We live in a world right now where smartphones are expensive. Absurdly expensive. Normally an all around decent phone with good specs, a good camera, and a nice screen will cost you at least $300. In some cases, that still doesn’t get you things like a 1080p display or good speakers. Those are usually saved for flagships. Generally a flagship runs you several hundred dollars. But what if you could buy a phone that only cost a fraction of that price, but could still bring a decent experience to the table? That’s exactly what you get in the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3. This $250 smartphone brings just about everything I want in a phone to the table, and it’s actually pretty awesome.
- 5.5” Inch 1080p IPS Display
- Octa-Core Snapdragon 615 Processor
- 16GB Internal Storage (w/ microSD expansion)
- 2GB RAM
- Android 5.0 Lollipop
- 2,910 mAh Battery (non-removable)
- 13MP Rear Camera
- 8MP Front Camera
- GSM: 850/900/1800/1900
- UMTS: B 850/1700/1900/2100
- LTE Bands:B 2/4/5/7/12/17
Hardware & Design
When it comes to hardware, most phones in this price range are all glossy plastic and don’t look too great. The Idol 3 however breaks that trend. It’s got a clean front panel with speakers flanking the top and bottom. The sides of the phone have chrome accents similar to the Galaxy S5, but with a strip of soft touch black plastic in the center to improve the look and feel in hand. The back of the phone has a gray brushed metal appearance, but is of course plastic. This is easily comparable to the LG G3. The design is actually very appealing to the eye and you could easily mistake this for a flagship phone. In fact, there’s nothing on the outside that identifies as a “cheap” phone and that’s just wonderful.
Unlike most other low-cost plastic phones, the Idol 3 is fairly well put together. Everything feels sturdy and there’s little to no creaking in the plastic. The phone is also shockingly light for it’s size. When I first picked up the device I immediately felt as though it was completely hollow. This really shocked me, and I have to say, I’m impressed. Overall I’d say the hardware on the Idol 3 will certainly not disappoint you.
Software & Performance
For software, Alcatel OneTouch decided to go with a near-stock Android Lollipop build. That was definitely a wise choice as the phone is fairly speedy thanks to that. The phone certainly has dropped frames from time to time and some apps are slow to open, but for the most part, I don’t find myself having any big issues with performance. Multitasking is just a bit slow for my taste, but it’s nothing I can’t live with.
As for the software itself, there’s not a ton to talk about. For the most part it’s stock Android, with a few enhancements. For example, the lock screen has extra shortcuts to access the calculator, play music through the stock music player, take a selfie, have quick access to a contact, or scan a QR code. A handful of apps (bloatware) are also included which include office software, a sound recorder, a note taking apps, a compass and an Anti-Virus suite. Facebook and Twitter also come pre-installed. For the most part, these included apps don’t take away from your experience, and a few are things you may have download on your own.
The quick settings menu also got some added options including WiFi display (Miracast), a quick hotspot option, and inverting colors.
One of the more interesting additions made to the Idol 3 is that the phone is reversible. That means no matter which way you pick up the phone, you’ll be holding it the right way up. On the front the speakers on both the top and bottom can act as earpieces and both locations have microphones for having phone calls. The phone is designed completely symmetrical on the top and bottom and weighted the same on both.
Overall, the software on the Idol 3 is decent. There’s not much to complain about, but at the same time there’s not a ton that stands out. The performance is average, but I can’t expect much more at the same time.
When it comes to the camera on a low cost phone. I’ve never expected much. That’s why I was shocked when I found out the Idol 3 had a 13MP Sony camera. Once I finally got my chance to test out the camera, I was very pleased with the results. For the most part shots lined up with the quality of the shots taken on my Nexus 6. While that might not be out-of-this-world, it is pretty impressive for a low-cost device. Below are some shots taken on the Idol 3.
As for the display, the Idol 3 packs a 5.5” inch, 1080p IPS panel. This display gets very bright which is great for outdoor use, and dim enough for use at night. Viewing angles are good as well. While it’s not the best panel ever, it gets the job done and it gets it done well. I don’t have any complaints about the display on the Idol 3.
Speakers & Headphones
In my opinion every phone and tablet should have front facing speakers. I’m not the only one who feels that way and Alcatel OneTouch has heard that message loud and clear. On the Idol 3 we have two front facing speakers on the top and bottom of the device that are powered by JBL audio. The speakers are not exactly Boomsound, but they are still pretty decent. They don’t get too loud, but the volume is sufficient for most environments. The audio isn’t amazing, but it’s certainly miles ahead of any rear mounted speaker. Needless to say, the Idol 3 surpasses a lot of other budget, mid-range, and even flagship phones just by moving the location of the speakers and to that I give them a lot of credit.
On a side note, the Idol 3 also includes a set of JBL earbuds in the box which are pretty good. Audio is pretty crisp and clear through the earbuds and I don’t have any complaints. It’s always great to see a pair of earbuds in the box with your new smartphone and it’s even better when they are actually pretty good.
Last but not least let’s talk about the battery life on the Idol 3. It’s pretty good. Generally I could get through a day with ease and with some battery life left. The battery life isn’t mind-blowing, but it’s pretty good. Some days I didn’t use the phone a ton, and the standby time impressed me. I could leave the phone off the charger for about 12 hours, use it for about an hour (screen on time) and end up with only a mere 30% of my battery missing.
Final Thoughts – Is It Worth Buying?
So in the end, the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 is a mid-range phone that brings the power, speed, camera, and experience that you would want in a good phone and it does all of this for an astoundingly low price point of just $250. Even after spending some time with this device, I’m still trying to wrap my brain around how this price point was achieved without compromising somewhere, but I can’t seem to figure it out.
Without a doubt I can say that if you have $250 to spend on an unlocked Android smartphone you cannot go wrong with the Idol 3 and it’s easily one of the best choices on the market for the price point. This is a statement I can easily standby.
Editors Note: The score below is in comparison to flagship devices and low end devices.