Alcatel’s Idol 4S bundles in a VR headset, and a lot of punch for a low price


Alcatel teased the Idol 4S back at Mobile World Congress in February, but now the phone is officially here. Not much has changed since we last saw the device, but the U.S. version now has a fingerprint sensor.

At MWC, Alcatel also showcased the Idol 4 — the company says availability of the device as well as others will be announced very soon, as the Idol 4S is just the start. The 4S is the higher-end device, with a 5.5-inch Quad HD AMOLED screen and a 2,560 x 1,440 pixel resolution. It’s powered by an eight-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 processor, has 3GB of RAM, 32GB of built-in storage space, and a 3,000mAh battery to boot. You’ll also be able to expand your storage thanks to MicroSD card support.

The rear camera captures a sharp 16-mexapixel image using an f/2.0 aperture lens, and the front-facing camera packs 8 megapixels and even features flash. You’ll also be able to capture 2K video at 30fps, 1080p video at 60 fps, and 720p video at 120fps.

Of course, Alcatel is also highlighting the Boom Key experience with the Idol 4S — it’s a button on the side of the phone that can perform functions in different apps. For example, you can double press it to take a photo or long press it to take a burst shot. You can also use it to boost the audio when music is playing, or you can use it to trigger a specific application.

Release: OnePlus 3 vs. OnePlus X: Is the OnePlus 3 worth the extra dough?

The specs are certainly solid, and the price tag is fairly low at $400. For that price, you could get the OnePlus 3, which has almost the same specifications except it features the more powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor. Of course, there are some slight differences. For example, the Idol 4S has a higher display resolution.

The design is fairly distinct from previous Idol devices, as the back and front of the device are covered in 2.5D glass. The top and bottom edges can feel a little sharp as there are front-facing speakers that jut out, and the power button can be a little hard to reach as it sits all the way on the top left side of the phone. The back of the device resembles a Samsung Galaxy S7, except you’ll find the fingerprint sensor and Alcatel’s branding there, too.

When you buy the Idol 4S, you’re not just getting the smartphone. Alcatel is offering a virtual reality bundle, which includes a headset that resembles Samsung’s Gear VR. Slide the Idol 4S into the front of the headset, and you’ll be able to enjoy content in immersive VR. Alcatel is bundling the phone with a few apps to make the VR experience seamless. One example is Littlestar, a media app that offers VR content from various outlets like ABC News and Showtime. You’ll also find Alcatel’s very own VR Launcher and VR Store — the launcher lets you browse through all your VR content in one place, so you don’t have to take your phone out to navigate to another app. The VR Store will feature original content from Alcatel.

Unfortunately, the headset is not Daydream-certified. Google unveiled plans to bring a new Android VR platform called Daydream later this fall, which aims to ensure devices and headsets meet certain standards to run high-quality VR content. Google is making its own headset, and we’ve seen a few manufacturers release Daydream-certified headsets already. Alcatel says it wants to get consumers to be interested in VR first, and then it will potentially explore a Daydream-certified headset.

Related: ZTE jumps on the VR train with a headset for its Daydream-ready Axon 7

On to the software, you’ll find a slightly tweaked version of stock Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow. There are some pre-installed apps and some design changes particularly to the notification drawer, but the experience is more or less quite similar to pure Android. As far as updates go, Alcatel tells Digital Trends it prides itself on its security updates. It has been pushing the software updates it gets from Google to its devices monthly. The Idol 4S already has the July security update. In regards to Android Nougat, the company says it will wait to see how stable the Android version is before rolling out an update.

A VR headset isn’t the only item included in the bundle. Along with the Alcatel Idol 4S and the headset, you’ll also get a 2.5D tempered glass screen protector, JBL headphones, an Incipio protective case, a Quick Charge 2.0 adapter, as well as free shipping. While the smartphone officially goes on sale for $400 on August 3, you’ll be able to pre-order it starting on July 15 for a lower price of $350. It’s compatible with all GSM providers, and will be available on Alcatel’s website.

Expect our full review in the coming weeks.

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