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Alcatel Idol 3 4.7-inch review

Alcatel has released a smaller 4.7-inch version of the Idol 3 model, and we've been using it for a week or so.

A definite mid-range Android, the Idol 3 4.7-inch model (from here on we're just going to call it the Idol 3 for sanity's sake) comes with lesser specifications and a smaller size that its 5.5-inch namesake. That doesn't automatically mean it's bad, though.

If anything, 2015 has shown us that it's possible to build an Android with lower-end specs and still squeeze out good performance. When coupled with a budget-friendly price tag, they can be a great buy.

It's no secret that we think pretty highly of Alcatel's 5.5-inch Idol 3. Let's see how the smaller version stacks up.

Buy the 4.7-inch Idol 3 from Amazon (unlocked) (opens in new tab)

The outside: Familiar in a good way

Idol 3 4.7-inch

The 4.7-inch Idol 3 is a smaller mirror image if the 5.5-inch Idol 3 — and that's a good thing.

You've got the same beveled glass (Dragontrail glass for everyone keeping score at home), the same dual front facing speaker and microphone arrangement and the same thin and light design that seems to be the rage as of late.

The same level of detail in the construction and assembly process means the bevels and edges are precise, the fit and finish is excellent and everything feels like a high-quality phone should, regardless of the price.

Everything feels like a high-quality phone should, regardless of the price

The smaller 4.7-inch design makes the flat (as in: very flat) back easier to hold and the seamless feel of each of the edges means no "sharp" spots against your palm or the ball of your thumb.

The buttons are in a good spot and you'll find them easily, and they have a good balance between mushy and clicky when you press them.

There's nothing groundbreaking here. The Idol 3 is plastic, and feels plastic. The hardened faux metal clad edges contrast nicely against the satin back, but it's still plastic. We're not saying that's a good thing, nor are we saying it's a bad thing. We're just saying it's a thing. A plastic thing.

In the end, the Idol 3 is comfortable to hold and easy to use. It's also not a bad looker, which can be important to many.

The inside: Everything is scaled back

Idol 3 4.7-inch

Here's where the 5.5-inch version and the 4.7-inch version part ways.

The biggest and most obvious difference is the 4.7-inch 720p screen, but here are the full specs for comparison's sake.

CategoryFeatures
Dimensions134.6 x 65.9 x 7.55mm
Display4.7-inch HD 1280 x 720 IPS, 16M color display OGS full lamination, Capacitive multi-touch 5 points
OSAndroid 5.0.2 Lollipop
NetworkGSM (850/900/1800/1900), UMTS (850/900/1900/2100), LTE FDD (Bands 1/3/7/8/20)
ProcessorQualcomm MSM8916 Quad Core 1.2GHz CPU
Connectivity802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0
Rear camera13MP with autofocus, fast face focus, LED flash, 4x digital zoom, HDR
Front camera5MP
Storage16GB internal (11GB usable), microSD card
RAM1.5GB
Battery2000 mAh
OtherFM radio RDS, Light sensor, Proximity sensor, NFC Technicolor image enhancers , Hi-Fi, 3D audio effect

If this sort of thing matters to you, you'll notice things are pretty scaled back here compared to the bigger 5.5-inch model. It's important to talk about in any case, because Alcatel is using the same name for two very different models here.

It makes sense, though. Running a smaller (both in physical size and with fewer pixels) display means you can possibly get away with less RAM and a less-powerful CPU. Important features like high-end audio components and connectivity features are still on-board, and Alcatel isn't poising things as a "lesser" model — just a smaller model. They really do feel like the same phone in two different sizes at first glance.

The quick version here: You have less RAM, a smaller display and a lower-grade CPU compared to the larger version, but you have the same features in the software, the same audio components and the same camera in both models. Things like sensors and network connectivity are identical.

The software: See how she runs

Idol 3 4.7-inch

The Idol 3 comes with a very vanilla version of Android 5.0.2. While the icons have been changed, and a few features (like audio enhancements) have been added to the settings, you still have a basic Android build on board. We're not saying this is a bad thing. Alcatel has clearly optimized things and the software that ships with either of the Idol 3 models is very fluid and responsive. For the most part.

Things run pretty smoothly on the Snapdragon 410 and meager 1.5GB of RAM out of the box

One interesting note is the way the interface is fully reversible. With a speaker and microphone at both ends of the device, there is no true top or bottom here. Everything on the phone works with either end up, and while it sounds like a gimmick, it can be useful. It's great when you get a call and your hands are full — just pull it out of your pocket and answer without flipping it right-side up. The best part of it all — it works every time.

One issue I have with the smaller version that I've not experienced on the larger version, is keyboard "lag." It doesn't happen every time, but more than once I've found it takes a noticeable amount of time (less than a second, but enough to be aggravating) between typing on the stock keyboard and waiting for the letters to appear on your screen. This is something we've not seen with the higher-spec'd 5.5-inch version, so it's something worth mentioning.

