Oct 23 AT 2:06 PM Brooks Barnard 0 Comments

The Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 4.7: the little budget phone that could


Alcatel OneTouch is doing its best to stir things up in the budget/unlocked phone market. Hardware for mobile is getting to the point where budget no longer means poor performance. Just a couple of years ago, I would never have recommended anyone buy a budget device. In my opinion, the poor experience that went along with budget phones and 2-year contracts made the low cost just not worth it. Now, with phones like Alcatel OneTouch’s Idol 3 line on the market, you not only get a good phone for the price (and off-contract), but you’re getting a phone that’s highly competitive in many areas.

The Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 4.7 was announced back in January at MWC. It was announced along with its bigger sibling, the Idol 3 5.5. We reviewed the Idol 3 5.5 back in April and gave it high marks for a budget device. The 4.7 and 5.5 Idol 3 variants have a lot in common. In fact, they look identical except for the size. Under the hood, though, they’re different. Will it make big enough difference to hamper the overall experience? That’s what we’re here to find out.

We’ve had the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 4.7 in hand for longer than we probably should have. We used it on the AT&T network in San Francisco Bay Area and Central Valley of California. I used it as my personal device. Below is my review of the Idol 3 4.7.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

1. Hardware

Hardware separates the Idol 3 4.7 from the 5.5. In just about all aspects, the 4.7 has lower specs than the 5.5. Some of it may not matter, like display resolution and battery, because of the smaller size, but the processor may matter. This is a beef I have with smaller phones. I really wish we could get a small phone with great specs. Regardless, the Idol 3 4.7 matches up well with the competition in the market with phones that are comparable in size. Compared to the 5.5, the Idol 3 4.7 has a lower resolution display, a smaller battery, fewer cores and lower clock speed, less RAM, and a lower resolution front-facing camera. The Idol 3 4.7 is also $70 cheaper than the 5.5, so maybe we’re just getting what we’re paying for.

  • Height: 5.3 in (134.6 mm)
  • Width: 2.6 in (65.9 mm)
  • Depth: 0.3 in (7.55 mm)
  • 4.7-inch 1080p (312 ppi) IPS LCD display
  • Weight: 3.88 oz (110 g)
  • Non-removable 2000mAh lithium ion battery
  • 1.5 GB RAM/16 GB ROM (10 GB usable) with a microSD card slot
  • Qualcomm MSM8916 quad-core 1.2GHz CPU
  • 13 MP rear camera, 5 MP front camera
  • Micro SIM, EAP SIM, Dual SIM available
  • Bands: GSM Quad (850/900/1800/1900), UMTS 850/1700/1900/2100, HSPA+ 42Mbps Downlink, 5.76Mbps Uplink, LTE FDD: B2/4/5/7/12/17
  • Dual front-firing JBL speakers

2. Design

To discuss the design of the Idol 3 4.7, I’m going to steal some of the text from my review of the 5.5. I’m doing this because things that looked or felt awkward or different to me when I first got the 5.5 don’t feel that way to me now because I’m accustomed to it now. The Idol 3 4.7 and 5.5 look identical except for their size. So my thoughts on the Idol 3 5.5 apply to the 4.7 apply, except for when I discussed my issues with the size, which I’ll obviously specifically discuss for the 4.7 here.

At first glance, I found the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 5.5 to look a bit odd. It has a simple slab design with chrome corners and a funny lip on the bottom and top of the front on the device. Then I realized why I felt that way: the dual front speakers. Interestingly, Alcatel OneTouch has designed the Idol 3 (4.7 and 5.5) to be used right side up or upside-down. Except for the noticeable front-facing camera (5MP on the 4.7), the device looks basically identical whether upside-down or not, so why not make it work upside-down? In the quick settings menu, there’s a toggle to allow the “Reversible” use of the device. I think it’s an interesting feature that some could easily find useful.

