Alcatel OneTouch Idol X review

6.1

Daniel Bader

March 27, 2014 9:32 pm

The idea of a smartphone as a tool — a blade, a shovel and a pen — has largely been lost in the era of Candy Crush and Twitter. Since not everyone can afford a high-end device, the chasm between “phone-as-utility” and “phone-as-fun” has created two disparate and opposing sides to the regime. It’s especially true of the Android ecosystem, where until a year ago the difference between a $100 and $600 device was akin to using a completely different operating system.

Companies like Alcatel One Touch are looking to disavow that notion by releasing seemingly high-end devices for under $300. Idol X, the company’s flagship for North America, has on paper few compromises for a $250 Android handset, but dig deeper and you realize there are a few important areas of sacrifice. Alcatel One Touch uses the phone’s size and resolution to convey a premium marketing message, but is it worth choosing over some other similarly-priced handsets? Let’s take a look.


Specs

  • Android 4.2.2 w/ custom skin
  • 5-inch 1920×1080 pixel IPS display
  • 1.5Ghz MediaTek MT6589+ SoC w/ PowerVR SGX544 GPU
  • 2GB RAM / 8GB internal storage (plus microSD)
  • 13MP rear camera, 2MP front-facing camera
  • WiFi (b/g/n), Bluetooth 4.0, A-GPS
  • 140.4 x 67.5 x 6.9 mm
  • 130 grams
  • 2,000mAh non-removable battery

alcatelonetouchidolx-1

What Works

The right-out-of-the-box impression of the Idol X is largely positive: it is slim, light and well-built, with a soft-touch backing that reminds me of the Nexus 5. The 5-inch 1080p screen is vivid and bright, though viewing angles are mediocre and colour accuracy is well off; the IPS display appears to have been calibrated by a blind robot.

Without studying its idiosyncrasies, there is no indication that the Idol X is less than half the price of a flagship Samsung or HTC device: it feels excellent in the hand, has a network of push tabs for accessing the storage and SIM slots from which competitors like Sony could borrow a few ideas. The three-button capacitive navigation scheme takes a page not from Samsung but LG, whose LG Optimus G placed the menu button to the right of home, with the back button to the far left.

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When the screen is on and the OS working, it’s easy to tolerate Alcatel One Touch’s inoffensive Android skin, built on OS 4.2.2. Aside from a few garish icon choices, there is little to be amazed at, or surprised by; there is a useful four-app shortcut system on the lock screen that takes you to either the phone dialler, messaging app, camera, or straight into the home screen. Many of the interface specifics seem to have been cribbed directly from a second-hand idea of Samsung’s TouchWIZ, but this was an accusation I levelled at LG with the G2, a company with absolutely no reason to be copying its Korean counterpart. And I’ll give AOT bonus points for not bothering with its own keyboard; Swype is pre-installed on the Idol X, a decision that many other manufacturers should copy.

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I’ll also go easy on the fact that the Idol X takes decent photos from its 13MP camera, and performance should suffice for the average user. It by no means comes close to the equivalent quality of the Samsung Galaxy S4 or LG G2, both of which have sensors of similar megapixel counts, but there are some bright spots to be found. Colours, though muted, are relatively accurate, and the software is quickly able to adjust the exposure and contrast to suit a particular scene. It’s in the details, literally, that the Idol X’s camera performance falls apart: there’s a ton of distortion and grain in each shot, and the shutter is relatively slow compared to its competitors.

Battery life from the non-removable 2,000 mAh cell was also relatively good, too, but this comes at a price, that we’ll talk about in the next section. I was able to get a decent amount of uptime from the Idol X, though pushing the smartphone is more difficult than one with a more modern processor.

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What Needs Work

Where to start? On paper, the “1.5Ghz quad-core processor” sounds quite impressive, since most modern devices have a similar spec sheet. But digging deeper finds that processor to be the MediaTek MT6589+, a now-ancient system on a chip running four Cortex-A7 cores. Even worse is the Imagination Tech PowerVR SGX544 graphics chip, which was long in the tooth two years ago.

