Alcatel OneTouch Idol X+ review

Alcatel OneTouch is an emerging brand in the mobile industry and we've taken a look at one of its higher spec smartphones. Here's our Alcatel OneTouch Idol X+ review. Updated on 26/5/15 with our video review. Also see: Best smartphones 2014 and Best Android phones 2014.

The Idol range is Alcatel OneTouch's top-tier of devices and don't be put off if you've not heard of the company. We got hands on with the firms new Idol 3 flagship devices at MWC 2015 but for now see what we make of the affordable but impressively equipped Idol X+.

Alcatel OneTouch Idol X+ review: Price and competition

Available for under £230 from Amazon, the Idol X+ is an affordable smartphone but not quite cheap enough to rival budget handsets like the Moto E, Moto G and EE Kestrel.

The price is understandable when you look at the design and spec of this phone and means it must take on devices such as the impressive Honor 6 which is made by Huawei, OnePlus One, Huawei Ascend G7 and the Google Nexus 5 if you can find one in stock somewhere.

Alactel OneTouch Idol X+ review

Alcatel OneTouch Idol X+ review: Design and build

The Idol X+ is a fairly typical looking mid-range phone. It's attractive but can hardly be described as a showstopper. It appears fairly plain at the front but the brushed metal style edges give a premium style despite being plastic underneath. The drilled holes for the speakers are neat and we like the way the dual-SIM card slots – on opposite sides of the device – have magnetic flaps, even if they are a bit difficult to get the hang of. See our best dual-SIM smartphones chart.

Meanwhile the rear cover, available in different colours, has a striking spun finish reminiscent of Asus ZenBook laptops. Alcatel OneTouch calls it 'In-mould Labelling'. The rear does smudge with fingerprints a little too easily, though, and although it's supposed to be greatly resistant to wear and tear we have noticed a few hairline marks appear. Don't be fooled into thinking this is metal though, it feels distinctly plastic and comes off a little with minimum effort despite there being no need to remove it.

Alactel OneTouch Idol X+ review

It feels nice in the hand with its slender 7.9 mm profile and 125 g weight – similar to that of its rivals. The power button sits on the top which is a bit difficult to reach on a phone this tall, along with the headphone port. The volume rocker is more convenient on the side while the microUSB port resides on the bottom between the speakers.

Alcatel OneTouch Idol X+ review: Hardware and performance

Moving from style onto substance and the Idol X+ has an impressive line-up of hardware – on paper at least.

Starting with the display, the phone offers a 5in IPS screen with a Full HD resolution (1080 x 1920). This is protected by Gorilla Glass 2 and has an oleophobic coating to ward off fingerprints. It works pretty well and the display is decent, matching rivals with an impressive 441 ppi, good brightness and viewing angles.

Alactel OneTouch Idol X+ review

In the engine room is an octa-core processor so there are more cores than you would perhaps expect to find at this price – the Honor 6 also offers this feature. The chip is a MediaTek MT6592 which is 2 GHz and has 2 GB of RAM alongside it which is less than the 3 GB found in the Honor 6.

More cores might sound better but our benchmark results show that it doesn't automatically mean superior performance. As you can see in the table below, the Idol X+ is a little behind the Nexus 5 in Geekbench 3 which has a quad-core processor. It also struggled somewhat in the easier graphics test (the more difficult test wouldn't run) and the web browsing test was slower than its rivals.

 

Geekbench 3

GFXBench T-Rex

GFXBench Manhattan

SunSpider

Idol X+

2711

12 fps

n/a

1366 ms

Honor 6

3103

17 fps

9 fps

828 ms

Nexus 5

2800

24 fps

9 fps

801 ms

Benchmark results don't always translate into performance on a user perspective but in this case it did. The Idol X+ does perform well but we also experiences some annoying lag such as jerky animations when moving around homescreen panels and pulling the notification bar down. These issues do tend to clear up raising their head mainly on first use or when the phone has been in sleep for a long period of time. Apps actually launch pretty quickly, including the camera app which is a rarity.

On the storage front, the Alcatel Idol X+ is like many smartphones in that you can get either 16- or 32- GB models with the latter being harder to find. Remember that the operating system takes up some of this space so our 16 GB review sample had 12.3 GB available.

Although there's space for two SIM card slots, Alcatel OneTouch hasn't found room to include a microSD card slot which is a shame. We've seen some dual-SIM handsets which allow you to choose between a second SIM and a memory card on one slot but the Idol X+ isn't one of them.  

The dual-SIM card slots is a key feature here and this is easily one of the nicest dual-SIM phones we've reviewed. If you're only going to use one SIM card then the lack of a microSD card slot is a shame and the device is a bit behind rivals on connectivity.

You'll get 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and GPS but there's no NFC, IR blaster or 4G LTE support which are all available on the Honor 6. The Nexus 5 is also NFC and 4G enabled. It's of little consolation but there is a built in FM radio.

In fact, audio is a feature which Alcatel OneTouch makes a big deal of on its website for the Idol X+. Those down facing speakers are good, better than your typical poor quality output but aren't up to the standards of premium phones like the HTC One M9 and Sony Xperia Z3.

Alactel OneTouch Idol X+ review

The Idol X+ is also supplied with some JBL in-ear headphones which are a lot better than the usual cheap rubbish you get supplied with a phone. When headphones are plugged in you can choose from different sound effect profiles such as natural, electronic, pop-rock and soul. There's also a Hi-Fi mode hidden in the settings which improves the sound somewhat by mainly boosting the bass. Both of these are accessible from the quick settings.

