LAS VEGAS: BUDGET SMARTPHONE MAKER Alcatel announced its first proper high end device today, the Alcatel One Touch Idol Ultra, which it also tells us is the world's thinnest smartphone.
We managed to have some time with the skinny 6.45mm thick handset, and because of the handset's tiny dimensions, it's hard to believe that this is a real smartphone. While Alcatel was unable to back up the claim that it is the world's thinnest smartphone, it's certainly the smallest device that we've ever managed to get our hands on. It feels great in the hand, not just because of its slim chassis, but because of its lightweight plastic casing.
However, while we were wowed by the handset's skinniness, we weren't so pleased by other measures Alcatel has taken to keep the smartphone so small. For example, there's no 3.5mm audio jack built into the handset, a separate microUSB adapter is required, and the Alcatel One Touch Idol Ultra comes with just 8GB of internal storage with no way to expand it via microSD card.
We were a bit put off by the handset's cheap feeling casing during our time with the device, too. While its plastic chassis is a key component to keep the device so thin and light, the material felt very flimsy in the hand, and we doubt it would be able to survive even the slightest tumble. Still, the device does look nice and would sit nicely alongside the Samsung Galaxy S3 on shelves, although Alcatel hinted that it won't be quite as expensive as its Samsung rival.
The Alcatel One Touch Idol Ultra features a 4.7in 720 AMOLED touchscreen. The screen proved vibrant, even when compared against the iPhone 5 and Nokia Lumia 920, and it offered decent viewing angles. However, the screen didn't quite pass our tests when it came to overall responsiveness.
In fact, neither did the device as a whole. Despite having a reasonable dual-core 1.2GHz processor, the device was quite laggy and frustrating during our hands-on testing. The capacitive Android keys in particular proved a nuisance during our tests, the first flaw that really made it obvious that the Idol Ultra HD isn't quite on a par with its big name rivals. However, as what we saw was a pre-release model, there's a chance the lag will be fixed before the phone goes to market.
It's not all bad, though, as The Alcatel One Touch Idol Ultra runs an almost vanilla Google Android 4.1 Jelly Bean user interface (UI), which offers a simple, uncomplicated user experience and all of the latest Android features. Using such a relatively untouched version of the Android UI that has proven to be a hit amongst consumers could work in Alcatel's favour, too.
Overall, we're pretty impressed with the Alcatel One Touch Idol Ultra, and will be even more so if it's released at the budget price that's almost synomous with the little-known phone maker. Sure, it suffers from a bit of lag, but if Alcatel prices this phone right, it could be a viable alternative to the big name smartphones.
Don't get too excited, though, as Alcatel tells The INQUIRER that it has no official plans to bring the device to the UK yet. µ