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Alcatel Idol 4 review

A phone with a lot to offer, but without the battery to back it up

Verdict

For less than $250/£200/AU$330, the Alcatel Idol 4 is a highly tempting purchase. It’s got a nice metal and glass build, a bright display, a relatively accomplished camera, better-than-average audio and a set of VR goggles bundled in.

However, this has become a highly competitive price band in recent years, and the Idol 4 has a couple of flaws and inconsistencies that the likes of the Moto G4 don’t have to worry about.

The Idol 4’s battery life is atrocious, and while ‘free’ VR sounds great, the phone it’s paired with simply isn’t quite up to the task of rendering VR content effectively. Alcatel would have been better off leaving it out and shaving some money off the price, because that’s the key factor at this end of the market.

Who's this for?

The Alcatel Idol 4 is for those who yearn for the metal-and-glass construction and high-end feature set of top-end phones, but don’t have the associated money to spare. 

It’s also a highly accessible entry-point for those curious about mobile VR - as long as you understand that you won’t be getting the ideal experience.

Should you buy it?

It’s difficult to argue that the Alcatel Idol 4 isn’t a high value proposition. You’re getting a well built glass-and-metal phone with a good screen and a decent camera for around the $250/£200/AU$330 mark - and it even comes with a VR headset. 

But when the phone’s display isn’t sharp enough to render VR content as well as it really needs to be, that headset’s presence is of questionable value. 

More importantly, in day to day usage, the Idol 4 doesn’t quite match up to the very best phones in this category, such as the Moto G4. In particular, its battery life is woeful.

Competition

Although the Alcatel Idol 4 is a good value handset, there's lots of competition at this end of the market. The following are three of its main rivals.

Moto G4

We almost get tired of recommending the Moto G4 any time we discuss an entry-level phone, but the truth is it’s still pretty much untouchable at this end of the market.

The key to its success isn’t in a list of stand-out features and gimmicks, which is arguably what the Idol 4 goes for. It’s the fact that it’s a solid phone that does everything at least moderately well.

It’s fast enough for general tasks, it’s well built, it’s got a decent camera, and it will last you through a full day of usage with plenty of battery life to spare. The Moto G4 remains the cheap phone to beat.

OnePlus 2

You can still pick up last year’s OnePlus flagship from the company’s website, and while its knock down price of $300/£250 (around AU$400) is still more expensive than the Idol 4, it’s undoubtedly a much better phone. 

For one thing, you get much better performance courtesy of a Snapdragon 810 processor. You also get a bigger display, a fingerprint sensor, and the slick and highly customizable OxygenOS. 

Oh, and the OnePlus 2 also comes with a larger-than-average 3300mAh battery, so it’ll actually last you through the day comfortably.

Vodafone Smart Ultra 7

If the OnePlus 2 is our premium alternative pick, then it’s only fair we talk about something a fair bit cheaper. The Vodafone Smart Ultra 7, for those in the UK, costs just £135 on pay as you go.

Its build might not be as premium as the Alcatel Idol 4 - in fact it’s downright plasticky - but it’s got decent performance and a competent camera. You also get a version of Android that’s even closer to stock than Alcatel’s - Vodafone bloatware aside.

If metal frames and virtual reality don’t hold out much appeal to you, Vodafone’s own-brand handset offers much better value than the Idol 4.

First reviewed: October 2016