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Our Verdict

Alcatel Idol 3 stands out from other budget phones with two microphones that make it reversible. More than a one-trick pony, it also has decent specs to back up this feature.

For

  • Vibrant screen
  • Dual front stereo speakers
  • 8MP front-facing camera
  • Solid battery life

Against

  • Sluggish interface
  • One color
  • No quick charging

Two years ago, if you would have told me you could buy an Android phone with flagship-worthy specs for under $300 unlocked, I would have said you're crazy. And, I would have assumed you hijacked a semi trailer full à la Fast and the Furious. However, this is 2015, and Alcatel has managed to deliver exactly that with the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3.

Available in the US for $250 (£270, about AU$328) unlocked, it rests on the same spectrum as the Asus ZenFone 2, and OnePlus One. While you've probably heard of the latter, don't let the Idol 3's innocuous name fool you. It's rolled up to the party ready to have some fun.

With a 5.5-inch, 1080p IPS display, it's got the same pixel density as the iPhone 6 Plus. A 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 octa-core processor and 2GB of RAM are tucked inside, along with 16GB of internal storage. If 10GB of actually useable storage isn't enough for you, there's microSD card support for up to 128GB. On the back is a 13-megapixel (MP) camera with a single LED flash, and on the front is a crazy 8MP snapper. Theoretically, selfies should be amazing.

Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 review

From NFC to LTE support, it's got all the connectivity you'd expect, including dual-band Wi-Fi, and a 2,910 mAh battery keeps the juice flowing. In the sound department, dual front-facing speakers created in partnership with JBL liven things up.

Design

The Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 is not the Brad Pitt of smartphones. Nothing from the plastic body particularly jumps out at you, but it's not terrible to look at either. At 7.4mm thin, it's only slightly thicker than some of the latest flagships, and its rounded edges are wrapped in faux metal.

The fake metal edges are very reminiscent of the Samsung Galaxy S5, and offer a good amount of grip. On the top, you have a microphone and headphone jack, and on the bottom is another microphone and micro USB charging port.

Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 review

On the left-hand side, at the very top, is the power button and SIM card slot, and also at the top on the right-hand side are the volume buttons. You may be wondering, where the microSD card slot is located? There isn't one, actually. Instead, Alcatel incorporated it into the SIM card slot.

Because of the 5.5-inch display, the power and volume buttons could have been better positioned together on the right-hand side halfway down. Despite having big hands, they were sometimes difficult to get to.

The brushed plastic back has a smooth, but not slippery feel to it, and features "Idol" and "Alcatel OneTouch" branding. My review unit had some FCC stickers, but thankfully those won't be included on the production model. The 13MP rear-facing camera is completely flush with the back – unlike some of the latest flagships in their pursuit to get even thinner – and it gets the same faux metal treatment.

Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 review

At just under five ounces, the Idol 3 feels solid in my hand. It's not too heavy, not too light. Personally, I'd rather have a phone that feels solid than one insanely thin and light. The Idol 3 reaffirms this. I never had a fear of dropping it, even while jogging, and coming from the 5.2-inch display on the Moto X, it took very little adjusting.

It's possible to use one-handed, and is well-balanced enough to not topple over. The body and display do offer a little bit of flex, and you can tuck away in your pocket no problem.

Sticking out just a few millimeters on the top and bottom beyond the display are the dual front-facing speakers. They actually sit below the glass panel of the display, creating a small but noticeable drop off.

Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 review

If you want something other than the ordinary black or white, you'll be left hanging. At launch, the Idol 3 is only available in dark gray. Alcatel will offer a flip case starting May 30, but it too will be available in the same bland color.

Display

While LG and Samsung want you to believe you need Quad HD in your life, the reality is, 1080p is perfectly suitable for the average person. Even at 5.5-inches, there's no issue with seeing individual pixels. Being an IPS LCD panel, colors are fairly accurate, and the screen gets sufficiently bright even when the sun is glaring down on you.

Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 review

Bezels are fairly thin on the sides, and about half an inch on the top and bottom. This is to make way for the 8-megapixel front-facing camera, and dual stereo speakers which we'll get into here shortly.

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