The dual front speakers may be one of my favorite OneTouch Idol 3 features. It’s an interesting design choice to have the glass end before the speakers at each end of the front of the device. The device then steps down at each end for the speakers. I’ve never seen another phone designed this way, and I’m not sure it’s the prettiest way to get the job done, but I think Alcatel OneTouch did the job well. The look has grown on me and I’d take it all day if it meant that I’d have the dual front speakers.

One of my biggest complaints I had with the Idol 3 5.5 was the slipperiness of its back. I had issue with this because of the phone’s size, which made one-handed operation of the device dangerous. If I tried to one-hand it, I always felt like the phone could just slip out of my hands and the display would shatter. These issues could be solved with skins or cases that are now available for the 5.5, or by buying the 4.7-inch variant.

I love the size of the Idol 3 4.7. I love that it’s small and is easy to grip and use with one hand. The back is still slippery like the 5.5 variant, but because of how it can be held, that’s no longer an issue.

When I reviewed the Idol 3 5.5, I thought the power and volume button layout is weird. Since then, I’ve used several different phones with all different button configurations. I no longer feel like there’s a normal. If the Idol 3 has a different layout than your current or old phone, you’ll quickly get used to it and it will become the new normal.

Another strange design choice with the Idol 3 phones is the placement of the microUSB port: It’s not centered on the bottom of the phone. Instead, it’s placed to the right of the phone on the bottom. That means if you have a dock on your nightstand or in your car, charging the device may not be possible or may become very awkward. I don’t feel like that’s a deal breaker, just keep it in mind if you’re buying accessories along with your Idol 3.

3. Build Quality

Here’s how I review build quality: Does the phone creak or make noises when I use it? Are the buttons tactile and responsive? Is it made of quality materials? The Idol 3′s sides and back are plastic, but it’s as solid as plastic devices come. I’ve not noticed any creaking. The buttons are nice and tactile, and using them feels nice.

The Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 is not made of “exotic” materials, but it feels solid and comfortable in the hand. There’s nothing about the build that makes the Idol 3 stand out from the crowd, though, so it gets an average grade here.

4. Display

The Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 4.7 has a 4.7-inch IPS LCD 720p display. In a world of 2k and 4k displays, 720p feels like it’s way behind in specs. But in my opinion, there’s a point where resolution stops mattering, and 312 pixels per inch is absolutely adequate. Like the Idol 3 5.5, the display can get super bright and viewing angles are great. It does well in direct sunlight, too. Alcatel OneTouch credits the display quality to its Technicolor IPS display.

As for colors on the Idol 3 4.7 display, compared to my Nexus 6 and its AMOLED display technology, the blacks aren’t as black. However, the whites on my Nexus 6 are more yellowish and the colors are more saturated than the Idol 3. These are pretty standard differences between the AMOLED and IPS LCD technology the phone uses.

Overall, you won’t be disappointed with the Idol 3 4.7’s display. It’s right on par with the competition is the size range. The Idol 3 even has a little higher pixel density due to the smaller display size compared to the Moto G (3rd Gen).

5. Software

Another category in which Alcatel OneTouch did things right is software. The Idol 3 comes with Android Lollipop, version 5.0.2. Very few changes have been made to stock Lollipop: Stock app icons like the dialer and contacts have been themed, but with a simple, rounded corner look. Google apps and pre-installed apps like Facebook and Twitter are not themed. Interestingly, the 5.5 came with apps like Evernote and WhatsApp, but the 4.7 does not.

A really interesting touch regarding icon themes are with the calendar and clock apps: The calendar icon displays the correct calendar day and the clock displays the current time. Another item to note is that pre-installed apps like Twitter or Facebook can be deleted so that they’re not stuck on your device taking up valuable space if you don’t use them. Like the Idol 3 5.5, the 4.7 comes with 16GB of memory, and after the OS and all the other goodies, we’re left with about 10GB of usable space. As of this writing,  my Idol 3 4.7 has 6.13 GB of space left. So it’s nice to have the option to get rid of those pre-installed apps if you’re not using them. I’m already using most of the pre-installed apps, like Facebook and Twitter. Alcatel OneTouch also includes some interesting apps of its own, like Mix for some turntable fun times.

The Idol 3′s lock screen is basically stock, save for quick launch buttons near the bottom of the lock screen. The lock screen has the standard Lollipop phone and camera quick launch icons at the bottom corners, but it includes up to 5 extra quick launch icons. These can be turned off or configured in their own category in the settings menu. Configuring the quick launch tasks in the settings requires a long press on the “Func” setting within the Lock Screen settings. The actual changing of the tasks is not as simple as it could be, but I love that it can be customized. These quick launchable tasks include Selfie, Calculator, New Message, Add a Contact and more.

Another cool Idol 3 feature that I love is double-tap-to-wake. The function does seem improved over what I experienced during my Idol 3 5.5 review. Again, I think all phones should have a tap-to-wake function. It’s simple and makes sense. You’ll love it if you’ve never had it before.

When Alcatel OneTouch announced the Idol 3s back in March, the company felt it important to mention that the phones could be used upside down, which is an interesting feature. Many functions of the Idol 3 can be used upside down, including phone calls. This feature can be toggled in the quick settings as well as in the settings menu. The animation it uses to flip the home screen can even be changed. This is a feature that I think hardware and software design have come together well to make something new and useful. The only issue I ran into with using the device upside down is with the buttons — they’re only on the upper portion of the device — but I think the real beauty of the reversible phone is then you’re quickly pulling the device out of your pocket or bag to answer it and it doesn’t matter if it’s right side up or upside-down. Plus, tap-to-wake makes it so it doesn’t matter where the power button is.

One software item of business that needs to be talked about is updates. I’ve heard nothing from Alcatel OneTouch that they will be updating their phones to Android 6.0 Marshmallow. But Alcatel has given their word they are committed to updates and they’ve kept their word. With the 5.5, they’ve already dropped several performance updates, and hopefully we’ll continue to see the same support for the 4.7.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

6. Performance

On paper, the Idol 3 4.7 hardware isn’t going to blow you away. It doesn’t have as many cores or GHz as the 5.5, nor is it even close to the hardware that today’s flagships have under the hood. Compared to the Moto G (3rd Gen), it has the exact same CPU but clocked a bit slower. But the hardware names and numbers mean nothing if it can’t perform.

When we reviewed the Idol 3 5.5, we had an amazing experience with the device. Performance was great and we were very impressed. However, as soon as the device was released, we heard from reputable sources that there were performance issues. However, Alcatel OneTouch have demonstrated commitment to their devices by releasing multiple updates with intent to improve performance. I would expect similar support for the 4.7.

So how does the 4.7 perform? I think it’s done pretty darn well. I did a fair share of gaming on the device, and Granny Smith and Need for Speed Most Wanted ran admirably without lag. I may have experienced skipped frames, but to me that’s a non-issue compared to lag. The device is obviously fresh and not as loaded with apps as my personal Nexus 6, but in the time that I’ve had the Idol 3 4.7, performance has been respectable. For the price you’ll be happy.

7. Call Quality and Audio

Audio on the Idol 3 5.5 blew me away. I love the dual front-firing JBL speakers and feel like they closely rival what the Nexus 6 offers in terms of volume output and quality. So I had high expectations for the 4.7.

As I expressed in my initial impressions, I haven’t been blown away by the front firing speakers on the Idol 3 4.7. The front-firing speakers get loud, but they’re definitely more tinny. I don’t remember this issue with the Idol 3 5.5, but I had just gotten the Nexus 6 then. Comparing the sound to the now $300ish Nexus 6 with dual front speakers, the Nexus 6 clearly sounds better. Regardless of quality, dual front-firing speakers still offer a great media consumption experience, whether you’re watching a movie or gaming. The JBL speakers will still blow away most phone speakers out there. It’s how all phones should be made.

