Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 Review: A solid budget smartphone
The Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 packs a lot of value into a mid-priced smartphone, but it's still very much a budget offering.
Alcatel OneTouch plays exclusively in the budget space, and primarily in the kinds of phones that you find in supermarkets in the sub-$200 price space.
Nobody expects absolute premium feature sets in such devices. The Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 is the company’s "premium" device, but unlike headlining handsets such as the Apple iPhone 6s Plus or the Samsung Galaxy S6, the Idol 3’s priced to sell with an outright cost of $379. Here is what your money buys you.
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Upsides: Why you’d want the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3
- Good speakers for a budget phone: Most budget range phones have speakers that sound like they’ve been strained through a wet teabag, but the Idol 3’s dual speakers work very well. Like HTC’s similar (and slightly better) "Boomsound" speakers, the Idol 3 has speakers located at the top and bottom of the screen, slightly indented. This gives just a little stereo separation, but the end result is decent sound for such an affordable handset.
- The Idol 3 is reversible: If you’ve had a smartphone for any length of time, you’ve probably accidentally picked it up upside down. The Idol 3’s design is meant to combat that, with no "fixed" orientation and a quick flip animation that means you can’t pick it up the "wrong" way for basic smartphone functions.
- Solid battery life: Most budget phones struggle with battery optimisation, and the 2910mAh battery in the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 isn’t the beefiest you can get in a handset of this size. Still, it manages quite well in both anecdotal and benchmark testing for an easy full day’s battery life. Using Geekbench 3’s battery test routine with the screen dimmed, here is how the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 compares to a range of premium handsets.
Handset Geekbench 3 Battery Test Duration Geekbench 3 Battery Score Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ 8:24:10 5041 Apple iPhone 6S Plus 7:48:10 4681 Samsung Galaxy S6 6:51:30 4115 Google Nexus 5X 7:14:20 4062 Google Nexus 6P 6:39:20 3754 Sony Xperia Z5 5:41:30 3414 LG G4 5:27:50 3224 Apple iPhone 6s 3:52:10 2321 Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 5:42:00 2276
What’s interesting here is that the Idol 3 has a longer runtime than the Apple iPhone 6s, LG G4 and Sony Xperia Z5, but a lower score. That’s part of how Geekbench derives its battery score; it means that the Idol 3’s battery management allows it to have a longer battery life, but with fewer iterations of the test, which is what you’d expect given the difference in processing power between the two handsets. Within the budget space, still, the Idol 3 acquits itself well.
- It’s surprisingly light: Without exception, everyone who picks up the Idol 3 was surprised at how light in the hand and well balanced it is. We even had some ponder if it was an in-store dummy model. If you want a phone with a large screen that doesn’t drag down your hand, the Idol 3 is a good choice.
Downsides: Why you might not want the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3
- Performance is predictably mediocre: The Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 might be the top of Alcatel OneTouch’s range, but it does still lag behind the big players in performance terms. Straight benchmarks aren’t the be all and end all, but here’s how the Idol 3 compares against other premium handsets in the Geekbench 3 test:
Handset Geekbench 3 Single Core (higher is better) Geekbench 3 Multi Core (higher is better) Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ 1492 4893 Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge 1324 4626 Google Nexus 6P 1251 4597 Samsung Galaxy S6 1347 4569 Apple iPhone 6S 2540 4410 Apple iPhone 6S Plus 2491 4391 Sony Xperia Z5 1358 4134 LG G4 1190 3313 Google Nexus 5X 1188 3198 Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 655 2461
The Idol 3’s performance goes a little beyond just the base benchmark scores, which have to be quantified against the asking price anyway. Every once in a while we’d find it stuttering on simple tasks such as page rendering in Google Chrome or picture taking. It’s nothing out of the ordinary in this price bracket, but it is noticeable.
- Default launcher is very garish: Alcatel OneTouch’s approach to its Idol 3 launcher is a weird mix of Android defaults with a bit of Google, a bit of Apple and a bit of cartoon design. It’s totally an aesthetic call, but it doesn’t really hang all that well together, with too many garish options for our liking. As it’s Android-based, you can always use an alternate launcher to fix this issue.
- Double sided phone is ultimately a gimmick: The speakers on the Idol 3 do work well, but the rest of the interface isn’t entirely double ended. It’s not as though the camera shifts positions just because you pick the phone up the "wrong" way around, after all, and remembering where the power and volume buttons up if you’re in a hurry can be a chore.
Who is it best suited for? What are my other options?
The Idol 3 isn’t quite the premium budget bargain Alcatel OneTouch paints it as, but as a mid-range offering it’s a compelling handset, albeit one with a significant quantity of competition.
Pretty much every Android vendor has mid-range handsets in this price point, whether it’s Sony, HTC, Samsung, Oppo, Huawei or ZTE. The Idol 3’s impressive against the general budget pack, but in this price bracket you’re definitely playing with compromises and smaller style choices, and the Idol 3 has a lot of good looking competition.
Where can I get it?
In Australia, the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 is officially for sale exclusively through Dodo, either as a $379 outright purchase or on a variety of contracts. If you’re keen, here are the relevant contract costs for the Idol 3.