Besides this, things run pretty smoothly on the Snapdragon 410 and meager 1.5GB of RAM out of the box. As expected, the more you ask the phone to do — by installing other apps and services — the more likely you are to see things slow down. You can play games like Asphalt 8 on the Idol 3, and for the most part they play "good enough," but things aren't going to be as smooth as a high-end Android when you push it hard. This is a common theme among the new breed of "good" budget devices, and not unexpected — as you do more, things become less efficient.

All in all, the experience you'll get from the Idol 3 is good. Minus some keyboard lagginess, out of the box, things are on par with the larger Idol 3. If you try to do more, this can change.

Real world use: Should I buy this?

Idol 3 4.7-inch

Everything on our unit worked as expected. Bluetooth was fine, and there were no issues with calls (on either end), using a Bluetooth speaker or staying paried and working with a Moto 360.

Wifi works well, both on my 2.4/5GHz home network as well as public hotspots or AT&T managed hotspots, with expected data speeds and no connection issues.

Keeping track of my location — both using Wifi assist and without using it — worked well on both AT&T and T-Mobile in the places I usually go, and navigation was fine with Google Maps.

The 720p screen is decent. The color is good, the viewing angles are good, and it's bright enough to use outside in the sun. It's not the best diaplay you'll ever see, and it's only 720p. It's a better display than we find on the Moto G, but pales when compared to the great display on the larger 5.5-inch Idol 3.

Battery life is good. The 2,000 mAh battery gets me through the day with no problems. Even when using it all day in places with a poor cell signal, you'll still have a bit of juice left when you go to bed.

For something you aim to keep for a year or so and that you'll use daily, spending more is worthwhile

There's nothing really bad to say about this version of the Idol 3, and that's refreshing.

But I wouldn't buy it.

That's not the phone's fault, though. Grumbles about keyboard lag and some slowdown when being pushed hard aside, it's just too easy to spend just a few more dollars to get something (arguably) better.

At $179, this version of the Idol 3 isn't a bad buy. But like the $179 version of the Moto G (which I also do not recommend), you can get something much better (performance wise) for $219 — the "big" version of the Moto G. Or for $249, you can get the full-sized Idol 3.

What I'm trying to say is this: If you like smaller phones, the extra $40 for a 2GB RAM version of the Moto G is a smarter buy. You'll not notice much of a size difference between them, and the bit of extra horsepower can and will make a difference when you start adding things from the Play store.

If you don't care about the size, the extra $80 for the full-sized Idol 3 means full-on "flagship" performance and a much nicer display to see everything on.

I know I'm tossing $40 or $80 around like it's nothing, but for something you aim to keep for a year or so and that you'll use daily, spending more is worthwhile.

I really like this "little" phone. But the competition (even from Alcatel themselves) makes it a tough sell.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Jerry Hildenbrand