Screenshot 2014-03-20 10.11.25

In benchmarks that are merely CPU-intensive, the Idol X fares alright; in GPU-heavy benchmarks, like the all-rounder AnTuTu suite, the Idol X’s chipset really shows its age. It’s not only in benchmarks, either, that the Idol X struggles: this $250 device feels sluggish all over. Whether it’s navigating through the home screens or loading apps or watching movies, the device constantly feels like it’s on the verge of depleting its virtual breath. It looks pretty, but it’s all for naught when you actually want to use it.

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The other main issue for Canadian audiences is that the Idol X lacks any sort of LTE connectivity; it does support DC-HSPA+ on Bell’s network (where available), but the majority of Canadians will be stuck with 21Mbps HSPA+. I averaged 3-5Mbps down and 0.5-2Mbps up depending on the time of day and location — fine, but nothing to be laud these days. The device also lacks 5Ghz WiFi and comes standard with a chintzy 8GB of storage.

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Conclusions

This isn’t going to be one of those times where I end with, “…but the good parts make up for the bad.” The AOT Idol X is a nice-looking phone that provides a decent screen and an inoffensive Android skin. But its processing capabilities are appalling, which would be fine if it didn’t bring down the rest of the experience. Using the Idol X is like running with boulders strapped to your legs, so unless you’re on a strict budget, avoid it. Bell sells the Nexus 5, a far superior device, for the same price, $0, on a 2-year term, and it’s only $100 more when purchased off-contract at Google Play.

Alcatel One Touch likely saw the tepid response the Idol X would receive, as it’s already followed it up with the Idol X+, the same device with a much faster processor. That speaks volumes.

The Alcatel One Touch Idol X is available at Bell for $0 on a 2-year term and $250 outright.

6.1

Final Score

8

Design

6

Software

7

Display

4

Performance

7

Build Quality

6

Camera

6

Connectivity

7

Battery Life

  • unregistered

    We need more phones like this to shake up the monopolized market

    • sicsicpuppy

      Not like this one …..no

    • cartfan88

      We need more carriers like _________ to shake up the monopolized market. Sorta fixed it for you. In Android world there is great selection at decent price points already for phones.

    • Tyrone_83

      No we don’t my Alcatel One Touch M’Pop broken on me within a month with constant reboots and locks. You should not have to get a new phone to replace a broken one that quickly Messaged them on Facebook and Twitter for help and I haven’t even got one reply back. Worst customer service.

  • Jor Jero

    Nice review Dan. Phone looks sexy until you start browsing with it! Thanks for the info.

  • Frederick Edwards

    Please hire some UI designers Alcatel. The UI is so downright ugly. Especially when the first thing you see when activating this device is a menu that looks a windows 3.1 status window. And the included screen protector didn’t fit the screen :/

  • Just A Thought

    “Alcatel One Touch likely saw the tepid response the Idol X would receive, as it’s already followed it up with the Idol X+, the same device with a much faster processor. That speaks volumes.”
    I Wish I Could Argue This, But Its Correct. As Many Companies Follow This EXACT Model, Primarily Samsung. As We Have Seen Galaxy After Galaxy Been Out Classed Year By Year By Small Spec Differences. As Can Be Said With Apple. To See This As A Down Fall Is Justified, Its Not Often Enough Devices Get Updated And Are Built To Last.
    That Being Said, It’s A 250.00 Device. And I’m Sure If You Put A Newer Android On It, It Would Improve Your Experience.

    • Comrade Yeti

      Why Do You Capitalize Each Word?

    • Just A Thought

      Bad Habit, It’s Actually Tough For Me To Type Without Having My Pinky On The Shift Key Haha. But, Good Observation.

  • KrispyInTO

    This is still a decent phone if you want something similar to high end but cheap, although for $100 more your better of with a nexus 5. This would make a good back up phone if you broke your flagship and need something to hold you over for a bit.

    • Arshad Kazi

      Or for $50 less you can get the much much better Motorola Moto G.

