Alcatel Onetouch Idol 3 4.7 Review: Smaller But Not Better

Credit: Jeremy Lips/Tom's GuideCredit: Jeremy Lips/Tom's Guide

The wallet-friendly Alcatel Onetouch Idol 3 just got pocket-friendlier. Now available in a smaller size, the Idol 3 4.7 looks to continue the success of its larger sibling ($250) by offering similar guts in a smaller package, for a lower price ($180). But in downsizing the original Idol 3, Alcatel also lost a key ingredient that made the previous phone such an appealing device.

Design

It just feels good. Keeping the same sleek, sturdy frame as its larger sibling, the smaller Idol 3 is much easier to grip. Elegant chrome edges line the flat, thin, rounded-rectangle handset. I like that its matte back effectively rejects fingerprints.

Credit: Jeremy Lips/Tom's GuideCredit: Jeremy Lips/Tom's GuideA microSIM card slot and power button sit on the left side, while a volume rocker is on the right. On the top and bottom edges are a 3.5mm audio jack and microUSB port, respectively. Most people would probably prefer the power button on the right and volume rocker on the left (well, at least righties would), but this is not a deal breaker.

Credit: Jeremy Lips/Tom's GuideCredit: Jeremy Lips/Tom's GuideThis is one of the daintiest phones for the money, measuring 5.2 x 2.6 x 0.3 inches. That's slimmer than the 0.45-inch Moto G (2015) and same as the 0.3-inch Blu Life One. The Blu is larger, though (5.6 x 2.8 x 0.3 inches). Weighing just 3.9 ounces, the Idol 3 4.7 is lighter than the 5.5-ounce Moto G and the 4.3-ounce Blu Life One.

Credit: Jeremy Lips/Tom's GuideCredit: Jeremy Lips/Tom's Guide

Specs

Carrier: Unlocked
Phone Display: 4.7 inches/1280 x 720
Operating System: Android 5.0
CPU: 1.2-GHz quad-core Snapdragon 410 MSM8916
RAM: 1.5GB
Internal Memory: 16GB
Cameras (Back/Front): 13 MP/5 MP
Size: 5.2 x 2.6 x 0.3 inches
Weight: 3.9 ounces

MORE: Best Smartphones on the Market Now

Display and Audio

Watching videos on the Idol 3's 4.7-inch, 1280 x 720 display felt slightly cramped, but you'll enjoy great colors and clarity nonetheless. I could easily make out individual lines on Matt Damon's weather-beaten face in a 1080p trailer for The Martian, and orange-brown sand on Mars looked vibrant. Viewing angles were limited, however, as images washed out when I tried to look at the screen from the sides. 

On our light meter, the Idol registered an impressive 571 nits, which is brighter than the average smartphone (402 nits), the Moto G (463 nits) and the Blu Life One (525 nits).

Reproducing 86.6 percent of the sRGB color gamut, the Idol 3 4.7 can't show as many colors as the average smartphone (117.4 percent). It also lost to the Moto G (103.3 percent) and the Blu (104.1 percent).

The Idol 3 4.7 fared better in rendering colors, notching a Delta-E error rating of 1.23 (closer to 0 is better). That's much more accurate than the average smartphone (3.43), but less accurate than the Moto G (0.85).

Thanks to its dual front-facing JBL speakers, the Idol 3 4.7 pumped out booming sound. Taylor Swift's voice was alluringly clear against the background instruments in "Wildest Dreams," but the music sounded hollow at max volume.

Software and Apps

The Idol 3 4.7's Android 5.0 Lollipop operating system is overlaid with Alcatel's own skin, which includes cute, colorful, rounded icons and animations. The icons seem a little too My First Smartphone, and the bright white background on the app menu is a little jarring compared to what you'll find on other Android phones.

However, I like that some folders and apps, such as Sound Recorder and Weather, open up within the home screen, so you don't have to open a whole new page. 

Alcatel has replaced some of the apps — such as Calendar, Contacts and Weather — with its own. The company also added a small selection of its own apps (that don't replace anything else), including File Transfer and the fun Mix music player that lets you combine tracks like a DJ. Similar to its big brother, the compact Idol 3 can flip its OS upside down to be used regardless of how you're holding it.