As mentioned earlier, the battery is non-removable so you'll need to look elsewhere if you want the ability to swap it easily. It's a 2500 mAh battery and during our testing we've found that the Idol X+ will last a day of varied use comfortably enough but not so much so that you won't need to charge it every night. The battery holds its charge well when in standby and there's the usual power saving mode which will cut all your connectivity and dim the screen to conserve juice.

Alcatel OneTouch Idol X+ review: Cameras

Camera tech has come on long way over the last few years, so much so that we're now seeing 13 Mp cameras on affordable phones like this Idol X+ and the Honor 6. That's impressive but more megapixels doesn't always mean mega results.

As mentioned earlier, we're impressed with how quickly the camera app launches and you can also shoot very quickly too – the autofocus is the slowest element here. The app is easy to use and as with almost any phone, it shoots cropped to get widescreen so you'll need to select full-screen in the settings to get all 13 Mp.

The results, which you can see below, are decent with a good amount of detail. There are various shooting modes including HDR, panorama, sports, night and filter. You can also manually adjust the ISO and exposure in the settings menu if you want. Video can be shot at a pretty standard 1080p with optional electronic image stabilisation (it's off by default so that's how we've shot our test video).

Alactel OneTouch Idol X+ review test photo

Alcatel OneTouch Idol X+ test photo

Alcatel OneTouch Idol X+ test photo

Alcatel OneTouch Idol X+ test photo HDR

The front facing camera, at 2 Mp, is less impressive but will suffice for the odd selfie and video call should you need to call upon on it.

Alcatel OneTouch Idol X+ review: Software

The Idol X+ is an Android 4.4.2 KitKat powered phone so it's not quite up to date with 5.0 Lollipop the latest version and no work from Alcatel OneTouch of an update.

We're not massively taken with the default lock- and homescreen wallpapers but you can, of course, choose your own. You unlock the phone with an unorthodox swipe to the right with the opposite launching the camera app - If you like you can switch to a pattern unlock or various others available in Android as standard. You get some basic info such as the time and weather and can still access the notification bar. Notifications appear central and you can open them by swiping one to the right.

Overall the interface is fairly vanilla with everything where you'd expect it to be but looking a bit dated compared to rivals. The quick settings menu within the notification bar is comprehensive and unlike rivals such as Huawei the regular app menu remains so your icons don't need to clutter the homescreen panels.

Interestingly the panel to the left of the main screen has the ability to scroll vertically meaning you can fit more widgets on it but this seems a little unnecessary. One more swipe and you'll reach the photo wall which can't be removed.

The Idol X+ is one of a number of phones which goes against the modern way of Android having on-screen navigation buttons. Instead, there are touch sensitive buttons which sit below the display.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing but the device uses the out-of-date menu button instead of recent apps. This means you need to long press it to view your open apps which display in a small horizontal bar across the bottom of the screen - you can clear all or close them individually by swiping up or down. The setup also means you can't use a swipe up from the bottom of the display to launch Google Now. Instead, this is done by long pressing the home button which isn't particularly intuitive.

Last but not least in the area of software is the amount of pre-installed apps. The usual set of Google apps and built-in essentials like a gallery, calculator, camera and others is to be expected. However, Alcatel OneTouch adds a lot more on top.

It's a long list too including Facebook, Deezer, Evernote, My Tracks, OfficeSuite, PicSay, Viber and WhatsApp. This may save you the bother of downloading the apps but only if you use them and we don't think manufacturers should decide for you. Fortunately most of that list can be uninstalled to free up space but not all of it.

As well as general apps, there are a number of games present on the Idol X+ - Asphalt 7, Little Big City, Real Football 2014, The Avengers and Uno & Friends. They're all from Gameloft but most are demos or require downloading fully. Little Big City is the only one we could play straight away. All, along with the Gameloft Live app, can be uninstalled from the phone.

Alcatel OneTouch Idol X+: Specs

  • Android 4.4 KitKat OS
  • 5in IPS display (1080x1920), 441 ppi
  • 2 GHz Octa-core MediaTek CPU
  • Mali-450MP4 GPU
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16/32GB internal storage
  • 13Mp rear camera, AF with LED Flash
  • 2Mp front camera
  • Video recording at up to 1080p
  • dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 4.0 LE
  • A-GPS
  • Micro-USB (SlimPort)
  • Micro-SIM (dual-SIM)
  • 2500mAh non-removable battery
  • 69x140x7.9mm
  • 125g
  • Android 4.4 KitKat OS
  • 5in IPS display (1080x1920), 441 ppi
  • 2 GHz Octa-core MediaTek CPU
  • Mali-450MP4 GPU
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16/32GB internal storage
  • 13Mp rear camera, AF with LED Flash
  • 2Mp front camera
  • Video recording at up to 1080p
  • dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 4.0 LE
  • A-GPS
  • Micro-USB (SlimPort)
  • Micro-SIM (dual-SIM)
  • 2500mAh non-removable battery
  • 69x140x7.9mm
  • 125g

OUR VERDICT

The Alcatel OneTouch Idol X+ is one of the best dual-SIM phones we've reviewed and a good choice for the price. It has a nice design and good features like a Full HD display and 13 Mp camera but bear in mind that the Moto G 2014 and ZTE Blade S6 are both cheaper and dual-SIM. However, in the wider smartphone market there is tough competition and its lack of a microSD card slot and other hardware such as 4G LTE support mean it's outpaced by the Honor 6.

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