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

45 Comments
  • Cute as a second phone though. Better screen (brightness) than the bigger Moto G, and upsidedownability. :)
    I like it, and it has many good points. As an only phone, it's not sensible as Jerry says, unless you or your Granma wants something small at less than half a Z3c/Z5c.
  • LG G2 is a better buy. Snapdragon 800, 2GBs RAM, 3000mAh battery... $179 2 year old flagship still beats this new stuff for a lot cheaper. Galaxy Note 4 {Sprint 5.1.1}
    3-day Power with a 9600mAh Extended Battery.
  • +1 Posted via the Android Central App
  • +100000000000000 Nexus 5 | T-Mobile $30 Plan
    LG G2 | Verizon Wireless No Plan
  • Yep VZW Moto X 2014/2013 DE
  • Agreed. I don't know why this isn't the norm for these companies... push the previous flagship as the "scaled down", instead of re-inventing the (old) wheel. You already have some inventory, already have the assembly line set up to build more, it takes ZERO R&D money, etc...
  • But this has nfc, while the moto g does not.
    Overall, for an average person who doesn't do that much gaming on their phone, this should be a great device. It will also work with Android Pay.
    Though if you like bigger phones, then spending more money to get the 5.5 inch version of this or to get a Oneplus One would be a no-brainer.
    But for people who like tiny phones, this would be what to get.
    I just wish alcatel would make their devices more durable so they don't crack in a backpack and you have to spend $100 for screen replacement..
  • This isn't tiny. This isn't even small by any means. This is still 4.7 friggin' inches of display, and all recommendations are significantly larger.
  • I hope you are joking. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Remember when HTC released their HUGE phone, the Titan, a name befitting it's size at the time. That was 4.7 inches. How soon we forget. Posted via the Android Central App
  • By today's standards it is in the small class Check out the new Nexus! https://youtu.be/u3uFOavLo_w, not a Rick roll
  • Are you kidding me. Not even HUGE at all. Wow must be an iPhone user that is accustomed to those HUGE 3.5 and 4.0 inch devices Posted via the Android Central App
  • Actually I owned a Dell Streak, back when everyone ridiculed 5" phones as comically large, and I've never owned an iPhone. And at the time, the Titan (again, that's why they called it that), was a big ass phone. The point I'm making, is that the standard of what is 'huge' and what is 'tiny' has shifted dramatically in a relatively short time. And if you can't get a dick joke out of that, I don't know what to say to you. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Thank you. This is exactly what bothers me. These things have literally exploded in size yet nobody seems to care. Mainly because most people seem to prefer large screens, which is fine. However, referring to a 4.7" device that not long ago would have been dubbed a Titan as tiny is ridiculous.
  • My Nexus 6 doesn't even feel big anymore. This is tiny in comparison. Posted via the Android Central App
  • The Nexus 6 isn't as big as everyone made it out to be I got my Nexus 6 at the weekend and having used it through out the weekend, the 5.5 inch Moto X Play will seem small in comparison. Posted via the Android Central App via My Nexus 6
  • YI am most certainly not joking! How can 4.7" be considered "tiny"? Agreed, it may be small compared to today's 5.5" flagship phones but that's like referring to the Ford F-150 truck as tiny simply because there are larger alternatives available. By no means is the F-150 a small car, and be no means is a 4.7" smartphone a small device. That's ridiculous and pathetic if you ask me, but I've realized that I'm pretty much by myself when it comes to phone size. I also find it highly questionable that all of the authors recommendations are both significantly larger and more expensive. As much as I respect Jerry's opinion I was left stunned by those final sentences.
  • Did the conclusion trigger you because he was staying facts? What.. He recommended phones that have better internals and displays if you're into that. Also 4.7 is small to today's standard so yes. It's small. It's a standard for a reason. Get over it Posted via the Android Central App
  • I think what surprised me was that this was supposed to be a review of a supposedly small phone (let's put aside the fact that I highly disagree with the notion of a 4.7" device being small for just a second here) yet the alternatives he lists are significantly larger. That's what probably triggered my reaction - it's that everybody seems to ne following the "bigger is better by default" mantra without ever questioning it. And I simply don't get it.
  • Interesting, i have both (euro models though) oh the Idol 3, i also have the X Play and the NEw G (the 16/2gb SKU, if you were wondering) and there are some things i just cant agree with. most importantly is the last bit where you state the performance of the bigger idol is near flagship levels. this just isnt my case. both my X Play and my big idol 3 have performance and graphical issues, and strangely they have them both in the same places. my small idol 3 and my Moto g actually feel faster than my big idol 3 and my X Play for most tasks. though i also have the same issue with the keyboard on my unit, i just thought it might have been a touchscreen fault.
  • How was the battery life for all those model you mentioned? Posted via the Android Central App by OnePlus One
  • X Play is the best, 2015 G is second, 5.5" Idol 3 is very close to the new G, and 4.7" Idol 3 is last, but not bad.
    X Play - 5-6hrs SOT with about 15-20% left att the end of a day, about 14 hours of charger.
    Moto G - 4-6hrs SOT, same conditions
    Idol 3 5.5" - 4-5hrs SOT
    Idol 3 4.7" - 4Hrs SOT
  • Okay so your review says buy the Moto G instead but I am interested in these phones mainly because of the Camera... with that being said does the Idol 3 have a better camera than the Moto G 2015?
  • Almost positive it is the same camera used in the 5.5" version. Camera should be better on the idol 4.7" as well. Posted via the Android Central App
  • He was asking compared to the Moto g's camera. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I am looking for a comparison to the Moto G but it has been stated that the 5.5 has a better camera than the Moto G and since the 5.5 and 4.7 share the same camera then the camera on the 4.7 should be better than the Moto G camera. Thank you to the both of you :)
