Dimensions: 5.29 x 2.70 x 0.26 in
Processor: Dual-Core 1 .2GHz Coretex A9
OS: Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
Screen: 4.65 inches, 720 x 1 280 pixels 316ppi
3G: HSDPA 900/21 00
Camera: 8MP main, 1 .3MP Secondary
Battery: 1 800mAh
• Wonderfully thin
• Great phone performance
• Beautiful screen
• No 3.5mm jack
• Speaker grille gets covered when rested flat
It’s not just the thinnest, this phone also gives you amazing value for money.
Smartphones are more or less identical these days. They are rectangular slabs of technology that have more hardware than they know what to do with. Design, while still a key element in phone manufacture, seems to have settled on the”slab”form factor. This is well and good, and most of the devices we see are wonderful examples of industrial design. There are a few, however, that want to take this design and condense it further. Alcatel is one such brand. Instead of focusing on making the fastest, largest phone with 16 processor cores and a screen larger than the phone itself, they wanted to make something elegant. The result is the Idol Ultra: currently the slimmest Android phone in the market today. This strategy was pulled off to great success by at least one other manufacturer in the past and a razor-thin clamshell, but is there still room for such an edge today?
The Idol Ultra is still a slab, sure, but due to its thinness, bears more resemblance to a milk chocolate bar than a brick. The Idol Ultra is so thin, when I took it out of the box, I was concerned that I may accidentally snap it in half during the course of the review. It’s a very simple device, with the barest minimum of controls. You have a power button up top, a volume rocker on the edge, and the standard Android softkeys on the front. To keep the device as thin as possible, Alcatel chose to give up a 3.5mm headphone jack, so if you want to listen to music on the phone, you’ll have to plug your headphones into the included 3.5mm microUSB adapter. This is a little inconvenient, but by no means a deal-breaker. I can honestly count the number of times I wanted to charge my phone and listen to music concurrently. It is more than made up for by the insanely thin footprint of the phone.
Because of the design angle Alcatel took with the Idol Ultra, they had to make sure it had a premium feel. They succeeded. The front is solid, scratch-proof Dragon Trail Glass that is as rich-feeling (and reportedly as tough) as Gorilla Glass, and the back is covered in a soft, rubbery-matte finish that provides excellent grip 38 JUNE 2013 Gadgetslab .indd 38 and smudge resistance. Overall, the phone feels premium. There are no creaks, large gaps or signs of poor manufacturing. It has great balance, and would not look out of place among more expensive offerings from other brands.
The screen is a comfortablysized 4.65 inches, and comes at a resolution of 720×1280 pixels, giving it a crisp resolution of about 316 ppi. This, with a beautiful AMOLED display puts the phone right up there with some ofthe nicer displays available to consumers. The screen is not something on which I am generally unwilling to compromise, and it’s great to see such a screen on a device like this. It just adds to that premium feel that Alcatel has tried very hard to capture. The device runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean under the hood, and while it’s not the latest from the big G, it’s still a very capable OS that will serve all but the most particular users. The phone’s dual core 1.2GHz Cortex-A9 processor and a decent 1GB of RAM give the phone a zippy engine by which to render screen elements and multitasking. You realistically don’t really need much more than this on a smartphone, and the Idol Ultra does a more than sufficient job when flipping through home screens, launching apps or running through website after website. There was occasionally a stutter here and there, but it wasn’t really something that caused problems or distracted from the user experience.
Connectivity was better than average. My office phone number’s network doesn’t really reach the area ofthe house where my room is situated, and I have gotten used to this. While running the Ultra, though, I was surprised to receive one or two messages while in the dead spot that is my room. None of the phones I had tested in the past had this ability. Sound quality from the device’s speaker is quite loud, though the hone has a tendency to almost completely mute the sound when the phone is laid flat, face-up on a table. This caused a missed call or two during my time with the device, and was remedied by alternately pairing the device with a Bluetooth headset and propping the bottom of the phone up with a pen.
The stock Android launcher has been painted over (albeit lightly) by an Alcatel overlay. This brings a few changes, such as a different lock screen, slightly altered visuals and a different color scheme, that in my opinion made the launcher look a little more interesting without complicating Android’s wonderfully simple interface. Despite just being mostly eye-candy, it was very pleasant to use, and at no point did I feel the urge to replace it with something else. The stock keyboard was smarter than the average Android keyboard and may do for most, so take a moment to use what it comes with before installing an after-market one. You may be pleasantly surprised.
Battery life is quite impressive for a phone this size. With mobile data off, the phone tethered to a mobile hotspot and a phone call every few hours, the phone made it through a day, with a fair margin should you suddenly decide to make a quick stop elsewhere.
Overall, I was very pleased with the Alcatel One Touch Idol Ultra. It’s a great little device that comes in a beautifully slim package. Though there are a few compromises that have to be made when designing for thinness, the Idol manages to do it in just the right places. For just about PHP 15,000, the Alcatel One Touch Idol Ultra is a winner well worth looking at.
First published in Gadgets Magazine, June 2013
Words by Ren Alcantara