Just when T-mobile had us convinced they had joined the world and given up on Windows Phone, they pull a switch on us and become the exclusive distributor for the new upscale-looking Windows 10 phone from Alcatel–the Idol 4S VR. Several things set this unit apart from the competition.
First off is the price. At $469, it isn’t exactly cheap, yet it’s priced quite a bit below the other “premium” phones. T-mobile’s top-tier customers can order one with no money down and repay it in two years with payments of under $20 a month. No money down isn’t exactly right either, since you have to pay tax and shipping up front—under $47. Also of note is the large capacity battery (3000 mAh) and the whopping factory supplied 64GB of storage, upgradable to 128 GB with an SD card This is all guided by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor—largest and fastest in use in today’s phones, and found only in a competitive model selling for over twice the price. This makes the Idol 4S lightning fast with a 5.5-inch AMOLED Dragontrail screen at 1080X 1920 pixels with a 441 ppi density.
It doesn’t stop there, though. The main camera is a 21 MP marvel with a Sony processor, and the front-facing “selfie” camera is 8 MP, with both lenses having their own flash. The cameras have autofocus, digital zoom, geo tagging, exposure compensation, ISO controls, white balance presets, High Dynamic Range mode, and panoramic capabilities. High resolution video is standard. But perhaps the most interesting thing is that the Idol 4S comes with a virtual reality (VR) headset and is prepackaged with several VR apps and access to a VR store for more. This will appeal to gamers but the average phone fan will just occasionally use that feature, although they will find the 4 GB of RAM memory useful.
I read up on this device for over a week and found several discrepancies with the product. First, all the reviewers claimed there was no charger or SIM card with the phone. The charger, as a space-saving measure, is packed inside the VR unit’s goggles, and while the Android version of this phone may not have a SIM card, the T-mobile version comes with a “nano-SIM” card, a size unlike any I’ve used before. A factory-supplied “key” opens a small tray housing the SIM and SD card (SD card sold separately, of course, and I would recommend a 64 GB card). Reviewers report (and T-mobile states) that a shock-absorbing case comes with the phone, but it doesn’t. The 4S has a body made of tough glass, but glass nonetheless. This will make it a fingerprint magnet and a breakage liability. There are already several companies (including Incipio) who make cases for this beauty for about $25.
Speaking of fingerprints, there is a fingerprint sensor to unlock the phone, but its not explained in the user manual that comes with the phone how it works. I am going to contact Alcatel about this omission. Because my previous phone was also Windows OS, the 4S, as part of its setup, automatically tagged my Lumia 635 and transferred everything in its memory to the 4S via Bluetooth. T-mobile did a computer-derived jumpstart of the SIM card and I was ready to go. The “fast charger” will do a “zombie revival” dead to full charge in less than 2 hours with the new-style USB-C cable that can be plugged in to a receptacle with no “up” or “down” connector alignment.Also interesting is that this phone has no “up” position. If you pick it up “upside down”, the screen realigns itself to look “right-side up” to you. This stunning mobile unit is the new standard bearer for the market. Web pages look just like they do on my laptop, which none of my previous phones could do. The Idol 4S may be the phone that will revive the Windows platform, and it’s already shaken things up as over the last few months there have been more WP units making their way to the market. Ask any Microsoft Store employee.