  • I had all 3 phones. The cameras are close. The nice thing about the Idols is manual mode so you can adjust those for better low light pics. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I would go for the 2 GB Moto G. A little hesitant of any phone running 5.0, too many issues. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Yes - I was gonna add I would be nervous of 5.0, though that's purely from reading posts and updates to some devices.
    5.1 should be stock on new devices now, I don't know why not (I'm sure there are many reasons) - but wouldn't 5.1 arrive soon on this?
  • In response to the question:
    'Will the idol receive 5.1 for bug fixes and/or 6.0 at some point in the future' I got this...
    'Thank you for contacting ALCATEL ONETOUCH Support. Your communication is very important to us and we will respond as soon as possible.
    We do not have any plan for any update now. Please check back later. '
  • I can't be only one that wants a genuine budget phone smackdown, ie the $180 Moto G vs $180 Idol 3 vs the $199 Zenphone. That extra $ does count to some people, but we still want to get the best bang for the buck. ( There is a market for people who dont multitask multiple games at a time) Every article(around the web) written on these phones seems to upsell to the more expensive model without any sort of test or comparison. If there is a 2gb Moto G then don't you dare get the 1gb. If there is a 4gb Zenphone, don't get the 2gb. (Even though its $100 more!) This 4.7 Idol 3 has the same specs as the high end G that Jerry likes so much and more (NFC,gyroscope,stereo speakers, better screen, $40 less!) but its has .5gb less memory so not recommended? Based on what? 2gb is amazing and 1.5gb is measly. (I'm embarrassed to say I'm typing this on my Moto G 1gb) Jerry, you seem to champion the Moto G because, despite the disparity in benchmarks with higher specs, in real world use it is smooth. Well, I want to know how the Moto 1gb fares in this regard. The 8gb of storage we can work around. But the 1gb - everyone is saying not but can we have a Moto G 1gb vs 2gb smack down?
  • What I don't understand is that how much they have saved on this 0.5GB of RAM
  • I think this I a really nice phone. There's plenty of people out there who don't want a 5inch or more phone. 4.7 inches is a good size, and 720p at that size is plenty. And of course, the price is great. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Another solid review. Thank you Jerry. Your reviews have me sold on unlocked phones for good. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I can't afford the Z3 Compact for what they are selling it in Canada. They want my first born. In Canada, we only have the option of purchasing the 1GB/8GB version of the Moto G. I have zero desire for a phone larger than 5." More internal storage and a better camera is very important to me. This review was exactly what I needed. It's time to replace my S3. Thanks a bunch!! Posted via the Android Central App
  • "It's not the best diaplay [sic] you'll ever see, and it's only 720p. It's a better display than we find on the Moto G, but pales when compared to the great display on the larger 5.5-inch Idol 3." I see what you did there ;)
  • For a bit more money and with its price drop, you could pick up the Nexus 6 SD805 3GB RAM and 3220 mAh battery all which are much better value than the Moto X Play. Posted via the Android Central App via My Nexus 6
  • Let's see... Idol 3 4.7 unlocked US $179.99. Nexus 6 32GB unlocked US $499.98. Gosh darnit you're right, that's just US $319.99 more and thus just a bit more money.
  • I meant the Alcatel Idol 4.7 inch not the Moto X Play. Posted via the Android Central App via My Nexus 6
  • I like the smaller size.
  • Still wondering how the official flip cover case works for this phone.. No one has reviewed it. Posted via the Android Central App
  • My girlfriend has the 5.5 Idol 3 and I bought the official flip cover for her. If there's anything in particular you want to know, please ask. Otherwise, the cover has a few key points: 1. The drop protection must be damn fantastic, because the device dropped about four feet onto a linoleum floor one day. Zero damage, even to the display. I was shocked actually. She had had the phone only a little over a week and I had a heart attack before inspecting it for damage. 2. The cover will turn on the display temporarily when opened or closed. The problem with this is that there is no magnetic closure, and there isn't much holding the flap to take screen except gravity. It is sensitive for the open/close sensor. When being carried, you have to hold it shut a little to make sure it doesn't accidentally activate. This is probably my biggest gripe with the flip cover. Gravity is not a solution. 3. The case material is comfortable, not too hard and not too soft. It's more hard than soft, but I like it more than the natural phone material. It's slightly rubberized. Slightly! The window film is strong and won't tear unless you intentionally puncture it. It isn't completely solid, but its not cheap clingwrap either. It's like a milk or soda bottle plastic but only slightly more malleable. 4. Closing the flip cover activates the window mode, which essentially moves the screen content up about 25%. This puts the clock and notifications below it into the case window. If you open the phone fast enough, you see that this actually is a global display change and doesn't just affect the lock screen. It changes back to normal very quickly though, I was intentionally testing to see what the screen looked like while the flap was closed. A good design choice, useful function. 5. Personal side note, I dislike that they named the dialer "Call" instead of "Phone". I prefer icons to be named after nouns not verbs. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I guess I am at a lost at why smartphone manufacturer dumb down specs as the size goes down? There a lot more wealthy people that want smaller size smartphones then phabalet size phones. That why Apple 4.7" iPhone is the top seller worldwide! Totally stupid product packaging on Alcatels part!
  • Does anybody knows where to buy the dual SIM version of this phone? Also, if the dual SIM version offers 4G LTE connectivity?
    Regards!
  • Bad keyboard and the phone lags all the time no only that but the screen is small and if I was going to spend this kind of money I'd go get the honor 5X heck can get the Pantech over this phone would be an upgrade I'm telling you this phone lags it slower than my grandma jogging on a Sunday and slower than Tom Jones dancing on a wet banana it's keyboard is always jacked up more jacked up than Paul Rudd 6 day drinking binge I'm telling you