsed)
  • Comes bundled with a JBL headset

Main disadvantages for both

  • Awkward power button placement but has double tap to wake
  • Battery is not user-replaceable
  • Alcatel's custom user interface might not fit all tastes

Despite their budget-friendly nature, the Alcatel Idol 3 duo covers all the bases in terms of hardware features - even more so for the bigger phone. The 5.5"1080p IPS display ensures that the handset punches above its weight in this department. The smaller one may have lower pixel density but it's still gorgeous to look at.

Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3

Both Alcatel Idol 3 models look the same despite the size difference

The stereo speakers are a particularly welcome feature in the mid-range segment. Coupled with the large and crisp display, they ensure that the Idol 3 will be a highly capable platform for consuming media content and gaming.

As always, we will kick off our review with unboxing, followed by design and build quality inspection. Head over to the next page for a closer look at the smartphones.

Unboxing

Both Alcatel Idol 3 smartphones offer a well-appointed retail package. In addition to a charger, microUSB cable, and SIM removal tool, users also get a pair of quality in-ear headphones by JBL.

Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3

A look at the bundled accessories

A premium headset is surely a welcome sight in the box for the smartphone. Most rivals in the US don't include the accessory at all, while in other regions the Idol 3 direct competitors usually ship with a generic headset.

Design and build quality

Alcatel Idol 3 is a nice looking smartphone in the flesh. Thanks to its symmetrical design, It sports a clean, understated look that will appeal to a wide range of potential customers.

Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3

Alcatel Idol 3 (5.5) in the flesh

The plastic back of the device features a nice matt finish with brushed effect. A touch of chrome in the frame and the Idol 3 logo on the back add visual flare without being gaudy.

Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3

Alcatel Idol 3 (4.7) live photos

You can order the device in three different colors. They include light and dark gray, as well as gold.

Overall, the Idol 3 is one of the better looking devices in its price range. It is also arguably the best looking Alcatel smartphone to date.

Physical measures of the Idol 3 (5.5) are 152.7 x 75.1 x 7.4 mm, while its weight tips the scale at 141 grams. The smartphone is on the light side for a 5.5" device, despite packing an ample 2,910 battery.

The power/lock button is located in an uncomfortable position at the upper left corner. Thankfully, you can light up the screen with a double tap on both phones.

Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3

Handling of the Idol 3 (5.5)

The Idol 3 (4.7) measures 134.6 x 65.9 x 7.6 mm, which means the thickness of both devices is practically the same. The smaller one however is much lighter at 110 grams. But of course, a lot of that weight reduction has come at the expense of a significantly smaller battery capacity of only 2000mAh. Our dedicated battery test, which listed further in the review, will give you an approximation of the expected battery life from both devices.

Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3

Handling Alcatel Idol 3 (4.7)

Controls

Above the display of the Idol 3, you will find the front-facing camera, an ambient light and proximity sensor, as well as on of the stereo speakers. The other stereo speaker sits alone at the bottom.

On the left here we also find the LED notification light, which lights up to notify you of any pending notifications.

Alcatel Idol 3

A look above and below the display

The left side of the smartphone is home to the power/lock key and the tray, which holds the micro-SIM and the microSD card. The volume rocker sits alone on the left side of the Idol 3.

Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3

The sides of the smartphone

The 3.5mm audio jack and a microphone pinhole sit on top of the handset. On the bottom, you will see the microUSB port and another microphone pinhole.

Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3

The top and bottom of the Idol 3 (5.5)

Having stereo speakers and microphones on both sides allows users to use the Idol 3 for making calls on either side.

The back of the smartphone is home to the 13MP camera and its single-LED flash.

Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3

The back of the Idol 3 (5.5)

The Alcatel Idol 3 has a non-removable battery and back cover on both models.

Display

Alcatel Idol 3 (5.5) features a 5.5" FullHD (1920 x 1080 pixels) IPS display. The unit has the same size and 401ppi pixel density as the iPhone 6 Plus. The 4.7" Idol 3 does away with 720p display with 312ppi.

Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3

The 5.5" display of Alcatel Idol 3 • the 4.7" Idol 3 does away with 720p display

The manufacturer boasts that the screen comes with dynamic color and contrast adjustment. They are marketing as some Technicolor technology but the truth is only licensing its brand to the smartphone maker and whatever technology they have, it has been developed in-house. The enhancement in this case refers to dynamic boosting of colors and contrast of certain areas of the screen image so that skin tones and faces remain natural looking.

One thing is certain, both phones have pretty nice displays for their price ranges and we really like the side viewing angles, the colors and the contrast. Sunlight legibility is quite good on both models.

Battery life

Alcatel Idol 3 (5.5) packs a 2,910mAh non-removable battery. The unit's capacity similar to that offered by some of the device's rivals in the mid-range segment. We put the Idol 3 (5.5) through the paces of our battery test. It achieved an endurance rating of 67h, which is quite good.

Alcatel Idol 3

The Alcatel Idol 3 (4.7) has a significantly lower capacity battery of 2,000mAh. The unit propelled the device to an endurance rating of 55h.

Regarding the wide gap in talk time, you should bear in mind that the Alcatel Idol 3 (5.5) has been tested on a T-Mobile US network (3G mode) far from our usual European test site. This is one potential reason for the huge difference though our experience with other smartphones is that as long as the network signal is good, the choice of network cannot influence the battery life score that much. This should come to point out that, we're most probably looking at a genuine difference in the performance of the two, which can be caused not only by battery capacity but also due to a difference in the modem used by the built-in chipset.

Our endurance rating is an approximation of what the battery would theoretically last you if you were to use your phone for an hour each of telephony, web browsing, and video playback per day. While usage routines certainly vary, we've adopted this as a basis of our calculations to allow you to compare the real-life battery life of the phones we review. The endurance rating calculation also includes a standby battery draw measurement, which is not shown on the scorecards above.

Connectivity

The Idol 3 offers a rich set of connectivity features. The basics include quad-band GSM and UMTS, followed by HSPA+ and Cat. 4 LTE (150Mbps) support. Certain markets also get a Dual SIM model.

A slight difference between the two Idol 3 models in the connectivity department means the 5.5-incher had dual-band Wi-Fi a/b/g/n support and Bluetooth 4.1, while the smaller 4.7-incher relies only on single band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1.

Other than that Wi-Fi Direct and Wi-Fi Display are supported by both devices, as well as NFC. Both have GPS receivers too and USB On-The-Go support.

The only notable lacking features here could be a wired TV-out option, though the significance of its lack will vary depending on your use case.

User interface

Alcatel Idol 3 boots Android 5.0.2 Lollipop out of the box. The Chinese manufacturer has added its own custom skin to the OS, though the overall layout has remained unchanged from stock Android.

You can see how the bigger 5.5-inch model feels like in action in the video below.

The manufacturer promises that it will support the smartphone with over-the-air updates going forward. There have been no specific commitments to Android builds, though Alcatel will seed updates out "on a rolling basis as needed."  

A double tap on the dark screen will wake up the smartphone.

The lockscreen has a clean layout and a number of app shortcuts. Five of the latter can be customized via a dedicated settings menu, while the ones for telephony and camera sit permanently on the lockscreen.

Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3

A lockscreen with customizable app shortcuts

The homescreen has a familiar layout. The icons of the Idol 3's native apps are round and colorful - some users might need a bit of time to get used to them.

Apps are stored alphabetically into an app drawer. There is no option for custom order.

Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3

The homescreen and the app launcher

The notification area has a stock Lollipop look. It contains shortcuts for commonly used features such as flashlight, Wi-Fi hotspot, and activating the device's reversibility among others.

Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3

The notification area

The app switcher has a neat card interface that allows you to select the app you need by swiping up or down. You can close apps by swiping left or right, or by hitting the dedicated button on the top right corner of each card. Alcatel has also added a button for closing all application at the bottom of the screen.

Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3

The task switcher

Google Now can be activated via an upward swipe from the home button.

Web browser and other apps

Alcatel Idol 3 ships with two web browsers out of the box. They include the once default Android browser and the newer Google Chrome.

Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3

Two web browsers out of the box

The usual array of apps that help you keep your life in order are also on board. You get a clock, a calendar, a calculator, and a note taking app by Alcatel - each with Material Design.

Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3

Calendar • calculator • clock • taking notes

Alcatel's clock app has a cool-looking animated icon that shows even the seconds. It is a nice design touch by the manufacturer.

A file manager is also included out of the box. It has a colorful, easy to read interface.

Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3

The file manager

WPS Office handles editing documents out of the box - it handles all popular formats. You can also opt for the free Google Docs.

Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3

WPS Office

The smartphone also ships with a lite version of Facetune. The app allows you to tweak your selfies and typically costs $3.99 in Google Play.

Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3

Facetune Lite

There is a compass app included too. NFC tags are handled via a dedicated app, as are system updates, Wi-Fi Display casts, and Wi-Fi transfers.

Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3

Compass • Tags • Wi-Fi Display • Wi-Fi Transfer

Performance

The Alcatel Idol 3 (5.5) features Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 MSM8939 chipset with 1.5GHz quad-core Cortex-A53 CPU and quad-core 1GHz Cortex-A53 CPU. The GPU is Adreno 405, while the RAM is 2GB.

The 4.7" variant of the smartphone features a less capable Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 MSM8916 SoC. The latter packs 1.2GHz quad-core Cortex-A53 CPU, Adreno 306 GPU, and 1GB of RAM.

GeekBench 3 test, which gauges the multi-core CPU performance. The devices perform in line with their similarly-equipped competitors in the segment.

GeekBench 3

Higher is better

  • Meizu m1 note
    3988
  • OnePlus One
    2663
  • Oppo R7
    2620
  • Archos 50 Diamond
    2460
  • Alcatel Idol 3 (5.5)
    2451
  • Asus Zenfone 2 ZE551ML review
    2423
  • Sony Xperia M4 Aqua (final)
    2375
  • Alcatel Idol 3 (4.7)
    1447

AnTuTu 5 paints a similar picture. Once again, the Idol 3 (5.5) displays similar performance as other Qualcomm Snapdragon 615-equipped devices we have tested in the past.

AnTuTu 5

Higher is better

  • Asus Zenfone 2 ZE551ML review
    42301
  • Meizu m1 note
    39224
  • Sony Xperia M4 Aqua (final)
    32217
  • Alcatel Idol 3 (5.5)
    29907
  • Archos 50 Diamond
    28756
  • Alcatel Idol 3 (4.7)
    22321

Basemark OS II is another all-round benchmark that gives an overall score along with single and multi-core performance among others. We focus on the overall score and the dedicated CPU scores.

Basemark OS II

Higher is better

  • OnePlus One
    1196
  • Asus Zenfone 2 ZE551ML review
    1094
  • Sony Xperia M4 Aqua (final)
    883
  • Alcatel Idol 3 (5.5)
    814
  • Archos 50 Diamond
    762
  • Meizu m1 note
    715

Basemark OS II (single-core)

Higher is better

  • OnePlus One
    2213
  • Alcatel Idol 3 (5.5)
    1819
  • Meizu m1 note
    1754
  • Archos 50 Diamond
    1674
  • Asus Zenfone 2 ZE551ML review
    1462
  • Sony Xperia M4 Aqua (final)
    1453

Basemark OS II (multi-core)

Higher is better

  • Meizu m1 note
    12848
  • OnePlus One
    10234
  • Sony Xperia M4 Aqua (final)
    8592
  • Archos 50 Diamond
    6906
  • Alcatel Idol 3 (5.5)
    6467
  • Asus Zenfone 2 ZE551ML review
    5600

Basemark X

Higher is better

  • OnePlus One
    13129
  • Asus Zenfone 2 ZE551ML review
    12565
  • Sony Xperia M4 Aqua (final)
    5105
  • Alcatel Idol 3 (5.5)
    4953
  • Meizu m1 note
    4617
  • Alcatel Idol 3 (4.7)
    1578

GFXBench and its various benchmarks put the Adreno 405 GPU to the test. The Idol 3 (5.5) didn't shatter any records - it performed yet again in line with its rivals that pack the same GPU.