Similar to my experience with the 5.5, call quality on the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 4.7 is average. I could understand the people I was talking to and they could understand me. It gets the job done comfortably.

8. Camera

The Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 4.7 packs the same 13MP camera as the 5.5. I’ve been mostly impressed with the camera on the Idol 3. I love how fast it snaps pictures, and a lot of the built in features in the camera app go beyond what stock Android offers. These are features like manual mode, time-lapse, QR scanner and burst shot.

In summary from my 5.5 review, I love the speed at which the Idol 3 can snap pictures. It’s great for snapping pictures of kids, and it performs well in good lighting conditions. It’s okay in non-optimal lighting conditions. I wish it had optical image stabilization. For the price (like most of the features on the Idol 3), I’m impressed.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

9. Battery Life

The Idol 3 4.7 has a non-removable 2000mAh battery. That’s almost 1000mAh less than the 5.5, but the 4.7 also has a smaller display and a lower performance processor. So, the battery life is once again pretty good for this Idol 3. It will last you through the day with moderate use. I’m a pretty heavy phone user and the Idol 3 4.7 easily lasted me into the evening.

10. Extras

Like the Idol 3 5.5, the 4.7 packs JBL headphones into its tiny box. My $650 Nexus 6 didn’t come with headphones, but many high-end phones will. I think the entire package that you get with the Idol 3 4.7 is very impressive for $179.99. Headphones, a phone with great features like the dual front firing speakers and a really great software experience make me give the Idol 3 4.7 a good rating here.

Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 4.78 / 10

Overall, I’m pretty tickled about the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 4.7. It’s a tiny phone with a big name. I’ve given it a pretty darn good score. The question I’m asking myself now is, “Would I actually buy one for myself?”

The answer is, probably not. Why? Well, I am a very heavy phone user. I have so many apps and junk on my Nexus 6 that it’s running absolutely terribly right now with its 3GB of RAM and Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor. The Idol 3 4.7 has ran beautifully over the time that I’ve reviewed it and used it as my daily driver, but I probably have a fraction of the apps that I have on my Nexus 6. It just concerns me as a heavy Android/phone user that this phone won’t be able to keep up with me, because I really haven’t found a phone that is able to keep up with me yet anyway.

Would I recommend this phone to anyone? Absolutely. It’s $179 unlocked. You can be contract-free and take it to any GSM carrier. If you’re just using your phone for basic functions like calls, email, internet browsing and Angry Birds, this phone is right up your alley. If you think large phones are the worst, this is definitely a phone you should consider. I don’t like the size of my Nexus 6, and if you could pack today’s high-end hardware in a phone the size of the Idol 3 4.7, I would be all over it. Another phone I would consider in the same range is the Motorola Moto G that can be upgraded to 2 GB of RAM, but I haven’t reviewed that phone myself and can’t say much about how it compares. Also, for not much more money, there’s the Idol 3 5.5.

So, what I’m trying to say is this: Think of the kind of phone user you are, and then think about if this phone does it for you. If so, you can pick up the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 on Amazon or AlcatelOneTouch.us, with orders fulfilled by Amazon, for the low price of $179.99. I’ve had a great time with the phone. It’s size is so refreshing, and I’m going to miss it when I send it back to Alcatel.

What are your thoughts on the Idol 3 4.7? I know a few of our readers already have one. Let us know what you think of the device or if you’re thinking about buying one. Also let us know if you have any questions by commenting below.

Brooks is an engineer living in the Bay Area recently dislocated from the Great Northwest. He's an Android enthusiast who decided to start doing something (productive?) with his countless hours Android modding and theming. He has a hot wife, is a father of three, an avid F1 fan, and enjoys watching sports when he can. His current devices include the Nexus 6 and 7 (2103) both running stock roms and may or may not be rooted. You can follow Brooks on Twitter @Brooks_Barnard.

    Most Tweeted This Week