Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 - An Affordable Smartphone with High-End Features {Review}

Sometimes it's like the universe is listening to me, and is ready to respond. About a month ago my much-loved phone began to act a bit wonky. It's freezing quite often, and the touch screen seems to be losing responsiveness. I was talking about looking for a new phone after the holidays, because things were getting frustrating. And then I got an email asking if I'd like to try out the new Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3. Um, yes. Yes, I would. I still haven't found the time to get a new SIM card for it, but I've been using it on wi-fi and trying out the bells and whistles. So far I'm quite happy with it, though there's an adjustment phase to be sure, getting used to a new interface and new operating system.

Here are a few of my thoughts, along with some specs.

The Aesthetics

The Idol 3 is slim and smooth, with rounded edges. It's super thin and very light. There are two sizes available 4.7 inches (110g) and 5.5 inches (141g), and it comes in three colours - soft gold, metallic silver, or dark grey. Check with your carrier for specific availability. I have the dark grey 5.5 model.

The Camera

As a mom and as a social media gal, my phone's camera capabilities are a critical consideration. This one boasts a 13 mega pixel camera, with 5 separate elements in the lens for excellent accuracy in capturing your image. It also has a function that recognises and focuses on faces in 0.23 seconds, meaning you can capture your pics quickly.

The front-facing camera has 8 mega pixels, with a wide angle lens, so you can capture great group selfies.

Here's a shot I took of Boo. It's indoors at the mall, and I did no editing other than to size it for posting (and adding a frame).

I think it came out really well. This camera is great in daylight or other reasonably bright situations. It isn't the greatest in darker environments. But I haven't found a smart phone camera yet that makes me happy there.

Two things that aren't great are actually software issues, not a problem with the camera itself. When you touch the icon to switch to video mode, the recording starts immediately. While I will likely get used to this, and I edit most of my videos anyway, it is a bit annoying, and I can't think of any reason for it to work that way. And there's no preview or other quick way to check a picture you've just taken, or even to confirm you took it. I'm used to swiping backwards to see the pic and then forwards again to take another. With the Idol 3 I have to leave the Camera app and go to the Gallery to check the photo, then come back again if there's a problem or I just want more pictures. I hope they will address these two things with a software update at some point.


This smartphone is the first in North America to include Eye-D - a biometric technology that uses eye print verification for secure authentication to unlock a user's device. It was simple to set up. Eye-D took an image of my eyes to grab the pattern of the blood vessels. To unlock my phone I stare into the screen for a couple moments and the software runs the match and lets me in. You set up a back-up method as well, so I have a 4 digit PIN I can use instead, or if the phone doesn't recognise me after a particularly hard night. Small thing - you have to hit enter after your PIN. An extra step I can't seem to remember, and one that could be removed.

Premium Features

Perhaps the neatest feature is the fully reversible interface (meaning you can use it upside down the same way you use it right side up). This is the first phone you can hold up or down and still make and hear a call. No more worrying about the orientation of the phone when you grab it from the bottom of your purse.

The IDOL 3 has partnered with top brands like Qualcomm, JBL and Technicolor to deliver a best-in-class experience at a price that's considerably less than other flagship smartphones. I will be the first to admit that I am challenged when it comes to judging sound or picture quality, so I got Hubs involved. I was playing music through the phone's two speakers and asked him what he thought. He asked me where the music was coming from. Surprise! He was impressed that a phone was providing that quality and volume of sound, much better than he would expect from small speakers. So, the Idol 3 JBL speakers have his seal of approval. He's a musician and a true audiophile, so I trust his recommendation. (Now, he's not saying these compete with your home theatre system, but they are excellent in a mobile device.)

The display quality is great as well. The 401ppi screen with Technicolor Color Enhance renders true colours and skin tones in your photos and videos. And the screen is big, taking up almost the entire phone surface. I would like to see more slots for icons, so I could access more apps from the one page, but I'm still happy with the display.

How To Get It

The Idol 3 5.5 inch is available through Bell, TELUS, Koodo, Virgin Mobile and Videotron, or you can purchase the 4.7 inch unlocked directly from Alcatel. The 4.7 is currently available for just $179.99.

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