GFX 2.7 T-Rex (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • OnePlus One
    28.3
  • Asus Zenfone 2 ZE551ML review
    27
  • Meizu m1 note
    15
  • Archos 50 Diamond
    15
  • Oppo R7
    15
  • Sony Xperia M4 Aqua (final)
    14.9
  • Alcatel Idol 3 (5.5)
    14.2
  • Alcatel Idol 3 (4.7)
    5.2

GFX 2.7 T-Rex (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • OnePlus One
    30
  • Asus Zenfone 2 ZE551ML review
    27
  • Sony Xperia M4 Aqua (final)
    25.8
  • Meizu m1 note
    16
  • Alcatel Idol 3 (5.5)
    15.1
  • Archos 50 Diamond
    15
  • Oppo R7
    14.8
  • Alcatel Idol 3 (4.7)
    9.5

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Asus Zenfone 2 ZE551ML review
    13
  • OnePlus One
    12.1
  • Sony Xperia M4 Aqua (final)
    5.84
  • Meizu m1 note
    5.8
  • Archos 50 Diamond
    5.8
  • Oppo R7
    5.7
  • Alcatel Idol 3 (5.5)
    5.7
  • Alcatel Idol 3 (4.7)
    1.8

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Asus Zenfone 2 ZE551ML review
    13
  • OnePlus One
    12.9
  • Sony Xperia M4 Aqua (final)
    12.2
  • Alcatel Idol 3 (5.5)
    6
  • Oppo R7
    5.9
  • Meizu m1 note
    5.7
  • Archos 50 Diamond
    5.7
  • Alcatel Idol 3 (4.7)
    2.7

BrowserMark 2.1 and Kraken 1.1 test the JavaScript performance of the smartphone.

BrowserMark 2.1

Higher is better

  • Asus Zenfone 2 ZE551ML review
    1486
  • Archos 50 Diamond
    1437
  • Alcatel Idol 3 (4.7)
    1437
  • Alcatel Idol 3 (5.5)
    1343
  • OnePlus One
    1339
  • Sony Xperia M4 Aqua (final)
    1171
  • Meizu m1 note
    536

Kraken 1.1

Lower is better

  • Asus Zenfone 2 ZE551ML review
    6360
  • OnePlus One
    7008
  • Archos 50 Diamond
    12110
  • Sony Xperia M4 Aqua (final)
    13609
  • Alcatel Idol 3 (4.7)
    14246
  • Meizu m1 note
    15055
  • Alcatel Idol 3 (5.5)
    18124

In our real-life experience, both Alcatel Idol 3 models never felt underpowered.

Telephony and messaging

The contacts manager on the Alcatel Idol 3 is a standard Lollipop affair. The app features tabbed interface, which displays all contacts and the favorites.

Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3

The contacts manager

You can sync with multiple accounts including Google and Exchange. A button to add a new contact is constantly present in the bottom right corner - you can choose which account to sync the new addition with.

The phone app comes with a tabbed interface for speed dial, recent calls and all contacts. The dialer is invoked by taping on its dedicated key and supports smart dialing.

Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3

The phone app

Messaging is pretty much straightforward as on every other droid out there. The standard messaging client features Material Design. Alternatives are also available in Google Play.

Google's own Android keyboard is the default input method. The solution is one of the best on the market at the moment.

Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3

Stock Android keyboard

Multimedia

There is a Gallery app on board. It offers a basic browsing interface for images and can display videos too. You can also opt for Google Photos as means to view, backup and share your images.

Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3

Alcatel's gallery app

There is no dedicated video player on board so we used the Gallery app instead. The video UI is quite simple. Supported video codecs include H.265, H.264, H.263, and MPEG-4. The Idol 3 handled major video file formats without breaking a sweat.

Alcatel Idol 3

The video player

Alcatel has bundled a highly-capable music player with the Idol 3. Codeveloped with JBL, the app, in addition to just playing your tunes, turns your phone into a pocketable DJ station.

Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3

Alcatel Mix

The DJ functionality is activated via a toggle in the settings menu. Overall, the app is as fun to use as it is capable.

Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3

A look at the DJ mode

There are no equalizer presets, but the Sound settings menu has an option for JBL sound enhancement. Unfortunately, we couldn't spot any difference regardless of whether we listened to music via the built-in loudspeakers or through the supplied JBL headset.

Alcatel Idol 3 also offers FM Radio with RDS.

Audio output is nicely clean

The Alcatel Idol 3 demonstrated spotlessly clean audio output when we made it work with an active external amplifier. It got excellent scores all over the field with the below average volume levels the only thing to frown at.

We were treated to more of the same when our standard pair of headphones came into play. Some extra stereo crosstalk appeared but there was no other damage to the output. So excellent marks for clarity but only passable ones for volume, which is once again less than impressive.

And here go the results so you can see for yourselves.

Test Frequency response Noise level Dynamic range THD IMD + Noise Stereo crosstalk
Alcatel Idol 3 +0.03, -0.01 -93.8 92.6 0.0088 0.0088 -93.9
Alcatel Idol 3 (headphones attached) +0.05, -0.01 -93.6 92.4 0.021 0.033 -50.1
Asus Zenfone 2 +0.03, -0.04 -92.4 92.6 0.0035 0.019 -90.2
Asus Zenfone 2 (headphones attached) +0.06, -0.04 -92.3 92.4 0.013 0.048 -80.8
HTC Desire 820 +0.03, -0.20 -92.3 92.4 0.046 0.047 -72.2
HTC Desire 820 (headphones attached) +0.09, -0.12 -92.1 92.1 0.158 0.176 -39.7
OnePlus One +0.02, -0.07 -94.1 93.8 0.0064 0.011 -94.3
OnePlus One (headphones) +0.77, -0.05 -91.4 89.7 0.019 0.485 -53.7

Alcatel Ido 3 frequency response

Alcatel Ido 3 frequency response

You can learn more about the tested parameters and the whole testing process here.

13MP Sony IMX214 camera

Alcatel Idol 3 packs a 13MP camera with Sony IMX214 sensor. The unit is found in quite a few smartphones out there and has proven to be quite a solid performer.

Alcatel Idol 3

The camera interface holds no surprises. Capturing photos takes place via a button on the right side of the UI. Another one for video recording sits right above it.

Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3

Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3

The camera UI

There are several shooting modes at your disposal. They include auto, HDR, panorama, time-lapse, scanner, and face beauty mode.

A manual mode is also available - it allows you to tweak white balance, shutter speed, ISO, and focus.

Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3

Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3

Manual mode

Both Alcatel Idol 3 models seem to use one and the same cameras. Image quality is generally very good. Processing seems mature enough and we're pleased with how the fine detail comes out when viewing the images at pixel level - especially the foliage.

Unfortunately, image sharpness is not equal across the frame, suggesting the camera lens is not as good as the sensor used.

Other than that, colors are great and noise is kept (mostly) in check, so overall, great snappers from these two.

Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3

Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3

Alcatel Idol 3 (5.5) camera samples

This sort of a nice image quality is a surprise in the price range of the cheaper 4.7-inch Alcatel Idol 3.

Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3

Alcatel Idol 3 (4.7) camera samples

Alcatel Idol 3

Alcatel Idol 3 (5.5) low light camera sample

Unfortunately, the built-in HDR mode produces images that are slightly overboard when it comes to colors and contrast.

Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3

Alcatel Idol 3 (5.5) HDR mode: Off • On

Alcatel Idol 3

Alcatel Idol 3 (4.7) HDR sample

Judging by the photos taken, both models use seemingly identical cameras, however that's not the case when it comes to video recording.

For some reason the 1080p videos produced by the bigger Alcatel Idol 3 (5.5) are substandard. They even look as if upscaled from lower resolution. In contrast, the ones coming out from the Alcatel Idol 3 (4.7) are much better when it comes to colors and detail. So we are willing to give it the benefit of a doubt - it might be a unit specific issue or a software glitch.

With both phones, there's room for improvement in video recording. Even though both smartphones produces videos with one and the same bitrate, the ones by the Alcatel Idol 3 (5.5) come out in 28fps, while the ones by the Alcatel Idol 3 (4.7) clock in less than 27fps.

You can see a 1080p video sample shot by the Alcatel Idol 3 (5.5) on YouTube.

Alternatively, you can also download directly an Alcatel Idol 3 (5.5) 1080p video sample (37MB) from our server.

You can see a 1080p video sample shot by the Alcatel Idol 3 (4.7) on YouTube.

Alternatively, you can also download directly an Alcatel Idol 3 (4.7) 1080p video sample (25MB) from our server.

Final words

Alcatel Idol 3 duo is yet another proof that users no longer need to part with large amounts of cash in order to get a top notch smartphone experience. The smartphones combine quality hardware and polished software into a well-designed, solidly made packages each in their respective market segment.

Alcatel Idol 3

Hardware-wise, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 chipset and the 13MP Sony-made camera performed up to our expectations just as expected. The bright and crisp 5.5" 1080p IPS display on the other hand, should easily satisfy all but the most discerning smartphone users, especially in the price range that the Idol 3 (5.5) inhibits.

The above applies for the 4.7" model as well. Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 doesn't quite match the oomph of the 615 model, but it has different competitors to face.

The loud stereo speakers make the smartphone truly stand out in its segment. Coupled with the memory card slot and the nice-looking displays, they truly make both Idol 3 models budget-friendly multimedia devices.

The reversible phone design that they also share is perhaps an industry's first though it hardly solves any real issues.

The overly colorful UI is another questionable solution, though, we believe, it's a matter of personal opinion. However, compared to Google's Material Design, we find Alcatel's a bit over the top.

Alcatel has priced the Idol 3 (5.5) for $249.99 unlocked and contract-free in the United States. At one point, the device's price was down to $199.99, thus making it one of the best smartphone bargains around. In Europe, it goes for around 250 euro.

As always, we looked around to see what else $250 can get you these days. Here are some of the most notable alternatives to Alcatel Idol 3 (5.5) for the money.

Asus ZenFone 2 is undeniably the biggest threat to the Idol 5 (5.5). The Intel-powered phablet starts at $199.99 for a version with 2GB of RAM, and tops out at $299.99 for a variant with 4GB of RAM.

The ZenFone matches the camera and the screen of the Idol 3 and offers more capable chipset. However, it lacks stereo speakers and is (arguably) nowhere near as visually attractive as the Alcatel due to the extra body thickness.

Asus Zenfone 2 ZE551ML

Asus Zenfone 2 ZE551ML

Fresh off a major price cut, OnePlus One now costs only $249 for a 16GB version and $299 for a 64GB model. The "Flagship Killer" entices with a high-end aura and more powerful chipset, but lacks expandable memory and stereo speakers.

OnePlus One

OnePlus One

Moto G (2014) entices with stock Android, quick updates, stereo speakers, and expandable memory. The handset is a worthy rival to the Idol 3 (4.7), but is nowhere near as talented as the 5.5" model.

Motorola Moto G (2nd gen)

Motorola Moto G (2nd gen)

Last year's HTC One (M8) flagship can be found easily for less than $300 unlocked online. The device impresses with gorgeous metal body and BoomSound stereo speaker among its many talents. However, its camera is nowhere near as good as the one of the Idol 3 (5.5).

