Skip to main content

Blitzschnell Review: Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 (5.5)

-- Background / Introduction:

When I first read about the Idol 3 my initial thoughts we something like this: Oh great, another budget phone with a stupid gimmick, no thanks. But when I later heard about its promotional pre-order pricing and dug a little bit deeper into its specifications sheet, my interest became very piqued to the point that I put in an order for myself. Now, months after having sold my Idol 3, I'd like to share my thoughts.

-- Design:

"Wow, that is an incredibly thin phone."

That's the type of compliment my measly Alcatel received on an almost regular basis. With its big, bright screen, minimal design, and svelte proportions it commanded a lot of attention. True, the placement of the power button on the left-hand side of the device took a lot of time to get used to. That was made more exacerbated further by the one feature that the Idol 3 never quite nailed: knock-to-wake. On a phone that is supposed to be reversible, this subsequently required feature simply didn't work enough of the time.

However I preferred to shut that and the reversible feature off entirely, at which point I was obliviously unaware of its shortcomings. The speaker grilles eventually, and quite predictably, found themselves stuffed with pocket lint. (Not that it affected audio much if at all.) The back of the phone, while plastic, felt a lot better than that on the LG G3 which eventually replaced the Idol as my daily driver.

In short the design of the Idol 3 just sort of... was. Inoffensive, clean, and functional. Unlike many phones at the same price point, Alcatel didn't attempt to imbue some sense of premium origin by over-designing anything. And I liked that.

-- Usage:

The built in text messaging application couldn't have been worse. After a certain number of threads were populated with messages, it proceeded to mark every single thread as unread. And no amount of tapping, swiping, restarts or cache wipes could do anything about it, short of deleting some of those SMS threads. Thankfully, the stock app is more or less just a fork of Google's own Messenger application, which is freely available on the Play Store. Problem solved.

Occasional software stutters aside, there really weren't any other software issues with the Idol 3. And what sluggishness it might have sometimes displayed- at least when compared to a true flagship- the Idol's insane battery life rendered it null and void. There were times when I considered adopting a once-every-two-days charging regimen on account of the Idol 3's impressive battery stamina.

Hardware wise, I did encounter a couple of problems. Eventually the case did start to creak, and one day I removed the phone from my pocket to find a disconcertingly large amount of dust underneath the rear camera lens. Somehow it proceeded to work nearly as good as before, which should give you an idea of just how middle-of-the-road the camera was to begin with.

Then the display cracked while the phone was in my front pocket. I sat in a cab, was driven to my destination, got out and was shocked to see a small hairline crack on the display separating the top and bottom. This being a reversible phone, though, I was still able to use my phone by flipping it around as necessary, until I finally found out how to send it to Alcatel for repair. That itself was an ordeal, but they fixed it under warranty so I'll let them win points anyway.

-- Conclusion:

I can't think of another device that I've bought for $200 and been equally happy with, except maybe my current phone. But even then, it doesn't quite have the charm that the Idol 3 had. There was something special about that phone.