I snap photos just as much as the next guy or gal, so it's safe to say a bad experience can be a deal breaker. The 13MP camera features a Sony sensor, and it performed as I'd expected with good quality. For a $250 (£270, about AU$328) phone, it's hard to complain.
Photos take a second or two to focus, and about the same to snap. Shooting with the default camera app, it was a little confusing at first since there's no visual feedback once you've taken a photo. I've never owned a phone that shoots great in low-light, and the Idol 3 was no exception.
The real star is the 8MP front-facing camera. With the right lighting, you can capture some pretty great selfies. Of course, it might help to have a better subject than me.
It's worth noting that, by default, the rear camera shoots 10MP photos to allow for a wide 16:9 ratio. While Alcatel advertises an "8MP Wide Angle Front Camera," you'll actually have to drop down to 5-MP to get that wide shot. Still, the results can be pretty impressive, and you can shoot 1080p video as well.
The camera app keeps the Android Lollipop feel, but with a few additions. Swiping from the left, you're met with several options:
- Auto mode
- Manual mode
- Face Beauty
I mostly stuck with the default auto mode, though HDR and Pano – otherwise known as panorama – performed well. Unfortunately, for those who know all about ISO and want a little more control over their shots, the camera app would crash in Manual mode whenever I tried changing the shutter priority (S) or white balance (WB).
Although Manual mode didn't pan out (no pun intended), the Time-lapse feature worked great. Here's a result I uploaded to Instagram.
If you're one of the four people who scan QR codes, the Scanner function is pretty straightforward. As you probably guessed by now, Face Beauty is all about capturing that perfect selfie.
Utilizing the built-in face detection, you can smooth out any blemishes with this feature. I took three separate photos, the first in Auto mode. The other two were in Face Beauty with the slider set to halfway in one, and to the max in another.
With the slider set to halfway, it did a pretty good job. However, when set to the max, the fake glow and smoothness is blatantly obvious. Quick side note: just be yourself and let the real you shine through.
During my testing, I kept the screen at auto brightness, and GPS at high accuracy. Under moderate use, the 2,910 mAh battery performed extremely well. I was able to consistently get about 20 hours with around 25% battery left. This was with about 3 hours of screen on time, and I could have easily squeezed out another hour with some juice to spare.
Under heavy use, you could definitely get through a work day. In our battery rundown test where we loop video at 100% brightness, from a full charge the Idol 3 lasted 4 hours, 55 minutes. Sadly, the Idol 3 does not have Quick Charge support, and comes with a standard charger. Alcatel's claim of two and a half hours is about right if the phone is nearly dead, and from around 25% battery, it took about 90 minutes to fully charge.
The Full HD display is on the same level as other 1080p panels in more expensive phones. Dual front-facing speakers should be standard on every device, and the 8MP front-facing camera is truly at the top of its class. Alcatel doesn't claim 24 hour battery life, but it's possible under the right circumstances.
Performance issues are what's really holding the Idol 3 back from 4.5 stars. The fact it's only available in gray takes some life away, and while Quick Charge support isn't necessary, it's tough living without once you've been spoiled.
The Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 has all the bells and whistles at a fraction the cost of major flagships. It's no flagship killer, but it's also not claiming to be. While good, good isn't always enough.
With the performance issues ironed out, there's no doubt the Idol 3 could be great. There's also the issue of carrier compatibility. Support for GSM and UTMS bands means you're stuck with AT&T and T-Mobile in the US.
Still, we're talking $250 (£270, about AU$328) unlocked. The fact the OneTouch Idol 3 even exists is pretty amazing. If you're willing to live with some imperfections for an excellent price, there's no reason this phone can't be good enough for you.