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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Battery life

The Alcatel OneTouch Idol Alpha has a 2,000mAh battery and there's no prospect of carrying a spare because it can't be removed. It's not as big a battery as the latest and greatest. In fact, it's definitely too small.

The Nexus 5 has a 2,300mAh battery and I found it made for average performance. The Idol Alpha is not as efficient.

Ten minutes playing Clash of Clans ate 3% of the battery, while the graphically intensive Asphalt 8 ate 5% in ten minutes. Twenty minutes of browsing in Chrome ate another 5%.

Alcatel OneTouch Idol Alpha review

In one night, while I was sleeping, the Idol Alpha managed to drop 14% and there were no incoming calls or messages during that period. It really shouldn't be draining that much when idle, and unfortunately a glance at the battery usage statistics did not solve the mystery.

I'm definitely a heavy user and I had to charge the Idol Alpha every day. It didn't even reach the end of the day before needing to be plugged in on more than one occasion in the week I was using it. Casual users will probably get by fine with a nightly charge, but there's no escaping the fact that the battery life is poor.

Our 90 minute video battery test, with the screen at full brightness, drained the Alcatel OneTouch Idol Alpha from fully-charged down to 73%. That compares to 74% for the Nexus 5 and 83% for the OnePlus One.

Google has improved power efficiency since 4.2 Jelly Bean was released, so there is hope that the Idol Alpha will get a little more staying power with an update, but there's no telling when that might happen.

Alcatel OneTouch Idol Alpha review

The essentials

As a phone the Alcatel OneTouch Idol Alpha is perfectly adequate. It imported contacts from my Google account during setup. Call quality was fine and clear outdoors.

Testing it indoors revealed a much weaker performance with the other caller cutting out fairly frequently. I don't get great reception in my home, but the Idol Alpha was noticeably worse at handling calls than my Xperia Z2.

The basic apps from Alcatel are very barebones. They function reasonably well; they just don't look great or have an overabundance of features.

There's an FM radio app, which is handy when you're out and about, particularly as this phone does not support LTE. The torch app is boosted by the LED strips top and bottom. There's a nice weather app with a minimalist widget. You'll also find a file manager, a note taking app and a handful of other utilities.

Alcatel OneTouch Idol Alpha review

Alcatel has also included a batch of OneTouch branded apps. The quality of the curated selection of apps in OneTouch Live is debatable, but you might appreciate it. The backup app could prove handy and there's a dedicated app for sharing your screen, though it didn't seem to be able to detect any of my other devices.

The preinstalled apps are a real mixed bunch. Things like Evernote and WhatsApp are potentially handy, Gameloft Live less so, but regardless of their usefulness you might prefer to choose them yourself. Thankfully most of them can be uninstalled.

You'll find a batch of apps organised into folders when you swipe onto the third home screen. Google's offerings are tucked in here and the Idol Alpha has the same redundancies you'll find on many other Android smartphones.

There's a basic browser, but Chrome is there too and it's better. There's a basic messaging app, but Hangouts is there too and it's better. There's a basic gallery app, but Photos is there too and it's better. The list goes on.

Alcatel OneTouch Idol Alpha review

Another weakness I found with the Idol Alpha was web browsing. Chrome is a bit faster than the basic browser, but it still stuttered fairly frequently. There's also a problem with the screen brightness. On auto it consistently went too bright for comfort and at times it started to whiteout the detail in images.

Overall the display is too bright and even when you choose the lowest brightness setting it's actually a bit painful to read if you're in a darkened room. On the flipside you'd expect it to have good sunlight legibility, but the screen is quite reflective so it doesn't.