Alcatel Hits It Out of the Budget Park with Their IDOL 4S and VR Combo

If you’ve been paying attention to what’s big at tech shows for the past couple of years, then you know that Virtual Reality (VR) is H-U-G-E. If you buy the new Alcatel IDOL 4S, you’ll be set to take advantage of this exciting technology right out of the box — with nothing more to buy!

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VR can take you to places you couldn’t otherwise visit; it can allow you to see things otherwise impossible to see, it can put you in the middle of situations that you might never be able to experience otherwise, and yes, it can put you in the middle of your favorite games. Plus, it’s fun!

A dedicated VR headset, like an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, is extremely pricey. The cool thing about VR, though, is that many phones are capable of doing it … as long as you have a headset and a decent pair of earphones.

The new Alcatel IDOL 4S not only comes with a headset tailored for the device, it comes JBL in-ear headphones, an Incipio case, and a dedicated VR channel built into the phone; the phone itself is pretty good, too!

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Let’s take a look at what came in my press package. Granted, it’s not the same package you’ll get at the store, but most of the items I received (with the exception of the three extra Incipio cases) are the same.

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My unboxing experience follows …

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JBL in-ear headphones, the VR headset (the IDOL 4S is inside), and the blue sleeve holds press materials.

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The retail package will include:

• IDOL 4S Smartphone
• IDOL 4S VR Goggles
• JBL Headphones
• 2.5D Tempered Glass Screen Protector
• Quick Charge Adapter and Micro-USB Cable
• Incipio Protective Phone Case (Clear)
• SIM Card Tray Tool

I’ll start with the VR headset since it also served as the container for the phone. It’s a self-contained matte white plastic case that has a snap off back compartment which holds the head-straps and a removable black plastic front that holds the phone. It’s a more complete looking headset than the Samsung Gear VR, which lacks the snap-on strap cover on the back.

There are some lens covers that need to be removed from the headset as well as a head strap that needs to be installed.

Installing the straps is simple — thread them through the obvious plastic holes and adjust them to fit your head. Done.

The world’s first smartphone + VR goggles package delivers virtual reality experiences that everyone can enjoy right out of the box, perfect for enjoying 2D and 3D content such as games, videos, and other VR applications such as Littlstar and Alcatel’s own VR Store which come pre-loaded on IDOL 4S. And all this content can be easily accessed through the IDOL 4S VR Launcher, which launches when you insert your IDOL 4S, making for an easy-to-use introduction to VR experiences.

And here’s the new Alcatel IDOL 4S. The first thing I noticed about this sleek 5.5-inch QHD 2K AMOLED display phone were the metal trimmed beveled edges and the glass front and back. It looks like an expensive phone — it’s not blocky, it’s not thick — it’s quite lovely.

The phone measures ~6″ long by 2.9″ wide by 0.2″ thick, and it weighs 5.3 ounces. In hand, the phone is smooth, caressable, it feels solid — not a sharp corner, and not a creak or groan to be found. The build is exceptional.

On the left side, there is a power button and a combination dual-nano SIM or single nano SIM and microSD card tray. The tool to open the tray is included in the package.

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On the top, you can see the antenna and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The front-facing camera is 8-megapixel with a wide-viewing angle and real-time face beautification — perfect for all of you selfie-snappers out there.

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On the right side, there is a BOOM button and a volume rocker switch.

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What in the world is a BOOM button? Well, with it you can take a photo when the phone is locked, long press it to take multiple photos in a row, experience live weather notifications inside Launcher, Create an immersive video experience with improved surround sound while watching videos online, boost the loudness and bass sound of the speaker while listening to music, enhance the voice clarity and loudness while making a call in a noisy environment, create photo collages in Gallery moments, apply fun effects to interesting moments of your video while watching it, instantly start a live stream while recording a video to share your experiences with your friends,and boost up your speed while playing Asphalt Overdrive. Whee!

On the bottom, you can again see the antenna, and there’s a microphone as well as a microUSB slot. I have to admit that I was a little disappointed that the new Type-C connector wasn’t used, but considering that microUSB cables are still so ubiquitous, I shouldn’t have been surprised.

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The back has the 16-megapixel camera, and LED flash, and a fingerprint reader. The light hitting the back glass makes it look like a star sapphire, doesn’t it? Pretty. It would almost be a shame to put a case one it, right?

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Phone specifications:
• Display – 5.5″ AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors, 1440 x 2560 pixels
• Memory – 32GB (23GB available to user), 3GB RAM, microSD (uses a SIM 2 slot)
• Operating System – comes loaded with Android OS 6.1 (Marshmallow)
• Chipset & CPU – Quad-core 1.8 GHz Cortex-A72 & quad-core 1.4 GHz Cortex-A53
• Battery – 3000mAh with QuickCharge v 2.0 (it takes about 90 minutes to get a full charge)
• Cameras – 16-megapixel rear camera with LED flash and 8-megapixel front camera with LED
• Audio – Dual 3.6-watt JBL certified speakers featuring Waves Audio technology
• Bands – GSM: 850/900/1800/1900; GPRS/EDGE;3G: B1/2/4/5; HSPA+ (42M bit/s DL,5.76Mbit/s UL); LTE Mandatory: B2, 4, 5, 7, 12, 17; (CAT4, no CA, VoLTE support)

You can view the full specs here (.pdf download).

Worth mentioning:

IDOL 4S also offers improved cameras, including a 16MP main camera with f/2.0 aperture, featuring a Sony sensor, 0.1 second phase detection autofocus and 0.6 second instant shot. And thanks to having the unique camera application, Fyuse, built into this feature-packed smartphone’s camera software, you can also capture images in full 360 degrees.

I should mention that the camera is very good; it has several settings including manual, pano, auto, slo-mo, micro-video, and Fyuse. Here are some unretouched photos that I took with the IDOL 4S …

Honestly  — after looking at those specs and seeing what comes with the set, aren’t you a bit surprised when I say that the Alcatel IDOL 4S and all this gear is available for $399 contract-free?

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The Alcatel IDOL 4S retails for $399 (it’s $349.99 on pre-order right now!), and it is available directly from the manufacturer.

Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample

What I Like: Complete VR kit with JBL in-ear headphones, Incipio case, and an excellent dual-SIM phone; At $399 (full price), it’s a really good deal; The camera is very good

What Needs Improvement: Put a case on it — all that glass is just waiting to crack when you (inevitably) drop the phone!

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About the Author

Judie Lipsett Stanford
Judie is the co-owner and Editor-in-Chief of Gear Diary, which she founded in September 2006. She started in 1999 writing software reviews at the now-defunct; from mid-2000 through 2006, she wrote hardware reviews for and co-edited at The Gadgeteer. A recipient of the Sigma Kappa Colby Award for Technology, Judie is best known for her device-agnostic approach, deep-dive reviews, and enjoyment of exploring the latest tech, gadgets, and gear.