I have been seeing a lot of buzz online lately regarding the Alcatel Idol 4s. The phone runs Windows 10 Mobile, which Microsoft is no longer “focusing on.” The reason behind the buzz is that since the announcement from Microsoft, the price on this device has been slashed dramatically. I have seen reports of the phone on sale for as low as $99.00 USD. The Microsoft Store currently has the unlocked version with VR headset included for $199.99. That is down from the original $470.00 price tag it had previously. This has a lot of Windows fans wondering if they should pick up the device. Many are asking if they should pick up this device and hold out till the fabled Andromeda is released possibly later this year. So, the question here is, should you buy an Idol 4s?
Now I purchased the Alcatel Idol 4s in March 2017. I paid about $240.00 which wasn’t a bad deal at the time for the hardware. There were still updates to be had for OS at this point and Windows mobile has always been a favorite for me. This phone was released in 2016 and was one of the last devices to be made for Windows mobile. It’s only other competition was the HP Elite x3, but the two were at completely different price points. Now that the background is out of the way, lets look at the hardware.
The phone’s display is a 5.5” AMOLED display (1080×1920), and the OS looks great on it. The contrast and the blacks really make the Live Tiles and dark mode look fantastic. The resolution won’t blow you away, but it is decent. The device has a Snapdragon 820 processor as well as 4GB RAM. Storage is a standard 64GB, but expandable to 128GB via MicroSD. The battery is 3000mAh and it supports quick charge through it’s USB-C port which is found on the bottom of the device. The top of the device houses the 3.5mm headphone jack. On the back you will find the fingerprint sensor and a 21MP low light camera. The power button is oddly placed high up on the left side of the device. The volume rocker and a dedicated camera button can be found on the right. As for the front you have your standard ambient light sensor and a 5MP front facing camera. There are also dual front facing speakers which get loud and actually sound pretty good. The device can also be found bundled with a VR headset. This was the model I ended up with and you probably are still wondering if it is worth buying?
There is good to be found here if you know where to look. The display looks great with Windows 10 Mobile. Windows really pops on the AMOLED and since the Live Tiles are the main drawing feature for many fans, this display makes the experience that much more enjoyable. The phone gets excellent battery life. It will easily last a full work day. The front facing speakers are a rare commodity these days and sound great. I had no issue playing music or watching Netflix while using the speakers. That is not something I can easily do with my Galaxy Note 8. The design of the phone is also very good. It comes in a single-color scheme, which is a gorgeous glass black, with a gold trim. The phone just looks elegant. Having the Live Tiles on the screen and the phone out of a case is sure to draw a lot of attention. People are constantly curious about it. The expandable storage is also a pleasant feature. Finally, the OS is obviously a major draw here for fans on Microsoft’s mobile platform. This includes Continuum, which I tested and worked quite well.
I do have some complaints about the device, which isn’t exactly surprising here. The display does not get very bright. It is very difficult to see the screen when outside during daylight hours. The finger print reader works maybe 50% of the time. I ended up entering my pin more often than I would like on a modern device. Then there is the camera. The camera is 21MP, which sounds a bit insane today when you consider the best cameras on flagships are usually 12MP. It may as well be a 5MP shooter since without any type of stabilization this camera is impossible to use. That brings us to the dedicated camera button, which you cannot disable and is in the perfect place to be accidentally triggered. This appeared to be a common problem since it was released and was one of the number one complaints I have seen. The Bluetooth on this device also struggles. It could not maintain connection with smart watches, car stereos or Bluetooth headphones. It constantly drops signal and sometimes requires a reset in order to re-pair a device. Finally, this device is not very fast. With the hardware on board I expected better performance. Now, this could be chalked up to the OS and Microsoft’s flailing interest in whether it works or doesn’t. Launching applications has a lag, load times are poor and of course the app selection is dwindling. As a side note, the VR headset here is worthless. It hardly works with motion tracking and the PPI just isn’t there for it to be a good experience. Avoid paying the extra money for this if you can, especially since it is lacking support.
Windows 10 mobile is no more. The OS is not being supported beyond periodic security updates. Every day, third party developers are dropping support for apps on the OS. As many know, app availability on Windows mobile was already a major issue. There are even recent reports of chronic issues within Microsoft’s own stock apps for the OS. The OS even feels buggier now than say a year ago. It does still work though. So, can I recommend it? Well. It is a loaded question. If you are a die-hard Microsoft fan and you cannot stand the thought of moving to Android or IOS, then maybe. At $99.00, many won’t consider that a loss if they get even a few months out of the device. If you love Windows 10 Mobile, plan to use Continuum and don’t mind not using apps outside of the browser and messenger, then yes I would pick one up.
Many are holding out for Microsoft’s Project Andromeda, which is rumored to be released later this year. It does remind me of the Surface Phone, which was constantly in the rumor mill and never actually saw daylight. I would consider holding out for that device to be a risk. According to Windows Central, this device will be able to make calls or receive messages, but it is not to be marketed as a phone replacement. It is also likely to be very expensive. So, if you can tolerate or even enjoy Android or IOS, then I would recommend you avoid the Idol 4s and find yourself a nice Android phone. There is an article here that can help you feel at home on Android. As always, leave comments and questions! What are your thoughts?