Alcatel Idol 4S Smartphone and VR Headset First Look

Setup, Testing & Final Thoughts

Setting Up The Alcatel Headset

VR connection requires removing the phone shroud and placing the Idol 4S into the loading slot. The phone is secured via a tab on the left and a simple locking mechanism on the right. Pressing the button on the right loosens the lock and allows the Idol 4S to be placed or removed. The Idol 4S fits snugly into the headset, and its orientation is left up to the user.

There are openings on the top left and bottom right of the headset’s loading slot. The opening allows users to plug in a pair of headphones and/or a micro-USB charging cable. The included charging cable and JBL earphones connect easily with the phone shroud on, but larger cables might not fit.

Using The VR Launcher

Sensors in the Idol 4S open the VR Launcher application when the Idol 4S is connected. The VR Launcher acts as a hub from which you can play games, peer at downloaded photos and videos, and open the Littlstar app.

The Littlstar VR Cinema app offers a ton of free VR content. Alcatel partnered with Little Star Media to build the app into the VR Launcher. It lets you use the headset’s Forward and Back buttons to browse through Littlstar content. Browsing through Littlstar on a different phone and headset pairing otherwise requires that you remove your phone and manually exit the VR content before selecting new content.

The content you'll find in Littlstar ranges from nature, fashion, music, gaming and more. I found one video that was as short as 43 seconds, and others that exceeded five minutes. With a good wireless connection, Littlstar has enough content to last you at least a couple hours, and more is being added.

Gaming With The Idol 4S

The Alcatel Idol 4S comes preloaded with Lamper VR and Titans of Space. More VR games can be downloaded via the VR Store, which functions similarly to the Google Cardboard app in that it they both redirect to the Google Play Store to download apps. Downloaded games appear in the VR Launcher’s game menu. The Play Store should offer more than enough content to keep you busy, but Samsung's Gear VR will still have the advantage of the ever-growing Oculus store.

It should also be noted that the Idol 4S only has soft compatibility with Cardboard. All apps downloaded through the VR Store appeared on Cardboard, but there were several seemingly Cardboard-specific apps, such as Wizard Academy VRPlanner 5D, which weren't added to the VR Launcher's game list. To play these apps, I had to open them manually and enable Cardboard view before placing the Idol 4S in the headset. Once I did that, the Forward button worked seamlessly. Pressing Back, however, doesn't bring me back to the VR Launcher, prompting me to remove the Idol 4S before switching apps again.

We expect app developers to deliver a higher volume of polished content once Android N arrives, and Daydream along with it. Alcatel has stated that the Idol 4S will receive the Android N update in the undisclosed future, and its future projects will have support for Daydream. The Idol 4S will not receive explicit support, however.

Comfort And Heat

I found the fit with glasses to be a little snug, but your mileage may vary. Removing the face padding frees up some room, but this sacrifices comfort for compatibility. There’s no way to adjust the optics either, so people with poor eyesight (like me) will have better luck using contact lenses while operating the headset.

Other than that, the headset was quite comfortable. The phone and headset together weigh less than a pound, so wearing it wasn’t incredibly strenuous. The adjustable headbands can provide a snug fit if set correctly, but they can be hard to adjust once you’re wearing the headset.

VR sessions heat the Idol 4S considerably, but the temperature peaks relatively quickly, and at no point was performance impacted during a 45 minute/hour-long session.

Of course, none of what I said matters if the VR content experience isn’t comfortable. Unfortunately, long sessions with the headset left me feeling sick, so I found myself removing the headset often. Interestingly enough, live action 360-degree videos induced VR sickness to a greater extent than animations and games. I found 360-degree photos to be the easiest on the eyes, and luckily, there’s a ton of this content available. But when it comes to VR, games and videos are what people get excited about, and sadly these experiences turned me off the most.

Who Is This Meant For?

Mobile VR is a different beast than full-fledged VR experiences such as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. It might be a great place for people to get familiar with the technology; on the other hand, the performance challenges may turn those same people away from VR altogether.

Also, keep in mind that the Idol 4S and headset are bundled together; neither are available as standalone products, although they may be sold separately in the future. And only the Idol 4S is compatible with the headset; if you’re a VR enthusiast in the market for mobile VR, but you already have a suitable phone, then this bundle also isn’t for you. 

Still, the Idol 4S is an decent mid-range phone with solid build quality and hardware. The headset is incredibly easy to setup and use. The Idol 4S bundle is ideal for customers who are in the market for a new smartphone, but have had some VR experience--customers who know about mobile VR’s drawbacks.

The Alcatel Idol 4S Smartphone and Headset Bundle can be preordered on Alcatel’s website for $350. The price will increase to $400 on August 5, when the bundle is officially released.


MORE: All VR Content

MORE: Virtual Reality Basics

MORE: The History Of Virtual Reality

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  • Sakkura
    Ideal for VR enthusiasts? I don't think so. If I want a VR upgrade, I'll get a GTX 1070, not a Snapdragon 652.

    Would make more sense for someone just dipping their toes in VR, except for the low performance (and lack of tracking) causing motion sickness. I really hope crappy VR like this doesn't end up ruining the public perception of VR in general.
  • stuzathegreat
    Maybe i missed it but, I didn't see a single mention of the Screen Door Effect. How bad is it? It's quite important for VR devices, portable or not!!!
  • g-unit1111
    Alcatel - hey it's slightly above two tin cans and a string. :lol: