Alcatel cardboard

Mobile World Congress

Every phone you buy will be packaged in some sort of box. It might be a plastic capsule of some sort, or a highly engineered two-piece box with a custom wood stenciled outer sleeve. Or it might just be a cheap box with a bunch of colorful printing on it. The idea is to have something to hold the phone and things like papers or charging cables. Simple, but effective.

Alcatel takes the idea of a cardboard box a step further with the Idol 4 series. Their cardboard box isn't made of cardboard, but it is cardboard — Google Cardboard. The box is a pretty standard plastic version of Google's Cardboard viewer, much like one of the ones you'll find on Amazon for 20 bucks or so. And that is genius.

We're not judging here, let me make that clear. But the people most likely to buy a phone from Alcatel aren't the same people who are going to be spending serious money on something from Samsung and Oculus or an HTC Vive. The whole demographic is different, and while the Idol 4 and Idol 4S look to be really nice phones, they are squarely in the "wallet-friendly" category. People who buy wallet-friendly tech tend to stick with wallet-friendly tech.

Consumers get something for free that's really fun to use, and Alcatel gets a pretty unique way to make customers look twice.

Also, many people who don't spend part of their day reading sites like Android Central probably have no idea that Google Cardboard exists. They'll see an Idol 4 or 4S on the shelf inside some fancy virtual reality dohickey, and most will instantly think, "that's coolAF!" It's a double win; consumers get something for free that's really fun to use, and Alcatel gets a pretty unique way to make customers look twice.

For those of us who need to stay on top of everything tech — it's OK to be a nerd —seeing the Idol 4 and 4S come with a free Google Cardboard viewer is going to weigh into our decision if we're looking for wallet-friendly. You know Cardboard is cool. You also know that you'll probably never use one unless someone puts it right in your hands. Alcatel can do that.

I'm not saying that because the box is a Google Cardboard viewer means everyone should run out and buy an Idol 4 or 4S. I'll need to wait until I actually use the phones until I can say anything like that (or the opposite). But the idea of bundling something fairly cheap yet on the cutting edge of technology is one of the best ideas I've seen in awhile.

Hands-on with the Alcatel Idol 4 and 4S