    • Netuser2014

      Is Moto G better then this ? I need to buy a mid range phone for my parents, who dont play games, it will be just for call and Skype/viber

    • Arshad Kazi

      Way better, in fact it is better than the Samsung Galaxy S3! It’s got a longer battery life with a better processor. Google kept the cost low on the Moto G by not including the wall charger and headphones but included the MicroUSB cable. Google also only gave it a 5MP camera with flash instead of the 8MP camera that other phones came with and only 8GB of built-in memory. It does come with built-in FM radio. Regardless, it’s the perfect phone for seniors and parents alike if they’re only gonna be using it as a phone and the occasional Skype/Viber calls, with lots of headroom still left. It won the Product of the Year at the 2013 TrustedReviews Awards, Best Budget Handset Award, and so many more. Did I mention that it’s also water resistant?

    • Bri Bru

      Moto G is water resistant?? wow didn’t know that one.

    • Sam Wiggans

      I would truly prefer the S3 over the Moto G, and that is coming from someone who is in no way a fan of Samsung. I have owned both the Moto G and the S3, though. Just my opinion

  • Ray Riggz

    hey just want to correct something. The nexus 5 on bell you still require a data plan to get it at the $0 pricing while the Alcatel does not require data to get it at $0.

    With all of it’s shortcomings the Alcatel is a great device for someone who is not planning on using data and especially when it’s being sold next to the Samsung Galaxy Ace II

  • cartfan88

    Great phone for people new to Android to experience the laggy unpolished nature of the OS and hardware from a few years ago. Seriously this is where Google could and should have mandated minimum standards for performance going forward. The moto g was a great example of what the base Android phone should be in 2014 at an affordable price.

  • Nokiapilot

    I feel this review is a bit unfair to the phone for its price point. Barring the nexus 5 from the play store, which a lot of people can’t or won’t order, this phone offers more value than anything else in the Canadian market.

    My girlfriend has one and plays basic games with no issue, only in 3d racing games can you notice a heavy frame drop. Otherwise this phone doesn’t have serious performance issues. Yes for someone coming from a very recent high end Android phone or a Windows phone it will seem to stutter in basic use, but that’s not who this phone is for. For those who think the moto g has a better processor think again. It has the quad core a7 snapdragon 400, not the krait dual core. So comparable power with a lower resolution screen will make it seem like a faster phone.

    Anyways all I’m trying to get at is this phone is a great choice for anyone looking for an inexpensive large screen phone who doesn’t want to sign an expensive contract, and mobilesyrup should be looking out for Canadian consumers better than telling them to look elsewhere for more expensive options.

  • stevedion

    The Daewoo of smartphones. Junk.

    • Cheeth H

      U r the daewoo of assholes

  • isThisPhoneblocks

    My gf has this phone, the only complaint is constant drops in wireless.
    Really annoying. She has 3G and Wireless on and they seem to toggle a lot.
    This happens with various access points and not only at home.
    Not sure if it is a software bug or a receiver problem.

  • blzd

    Compared to the Moto G for $200 or so this has no reason for existing. Though to be fair that could be said for the majority of phones in this price bracket.

  • ScooterinAB

    Good review. I spoke with a sales rep for Alcatel and she said very much the same. The phone isn’t meant to compete with the Samsungs and HTCs. Rather, the phone is marketed for kids, teens, and those migrating towards a smartphone. While definately a slower, less polished phone, it’s still capable of doing all of those basic smartphone things at a low price (even if bought in term, due to tier pricing).

  • James Cody

    I’ve been using this handset since it was launched and it has served me well. Download speeds are constant and considering the lack of late in my area, quite satisfactory. I’ve yet to feel any sluggishness from the processor during normal use, I.e. talk/text/browsing. Voice quality is excellent – superior to the s3 it replaced. The loss of wireless may be attributed to the battery saving setting that cuts the data connection when the phone goes idle. Regarding the limited storage of 8 gigs – that’s the same amount as the Moto G sold in Canada. It should be noted the idol x can accept a 32 gig micro sd card. That … the Moto g does not do.

  • RS

    both my parents were just sold on this phone. i’m fine with the specs/performance but i’m more concerned about the quality. I would have rather they bought the nexus 5’s (although somebody mentioned that you require a data plan for them). Can anybody comment on alcatel’s history of quality?