What is the Alcatel One Touch Idol?

You may not be aware of it but Alcatel is one of the biggest _phone_ manufacturers in the world, the 6th biggest in fact. Low-cost feature phones made primarily for the Asian and African market are its bread and butter, but the One Touch range is Alcatel’s attempt to crack the smartphone market. At £200 the Idol is Alcatel’s mid-range offering in the One Touch line-up.

Focusing on design, user experience and value, the One Touch Idol combines an impressive 4.7 inch screen with a dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM in a smart, unibody design. The question is can it really compare to phones in that price bracket made by Samsung, Sony, Nokia, ZTE or HTC? 

Alcatel One Touch Idol 1

Alcatel One Touch Idol - Design

From a short distance the One Touch belies its £200 price tag. Covered in what looks like brushed metal you'd be forgiven for mistaking it for a much more expensive phone.

In hand you quickly realise and the back is made of hard plastic, but it is decent quality stuff. A ridge that runs around the entire edge of the _phone_ ruins the Idol's good looks a little and makes it look more plasticky than it needs to. On the other hand, it does help make a grippy surface and the Idol remains a handsome phone regardless. The lack of hard edges makes holding it for long periods of time comfortable, despite its size.

The One Touch Idol isn’t a small phone at 133 x 67.5 x 7.9 mm, but it is impressively light, just 109g. It has got the same screen real estate as the Google Nexus 4 or the HTC One, both of which are more expensive and a good 25% heavier.
Alcatel One Touch Idol 2
Alcatel One Touch Idol 4


The metal power button is located at the top of the phone and is firm and springy. Unless your hands are on the small side you shouldn’t have a problem reaching it to turn the screen on or off. The volume rocker is on the right hand side, providing easy access for adjustment and the obligatory three Android touch buttons are at the bottom of the screen.

Turn the phone over and you find the One Touch logo emblazoned on the back. The camera protrudes slightly above it, although not too much to ruin the aesthetics or snag on pockets.

Where the One touch Idol is a little let down is by its SIM and microSD card slots. These are covered by some flimsy plastic flaps. We’d have liked these to be a more robust, but on the plus side you shouldn’t notice too much unless you regularly swap SIM or microSD cards.   

Our version was metallic grey with a further five metallic colour options available: pink, dark grey, red, blue and green.

Alcatel One Touch Idol 3

Alcatel One Touch Idol - Screen and Sound Quality

One of our favourite aspects of the One Touch Idol is its screen. The 4.7-inch toughened glass display (Dragon Trail rather than Gorilla Glass in this instance) is streets ahead of most other phones in its price range.

Colours are bright and vivid, if a little oversaturated. It’s bright too, perfectly visible in a sunlit day, not that you’ll be noticing much with the British summer. Video is clear and detailed while text is sharp and crisp, making reading websites or eBooks a pleasure. 

The mono speaker is loud enough to watch a movie or listen to music with company; if that’s something you intend to do.

Alcatel One Touch Idol - Performance and Storage

With a dual-core 1GHz CPU, PowerVR SGX 531 GPU and 1GB of RAM the One Touch Idol is zippy rather than super-fast. There was no lag when scrolling through menus or opening apps, which was helped by the fact that Alcatel doesn’t bloat Android 4.1 Jelly Bean with lots of additional software and processes.

In our AnTuTu 3.3 benchmarks it scored a respectable 6,527. What does this mean in real terms? Well performance is generally solid throughout use. Simple games like Candy Crush Saga or basic 3D games like Temple Run 2 run without a hitch. Play more graphically intensive games, however, and you’ll find some lag issues. Real Racing 3, for instance, is playable but stutters when cornering.

The One Touch Idol comes with 4GB of internal storage, enough to keep your most important apps on. This can be expanded to a much healthier 36GB with a 32GB microSD card, enough for most people to store all the music, apps and even video they want to have on the go.

Alcatel One Touch Idol - Call quality and Messaging

With the amount of things you can do with a smartphone, we sometimes forget how important voice calls are. The microphone on the One Touch Idol picks up and transmits voice well, although it doesn’t have a second, noise cancelling, mic some top-of-the-range phones do. The ear speaker is clear, but we struggled to hear voices a little on a windy day during testing.

Alcatel has included its own messaging app and we were impressed with how well it works. It recognizes words spelt incorrectly and replaces them with the correct word automatically, just like iOS messaging on an iPhone. It generally picks the correct word required and, happily, we can’t regale you with any hilarious autocorrect shenanigans.
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Alcatel One Touch Idol - Camera

The 8-megapixel camera on the One Touch Idol doesn’t reach the picture clarity of the Samsung Galaxy S4’s 13-megapixel snapper or the HTC One’s low light level quality, but it’s testament that we need to keep reminding ourselves that this isn’t a top of the range smartphone. It’s less than half the price of the other two.

In very low light the camera performs as well as can be expected. There is apparent noise but our model, Mr Omnom, is clearly visible. The LED flash is bright enough to reduce the noise and bring out colour details in the fur.
One Touch Idol Picture test

Mr Omnom shot in a dark room with flash (right image) and without flash

Unfortunately, the Idol under-delivers when faced with the London skyline. There is just too much noise evident, particularly red specks that ruin the sharpness of the image. Edges are softer than they should be and lines not as defined as we’d like.

Alcatel One Touch Idol 9


Close up shots, on the other hand, work well. The edges of the leaves are well defined and colour reproduction is good.

Alcatel One Touch Idol 10


All in all the camera on the Idol is perfect for snapping close-ups and people, but, like most phone cameras, you won’t want to be taking lots of landscape shots.

Alcatel One Touch Idol - Battery and Connectivity

Battery life can be the bane of smartphone users these days. The brightness and resolution of the One Touch Idol’s screen means having it on for long periods of time sucks the juice rapidly. If you like playing games or watching video on the way to work you might find yourself struggling to have any of the 1,800mAh battery charge left by home time, although we did find that the Idol kept its charge well when not in use. 

The One Touch Idol lacks both 4G and NFC, however, it does have the more important bits; Wi-Fi, 3G and Bluetooth.


Should I buy the One Touch Idol?

At £200 there’s very little to fault the One Touch Idol with. If Android is your bag and your budget can stretch further then you should consider the significantly more powerful Google Nexus 4 at £240, although that comes with an inferior camera and lacks a microSD card slot.

If you want a Windows 8 phone then you should look at the HTC 8S at £220 or the Nokia Lumia 620 at £150. Both have more onboard storage but neither have screens or cameras that can compete with the Idol.

Verdict

Alcatel’s One Touch Idol is an impressive phone, even more so when you consider its low price. If you can live with the lack of 4G and NFC then we can’t think of many, if any, better phones for the money.