Even in the smartphone sea of sameness, one doesn’t need to take extreme measures to be noticed, necessarily. Case in point is Alcatel’s latest Idol smartphones, the Idol 4 and Idol 4S, whose packaging doubles as a VR viewer.
Granted, this is no Gear VR (it may not even be Google Cardboard), but if it's a gimmick, at least it's a fun one. Alcatel didn’t state definitively whether this packaging-as-VR-viewer meets the Google Cardboard spec, but it said you can pull content from the LittlStar network via the preloaded Onetouch VR Store app.
This follows a recent trend of 360-degree content and “VR lite” content that outlets such as the New York Times and Associated Press are offering users. This is actually, arguably, one of the most exciting aspects of the burgeoning VR content landscape, as it provides users a chance to create, submit and share their own experiences, in 360 degrees. Note that both YouTube and Facebook support 360-degree video.
The other “extra” selling point of the Idol phones is the “Boom Key,” which is a way to unlock more capabilities on the devices. Alcatel’s Chief Marketing Officer, Dan Dery, delightfully described this feature in a press release thusly: “The Boom Key boom-ifies everything, from the sound to photos to gaming.”
There are actually six boomifiable features on the Idol 4 phones, and they include the camera, gallery, videos, music, games and a 3D Parallax effect on both the homescreen and the weather widget. Basically, the Boom Key is a way to goose any of the above with a single button press.
For example, you can use the Boom Key to switch the camera into burst mode, whip up and share a photo slideshow, and add video effects. You can also use it to apply special features in games; the example Alcatel offered was releasing a nitro in a racing game. In collaboration with Waves, the Boom Key punches up the bass and clarity of the audio across “all media,” too.
Even if you consider all of the above completely extraneous, the specs on these phones are solid. The Idol 4S runs on a Snapdragon 652, and the Idol 4 has a Snapdragon 617, both of which are midrange chips, but they both have 3 GB of RAM. Onboard storage is a bit of an issue, though, as the Idol 4 has just 16 GB. However, the Idol 4S offers a reasonable 32 GB, and both handsets support up to 512 GB of microSD storage.
The rear cameras of both handsets are satisfactory (16MP for the Idol 4S [1080p@60fps] and 13MP for the Idol 4 [1080p@30fps]), but the front cameras on both are a surprising 8MP.
Alcatel has not divulged pricing or availability.
|Alcatel Idol 4S||Alcatel Idol 4|
|Display||5.5” QHD AMOLED (1440 x 2560), 16M color display, On-cell Touch Screen Panel, Capacitive multi-touch 10 points||5.2” FHD (1080 x 1920), IPS LTPS 16M color display, Capacitive multi-touch 10 points|
|SoC||Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 (MSM8976)||Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 (MSM8952)|
|CPU||Octa Core (4x ARM Cortex-A72 @ 1.8 GHz, 4x ARM Cortex-A53 @ 1.4 GHz)||Octa Core (4x ARM Cortex-A53 @ 1.7 GHz + 4x ARM Cortex-A53 @ 1.2 GHz)|
|GPU||Adreno 510 GPU||Adreno 405 GPU|
|RAM||3 GB||3 GB|
|Storage||32 GB / up to 512 GB via microSD||16 GB / up to 512 GB via microSD|
|Battery||3000 mAh||2610 mAh|
|Front Camera||8MP w/ flash, 84-degree viewing angle, Parallax selfie, real-time face beautification||8MP w/ flash, 84-degree viewing angle, Parallax selfie, real-time face beautification|
|Rear Cameras||-16MP w/flash, Touch focus, 6P Lens, Instant shot (0.6s), Auto HDR, Camera & Video zoom, Photo editor, Panorama, Geo tag-Video Playback: 4K@30fps, 1080p@60fps; Video Capture: 2K@30fps, 1080p@60fps, 720p@120fps||-13MP w/flash, Touch focus, 6P Lens, Instant shot (0.6s), Auto HDR, Camera & Video zoom, Photo editor, Panorama, Geo tag-Video Playback: 1080@30fps; Video Capture: 1080@30fps|
|Network||-X8 LTE modem -GSM 850/900/1800/1900-UMTS 1/2/5/8-HSPA+ Downlink: 42 Mbit/s / Uplink 5.76 Mbit/s-FDD LTE B1/3/7/8/20/28A-4G LTE Cat 6: Downlink 150 Mbit/s / Uplink 50 Mbit/s||-X8 LTE modem -GSM 850/900/1800/1900-UMTS 1/2/5/8-HSPA+ Downlink: 42 Mbit/s / Uplink 5.76 Mbit/s-FDD LTE B1/3/7/8/20/28A/38/40-4G LTE Cat 6: Downlink 150 Mbit/s / Uplink 50 Mbit/s|
|SIM||Nano SIM||Nano SIM|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Wi-Fi Direct, NFC, Micro USB 2.0, Bluetooth 4.2||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Wi-Fi Direct, NFC, Micro USB 2.0, Bluetooth 4.2|
|Misc.||-Boom Key-Packaging doubles as VR viewer-Waves and JBL audio-Stereo 3.6 W speakers-Hi-Fi surround (headset)-Quick Charge, G-sensor, FM Radio, Handsfree, Flight mode, Flip to mute, Dual-mic noise cancellation, HD Voice||-Boom Key-Packaging doubles as VR viewer-Waves and JBL audio-Stereo 3.6 W speakers-Hi-Fi surround (headset)-G-sensor, FM Radio, Handsfree, Flight mode, Flip to mute, Dual-mic noise cancellation, HD Voice|
|OS||Android 6.0 Marshmallow||Android 6.0 Marshmallow|
|Size||153.9 x 75.4 x 6.99 mm||147 x 72.5 x 7.1 mm|
|Colors||Gold, Dark Gray, Rose Gold and Metal Silver||Gold, Dark Gray, Rose Gold and Metal Silver|
Update, 2/21/16, 3:50 am PT: Snapdragon 652 specs corrected.