Lightweight design and available in multiple colors; IPS display offers wide viewing angles; Relatively clean version of Android; Excellent audio quality
Lacks 4G LTE support; Short battery life; Display not HD
The One Touch Idol from Alcatel is a lightweight and capable contract-free Android phone, but its short battery life and lack of LTE disappoint.
Alcatel has built the One Touch Idol as a midrange phone for those who aren't fans of contracts. With an unsubsidized price of $299, this device features a thin and lightweight design with a 4.7-inch display, along with Android Jelly Bean. Does the One Touch Idol have the right touch for the money?
In addition to the silver version we had for our model, the One Touch Idol is available in a wide range of colors -- black, red, yellow, blue, green and pink -- making the Idol line about as colorful as the Nokia Lumia line of phones.
Both the Wake button and the 3.5mm headphone jack sit on the top rim of the device, with the SIM slot and the volume controls on the right edge. The left side of the One Touch Idol houses a microSD slot, while the microUSB port is on the bottom.
At 5.24 x 2.66 x 0.31 inches and 4 ounces, the One Touch Idol is roughly the same size as the Pantech Discover but is much lighter (4.8 ounces, 5.3 x 2.7 x 0.36 inches). At 5 ounces, the Google Nexus 4 is also heavier, and slightly bigger and thicker than the Idol, measuring 5.3 x 2.7 x 0.4 inches.
We found the device easy to use with one hand. We could reach the far corners of the screen without too much thumb stretching. We just wish the power button was on the right side of the handset instead of on the top.
On the plus side, the Idol's screen uses IPS technology, which enables wide viewing angles. When watching the "Man of Steel" trailer on YouTube, we could make out explosions easily when viewing the phone from the sides.
The brightness of the One Touch Idol measured 359 lux, which isn't as bright as the 471 lux on the HTC One VX or the 400 lux on the Pantech Discover, but is better than the 301 category average. We had no problems using the Idol outdoors in sunlight.
Somewhat surprisingly, the Alcatel One Touch Idol's back-mounted speaker produced high-quality audio. We played Macklemore's "Thrift Shop" and were impressed by the thumping bass and clear sounds of the saxophone riff. We switched to Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now" and could clearly make out the piano and vocals in the intro, as well as the rich chorus of sounds once Queen really gets going.
The speaker's location on the back of the phone, however, meant that setting the phone on a table faceup muffled the audio. We either had to hold the phone or set it on the counter facedown to get the best results.
Software and Interface
The One Touch Idol has capacitive buttons for Home, Back and Recent Apps, while the Nexus 4 features on-screen buttons. Other than that, the Android experience on the One Touch Idol is fairly pure, with a few cosmetic changes, such as rounded icons for apps and quick settings toggles in the notification drawer for things like Airplane Mode and Volume Settings.
There are five home screens that can be filled with apps and widgets, but unlike on skinned versions of Android, unused screens cannot be removed. A Google search bar is always available, no matter what home screen is showing, and includes a small Microphone button for voice searching.
The One Touch Idol supports live wallpapers, as well as video wallpapers for home-screen backgrounds, in addition to regular gallery images. We were able to choose a video that we had shot of passing traffic on the street and use it as our background. This feature looked really cool but negatively affected the phone's battery life until we switched back to a still gallery image.
Additionally, the One Touch Idol includes the SwiftKey 3 keyboard, which offers word suggestions to finish your sentences, and the Swype keyboard, which allows input through swiping through words.
The One Touch Idol didn't offer the best performance on the Quadrant benchmark test (measuring CPU, graphics and I/O performance); it clocked 3,018 against the category average of 4,040. The Google Nexus 7 -- with a 1.5-GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro and 2GB of RAM -- scored a 4,670, and the Pantech Discover (1.5-GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 CPU and 1GB of RAM) did even better, with 5,440.
The AnTuTu benchmark had similar results, with the One Touch Idol scoring 6,431 against a category average of 14,094. The Idol got a 778 on the Geekbench test, underperforming the 2,121 of the Nexus 7 and well below the 5,719 average.
The One Touch Idol performed well on the AN3DBench test, scoring 7,404 against a category average of 7,194. The Pantech Discover scored just a 7,067, and the Google Nexus 4 got 7,318. The 3DMark Ice Storm benchmark, which also measures graphics, would not run on the Idol.
We played "Riptide GP," a Jet Ski racing game, and didn't notice any performance issues. Both the water tides and the other racers looked fluid as we raced around the track. When we switched to the more graphic-intensive "Super Monsters Ate My Condo," the phone's limitations started to show; the game stuttered but was still playable.
3G and Web
During our real-world testing from Manhattan, NYTimes.com loaded in 8.5 seconds, ESPN.com in 9.2 seconds and Laptopmag.com in 7.8 seconds. All of these times are reasonable, but you'll notice more of a difference compared to 4G LTE devices when downloading songs, movies and apps.
The One Touch Idol only has 4GB of storage space, which doesn't leave much room for movies and music or other apps. Fortunately, the Idol supports microSD cards up to 32GB.
Camera and Camcorder
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The 8-MP camera on the One Touch Idol provided decent-quality photos, but some subtle details didn't look as sharp as we wanted. We took a picture of some buildings in New York City and found it difficult to make out the beautiful detailing at the top and bottom of the pillars in the windows. In another photo, a water tower's planks blurred together. Colors appeared accurate, but none of the pictures really popped.
The 720p video captured by the One Touch Idol also lacked detail. We recorded traffic flowing down a street in Manhattan, and edges looked soft and ill-defined in both moving cars and the still buildings in the background. A lack of image stabilization made the clip slightly jumpy, despite our best efforts to hold the phone still.
One cool camera feature on the One Touch Idol is the ability to pause recordings by holding down the Shutter button. This allowed us to take Vine-like videos, changing to different shots or locations and getting one stitched-together clip.
Battery Life and Call Quality
Call quality was decent on the One Touch Idol during calls to both a landline and another smartphone. The caller on the other end also reported good audio quality, although the noise of a busy street could still be heard in the background.
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|Phone Display Size||4.7|
|Form Factor||Candy Bar|
|Operating System||Android 4.1|
|Networks||GSM Quadband.1900/850/1800/900 UMTS 900/2100 UMTS 850/1900/2100|
|CPU||1-GHz Dual Core MT6577|
|Processor Family||MediaTek MT6577|
|Memory Expansion Type||microSD Card|
|Display (main)||4.7" qHD|
|Bluetooth Type||Bluetooth 4.0|
|Front Camera Resolution||2MP|
|Camera Resolution||8 MP|
|Audio formats supported||AMR WB|
|Audio formats supported||AAC+|
|Audio formats supported||AAC|
|Audio formats supported||WMV|
|Audio formats supported||MP3|
|Audio formats supported||MIDI|
|Audio formats supported||eAAC+|
|Video formats supported||H.264|
|Video formats supported||H.263|
|Video formats supported||MPEG-4|
|Talk / Standby Time||3 hours 12 minutes/415 hours|
|Size||5.24 x 2.66 x 0.31 inches|
|SAR Rating (Head)|
|SAR Rating (Body)|