The usual Google apps such as Gmail, Chrome and Drive are all there, neatly tucked away in a folder, and no changes have been made to the notification panel or the lock screen.

Performance

Packing a quad-core 1.2-GHz Snapdragon 410 processor and 1.5GB of RAM, the Idol 3 4.7 was good enough for everyday use. I easily switched between a game of Does Not Commute and the home screen while the video player, browser, gallery, contacts and several other apps were open. The camera took a noticeable 2.0 seconds to launch, but it fired rapidly after starting.

MORE: Best Cheap Unlocked Smartphones

Scoring 1,437 on general performance test Geekbench 3, the Idol 3 4.7 trailed the average smartphone (2,608), the quad-core 1.4-GHz Snapdragon 410-armed Moto G (1,591) and the quad-core 1.2-GHz Snapdragon 410-backed Blu Life One (1,449).

In our real-world video-editing test, the Idol took a painfully long 15 minutes and 46 seconds to convert a 204MB, 1080p video to 480p in the VidTrim app. That's more than twice as long as the average smartphone (6:25), and significantly slower than the Blu (10:04) and the Moto G (8:24). 

The Idol 3 also fell short of the competition in graphics performance. On the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited test, the Idol 3 mustered 4,369. That's lower than the Moto G (4,467) and the Blu Life One (4,433).

Camera Performance

With the same 13-megapixel rear camera as its bigger brother, the Idol 3 4.7 shot clear, bright pictures. The blue sky and green awnings in my shots of Manhattan streets were vivid and accurate, and details such as street signs and windows on far-off buildings were tack sharp.

Credit: Cherlynn Low / Tom's GuideCredit: Cherlynn Low / Tom's GuideGreen broccoli and yellow lemons in a deli looked every bit as unappetizing as they did in real life.

Credit: Cherlynn Low / Tom's GuideCredit: Cherlynn Low / Tom's GuideThe camera struggled a little in low light. Pictures of my co-workers in a dark room were a little fuzzy and covered with noise. When the flash fired, the picture looked immensely better, and lit up details without overpowering the scene. I was impressed by the lack of red eyes in the shot.

Credit: Cherlynn Low / Tom's GuideCredit: Cherlynn Low / Tom's GuideThe 1080p video I shot of a Union Square farmers' market was smooth, vibrant and clear, with deep-green trees and bright red tomatoes. A shopper lifting a melon up and down was sharp and fluid.

Alcatel Onetouch Idol 3 4.7 video footage

Up front, the Idol's 5-MP camera shot colorful, sharp selfies, accurately rendering the blue shirt and pale skin of my two goofy friends. The images were slightly noisy, but were clear enough that you can make out the double eyelids of the friend in the background.

Alcatel adds a bunch of tools to the stock Camera app — such as HDR, Manual mode, face beautification and a QR code scanner — that make it much more powerful.

Battery Life

You might want to invest in a portable battery charger, because the Idol 3 4.7 won't last you all day. The Idol 3 4.7's 2000-mAh battery conked out after just 6 hours and 30 minutes on our battery test, which involves Web surfing over 4G LTE at 150 nits of screen brightness.

That's poorer than the average smartphone (8:18), the Blu Life One (7:49) and the Moto G (9:00). It's also shorter than the bigger Idol 3's 9:16 run time. 

Bottom Line

You'd never know at a glance that the Alcatel Onetouch Idol 3 4.7 costs just $180. The handsome, solid device offers a bright display, loud speakers and capable cameras that will please multimedia gluttons. Too bad the phone doesn't last long on a charge. Some may also prefer a more stock Android experience compared to Alcatel's cutesy skin.

Overall, we prefer the Moto G because it offers faster performance and longer battery life. But if you want your unlocked phones to be as light in your hand as they are on your wallet, the Idol 3 4.7 is worth a look.

Create a new thread in the Android Smartphones forum about this subject
This thread is closed for comments
No comments yet
Comment from the forums
    Your comment