Alcatel OneTouch Idol Alpha review

A phone still in beta

Alcatel OneTouch Idol Alpha review
The Alpha takes a breather against a wall

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The mid-range Android market can definitely be a bit bland and samey. The Alcatel OneTouch Idol Alpha is not blessed with a lot of USPs. The specs are distinctly average and there's really nothing here that's out of the ordinary.

Aesthetic style is the only thing that differentiates this phone. That chamfered aluminium frame is very attractive. It feels a bit like an oversized iPhone 5S, and while the plastic back definitely detracts from that impression, you don't often find this kind of design in Android's mid-range market.

You might fall in love with the translucent strips containing that pulsing LED. It flashes when the phone rings or there's an incoming message, which looks undeniably cool, but also does a great job of catching the eye.

Alcatel OneTouch Idol Alpha review

The top one stays lit when the Idol Alpha is charging. They're stylish and functional, which is the killer combo. There's also a lighting menu where you can customize the behaviour.

Alcatel has made some effort to add value with its own UI and a smattering of pre-installed apps. It's good to see a radio app on there and basic utilities like note-taking and a torch are covered, but there is some bloatware too.

Thankfully you do have the option to uninstall some of these but others, like Deezer, can only be disabled. Considering you only have around 13GB of 16GB free to play with out of the box, it's a bit annoying.

Alcatel OneTouch Idol Alpha review

There's a good setup guide that will certainly help smartphone newbies get to grips with Android, but Alcatel's skin doesn't improve on stock Android and there are some redundancies where Alcatel apps offer the same functionality as Google apps.

You could possibly point to the 13MP camera as another USP. The Nexus 5 is about the same price and it only has an 8MP shooter, but it's not just about megapixel count.

The Idol Alpha camera has a decent range of features and it's fast. It would have been a really noteworthy surprise on a mid-ranger a couple of years ago, but it's becoming more common to find a decent main camera beyond the flagships now. I'll get into how it actually performs in detail later.