If you don’t want to tie yourself down to a pricey monthly contract and still want a current generation smartphone, your best bet may be to look outside the big brands at some of the capable alternatives doing the rounds. One of these is Alcatel Onetouch, who has been slowly but surely increasing its range of devices to the point where they’re starting to get a little bit more recognition in the mainstream market. Its OneTouch Idol 2 Mini S was announced at Mobile World Congress 2014 and is a good example of exactly why – this doesn’t sound like a cheap device, with a brushed metallic finish, diamond cut and a decent amount of power under the hood for a mid range device.
It offers a 4.5” (540×960) IPS display at 245ppi, 1.2GHz quad-core processor and 4GB of internal memory expandable via microSD. An 8MB camera on the back and 2MP on the front should be good enough for less serious photographers, it comes with NFC so you can get involved with rapidly expanding contactless payments, there’s a 4G version for speedy internet and Android 4.4 is in the works.
For what’s effectively priced as a “budget” smartphone there seems to be some potential here – let’s see if it’s been realised.
ExpertReviews is generally pleased with its first impression in a hands-on test, though does point out that the word “finish” is key when describing the metallic construction. Though its bigger brother does indeed have a metal back plate, the Mini S is actually made from plastic, and just brushed to look like a slightly more premium design. It also points out that the display resolution may be a sticking point for those used to HD quality:
“This is a noticeable step down from 720p, as even with a reduction in screen size pixel density still drops to 244PPI. It’s noticeable when held next to an HD display, and even in isolation text and images look a little fuzzy”.
Thankfully it’s not a poor performance per se, with “excellent” brightness and viewing angles thanks to the IPS panel.
Wovow is pretty impressed with what’s on offer at the price, and points out that the Alcatel Onetouch costs around the same as budget phones from Chinese manufacturers but with a far nicer design and better performance. It gave the battery a bit of a workout and noted around two full days from typical varied use, which isn’t too bad, and it also charges pretty quickly in around two hours.
PhoneArena is a big fan of the design, pointing out that the “Idol 2 mini is a very, very light handset, which is pretty cool – you don’t get that kind of feather-lightness in a lot smartphones out there” , and how “the clean, logo-less design of the front makes the phones look quite universal and stylish.”
It also comments on the screen resolution and concludes that despite it being fairly low, really isn’t too bad.
“On top of that, we have the Dragontrail glass, which makes the display sturdier, and there’s also an oleophobic coating to quickly get rid of those stains on the display.”
Alcatel Onetouch has added some little customisations of its own by the sound of it – all the core applications and visuals, apparently, which delivers a rather different Android experience. It also offers features such as One Finger Zoom – a double-tap and hold that lets you zoom with one hand. There are no reports on the camera yet, but it does point that you can record 1080p video, which is an impressive feat at this price point.
PhoneArena concludes by giving some indication as to why Alcatel Onetouch is starting to build a bit of a following, and attracting more attention at events. “Alcatel Onetouch is bringing some very, very hot devices to MWC. These smartphones aren’t particularly impressive in terms of specs or technology, but they just feel so refined.” Perhaps this is the secret to releasing a low to mid-range device – most people probably wouldn’t notice if a smartphone had a slightly slower processor or a slightly lower resolution camera, but who doesn’t notice a tidy design?
Carphone Warehouse is currently offering the OneTouch Idol 2 Mini S without an upfront cost from just £12 per month.