Alcatel One Touch Idol Ultra review: first look

28 Feb 2013

The Alcatel One Touch Idol Ultra might be a bit of a mouthful, but it's one of the most surprising phones we've seen this week at MWC.

It's set to arrive across Europe in April or May at a price of €359, and there's one thing about it that stands out above all else: at 6.45mm from front to back, it's comfortably the slimmest smartphone in the world – thinner than both the iPhone 5 and the Sony Xperia Z.

The handset was in fact announced a little before MWC, but the Barcelona mobile show is the first opportunity we've had to get our hands on one, so we swung by the Alcatel booth to take a look. It proved a worthwhile visit.

Aside from its thin profile, there's plenty here to like. It has a 4.7in, 1,280 x 720 AMOLED screen – the same size and technology as used in the Samsung Galaxy S III – with exactly the sort of vivid colour reproduction you'd expect: images burst from the screen.

The rear of the phone is finished in a tactile, rubbery plastic and it comes in a variety of bright, eye-catching colours. We counted six shades on the stand, from plain old black, through a fetching pink to the attractive burnt orange you see here in most of our shots.

It isn't a design that screams luxury like the Asus PadFone, but if this handset had the Samsung, LG or Asus logo stamped on the rear, we wouldn't have batted an eyelid. It's an exceptionally well-designed piece of hardware.

A quick scan through the specifications reveals it won't be at the cutting-edge when it comes to performance. It has only a dual-core 1.2GHz processor and 1GB of RAM.

Alcatel has refrained from messing too much with its installation of Android Jelly Bean 4.1. Aside from a scattering of redesigned icons on the homescreen and a row of quick settings buttons in the notifications, it's standard Android fare; it felt perfectly spry as we swiped through menus and around the OS. Annoyingly, Alcatel's on-stand Wi-Fi wasn't working when we visited the stand, so we've no way of telling yet how smooth the web-browsing is and can't report a SunSpider score.

Still, there's plenty else about the Idol Ultra to praise. It has a P2i water-repellent coating, so you should be okay if you're caught in a downpour or drop the phone into your cup of tea. There's a decent 16GB of internal flash storage, and an 8-megapixel camera at the rear – capable of shooting 1080p video – and a 1.3-megapixel shooter at the front. There's no dual-band Wi-Fi, NFC or 4G support, but it does have Bluetooth 4 and the battery is a reasonably sizeable 1,820mAh.

In all, the Alcatel One Touch Idol Ultra is one of the nicest mid-range smartphones we've come across recently. It's unassuming yet desirable. It feels quick enough for most purposes, and its feature set covers all the important bases, plus a couple we didn't expect. Alcatel may not be a big name among smartphone manufacturers right now, but if it keeps up this standard, it will be knocking on the door before you know it.

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