Look and feel
We love the Alcatel One Touch Idol X’s slender frame and edge-to-edge screen design, which makes this five-incher feel refreshingly compact and manageable. It’s a durable and colourful little sucker too.
Ease of Use
Combine the satisfying one-handed use with a responsive and spacious five-inch screen and you’re on to a winner. Although apps are managed in a rather odd way.
The Idol X’s 13-megapixel camera is fine for a mid-ranger, with a nicely scaled-back interface but few extra modes. There’s no 4G support, annoyingly, but you do get two SIM card slots.
A quad-core processor provides decent performance, but we saw the Idol X stutter on occasion, and some apps crashed during use.
The weak point of the Idol X is its battery life, which struggles to last a day even with quite moderate use. There’s also excessive battery drain when hibernating.
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,10/30/2013 3:22:34 PM
Ease of use
Bright, sharp screen;
Slender, colourful design
Iffy battery life
Our first impressions upon pulling the Idol X from its box were ‘wow, this thing it thin’. At just 6.9mm it’s one of the slimmest Android handsets out there, beaten only narrowly by the Huawei Ascend P6 (6.2mm), yet crammed into that slender frame is a quad-core processor, 13-megapixel camera and Full HD five-inch screen. Considering the $350 price point, that’s a strong set of specs – but is the Idol X really a smartphone worth worshipping?
Design: Funky colours
Not only is it gorgeously slender, the Idol X is also light and easy to carry at just 130g. The slim build means it feels more compact than your usual five-incher, and we had no trouble using it one-handed. Butter-fingered users will be happy to know that it feels quite durable too. The Titanium Alloy frame is apparently able to withstand extreme temperatures – handy for our next trip up North – and more importantly, it feels like it could survive a brief tumble.
That metallic frame is complemented nicely by a bright and vibrant plastic back cover, coming in a range of bold finishes (including red, yellow, blue, green and the obligatory pink). If you’re after a more sombre look, you can also pick it up in black. The back cover doesn’t prise off, despite looking like it should, so the SIM card slot – or slots, if you’ve got the dual SIM model – are housed on the side of the handset. Power is up top, with a volume rocker on the left and micro USB charging slot on the bottom. Beneath the screen you’ll also fine physical touch-sensitive back, home and menu buttons which light up when the phone’s in use, a rarity these days with Android’s on-screen buttons.
Android OS: Lick of paint
Alcatel have seriously overhauled the Android 4.2 Jelly Bean OS, layering on its own design and functionality. To start with, there is no apps menu – you begin with all of your apps slapped out on your desktops, and can choose to ‘hide’ any you rarely use, to avoid clutter. You then have to get stuck into the settings to reveal any hidden apps, which is a minor pain. We’d rather simply have a tucked-away menu for direct access to anything not found on our desktops, as with most other Android phones.
Alcatel’s widgets are plainly designed, but as colourful as the back panel. You weather, calendar and media widgets (among others) on top of the standard Google widgets, which can be laid out as you like on the desktops. We still prefer Google’s efforts, but can appreciate Alcatel taking the time to craft its own. Better is the notifications menu, which gives quick one-touch access to important power settings, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and brightness. It’s a comprehensive menu that also includes battery info and settings and your next scheduled alarm.
There’s a couple of other neat features hidden away in the OS. Like the Sony Xperia Z1, Samsung Galaxy S 4 and other premium smartphones, the Idol X can wirelessly connect to your telly via Wi-Fi, for streaming movies and so on. Sadly there’s no 4G support, so you’ll have to rely on good ol’ 3G for media streaming and web browsing. Storage space is also limited, with the 8/16GB of built-in storage all you get – there’s no memory card slot to expand.
The Motorola RAZR i was one of the first mobiles to wow us with an edge-to-edge display, something also found recently on LG’s feature-packed G2 smartphone. Alcatel’s Idol X continues this glorious trend, and the five-inch IPS screen is a definite highlight of the phone. Only the narrowest of bezels surround the display, just enough space to give your fingers purchase without straying onto the screen, while a thin layer of glass makes you think you’re stroking the desktops themselves.
The screen itself is powerfully bright, so you won’t struggle to see it in direct sunlight. Viewing angles are good too, with text and images clearly visible even from very tight angles, and only slight colour darkening. But best of all is the Full HD resolution. At 1920 x 1080, you’ll get the most out of high-def video, while games, apps and websites all look impressively crisp.
A quad-core processor keeps the Idol X ticking over, although we did notice some stuttering in general use. Games on the whole play smoothly, but more graphically complex titles such as Dead on Arrival 2 work better when the detail levels are scaled back, and we did witness a couple of crashes. We also saw more general apps such as Google Chrome crash out on occasion. Don’t game for too long either, as the phone can get a little toasty with prolonged use.
Unfortunately battery life is less than stellar, with only a 2000mAh battery crammed into the Idol X’s slender body. We found that if the phone was left on hibernate for a day, the battery ran down almost 50%, while it always died by the end of the day with moderate use (emails and texts). There is an ‘Ultimate Saver Mode’ to bail you out if the battery’s almost dead, but this limits your use to basically calls and texts, so is seriously a last resort.
Cameras: Dual shooters
The 13-megapixel camera’s interface is refreshingly simple, certainly compared to the likes of Samsung and LG phones. Aside from the on-screen shutter button, you only get a flash icon, a switch camera icon, a photo/video switch and a settings button that offers little beyond Panorama and HDR modes. Zoom and focus is handled via a pinch of the fingers or a quick tap, and you can take shots by pushing down the volume buttons. For a no-fuss amateur photographer who simply wants to open the app, shoot a couple of pics and put away again, it’s a neat clutter-free tool.
Of course, without a bevy of manual modes and whizzy tricks, the Idol X needed a damn good auto mode – and while it isn’t up to the standards of mid-range Sony and Samsung devices, it’s not the worst we’ve seen either. Daytime shots are crisp and clean, packing enough detail to avoid pixellation when blown up for a TV, and macro shots came out well. The camera occasionally struggled with a mixture of light, especially when computer monitors and windows were involved. With the flash activated, people tend to be overexposed and rather ghostly pale, but the lens does cope admirably in low light situations, brightening up dark environments. Just expect a bit of graininess in return.
The Full HD two-megapixel front-facing camera is handy for taking those sultry selfies or chatting online, capturing sharp and brightly lit images. There’s also a random ‘four expressions’ mode that takes four snaps of you and arranges them in a single photo. We thought it might wait for your expression to change before taking each shot, but in actuality it just pauses a second or two between each snap. We found video taken with both cameras came out well, and the rear camera automatically focuses and adjusts to light as you shoot, to keep the picture sharp.
Et voila! Four different-yet-identical photos of myself looking highly motivated...
Alcatel’s One Touch Idol X is a highly impressive handset on paper, offering some great specs including a quad-core processor, 13-megapixel camera, dual SIM and a Full HD screen, all wrapped up in an attractive, slender frame. The crisp five-inch display truly is a treat, but a lack of 4G, occasional glitches and stutters and below average battery life mean the Idol X sadly falls short of rivals such as the Sony Xperia SP.