HTC One (M8)

HTC One (M8)

The Meizu m1 note is a competing value proposition. It packs a FullHD 5.5-inch display, but has no microSD slot. The Mediatek MT6752 chipset is surprisingly well geared. What it lacks is the Idol 3's slim profile and overall more upmarket looks. There is also the question of finding a retailer that will take proper care of the after sales support.

Meizu m1 note

Meizu m1 note

Alcatel's parent company TCL has picked the right time to enter the US market with the Idol 3 (5.5). Two-year contracts are all but extinct and paying full price for a smartphone is no longer a crazy idea, thus making devices that offer value for money without skimping on features an increasingly popular commodity.

Users looking for a good smartphone on the cheap will certainly enjoy the Idol 3, so long as they can live with its small quirks. The handset is the best smartphone effort by Alcatel to date and a sign of more good things to come from the manufacturer.

Unboxing

Both Alcatel Idol 3 smartphones offer a well-appointed retail package. In addition to a charger, microUSB cable, and SIM removal tool, users also get a pair of quality in-ear headphones by JBL.

Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3

A look at the bundled accessories

A premium headset is surely a welcome sight in the box for the smartphone. Most rivals in the US don't include the accessory at all, while in other regions the Idol 3 direct competitors usually ship with a generic headset.

Design and build quality

Alcatel Idol 3 is a nice looking smartphone in the flesh. Thanks to its symmetrical design, It sports a clean, understated look that will appeal to a wide range of potential customers.

Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3

Alcatel Idol 3 (5.5) in the flesh

The plastic back of the device features a nice matt finish with brushed effect. A touch of chrome in the frame and the Idol 3 logo on the back add visual flare without being gaudy.

Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3

Alcatel Idol 3 (4.7) live photos

You can order the device in three different colors. They include light and dark gray, as well as gold.

Overall, the Idol 3 is one of the better looking devices in its price range. It is also arguably the best looking Alcatel smartphone to date.

Physical measures of the Idol 3 (5.5) are 152.7 x 75.1 x 7.4 mm, while its weight tips the scale at 141 grams. The smartphone is on the light side for a 5.5" device, despite packing an ample 2,910 battery.

The power/lock button is located in an uncomfortable position at the upper left corner. Thankfully, you can light up the screen with a double tap on both phones.

Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3

Handling of the Idol 3 (5.5)

The Idol 3 (4.7) measures 134.6 x 65.9 x 7.6 mm, which means the thickness of both devices is practically the same. The smaller one however is much lighter at 110 grams. But of course, a lot of that weight reduction has come at the expense of a significantly smaller battery capacity of only 2000mAh. Our dedicated battery test, which listed further in the review, will give you an approximation of the expected battery life from both devices.

Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3

Handling Alcatel Idol 3 (4.7)

Controls

Above the display of the Idol 3, you will find the front-facing camera, an ambient light and proximity sensor, as well as on of the stereo speakers. The other stereo speaker sits alone at the bottom.

On the left here we also find the LED notification light, which lights up to notify you of any pending notifications.

Alcatel Idol 3

A look above and below the display

The left side of the smartphone is home to the power/lock key and the tray, which holds the micro-SIM and the microSD card. The volume rocker sits alone on the left side of the Idol 3.

Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3

The sides of the smartphone

The 3.5mm audio jack and a microphone pinhole sit on top of the handset. On the bottom, you will see the microUSB port and another microphone pinhole.

Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3

The top and bottom of the Idol 3 (5.5)

Having stereo speakers and microphones on both sides allows users to use the Idol 3 for making calls on either side.

The back of the smartphone is home to the 13MP camera and its single-LED flash.

Alcatel Idol 3
Alcatel Idol 3

The back of the Idol 3 (5.5)

The Alcatel Idol 3 has a non-removable battery and back cover on both models.

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