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printed December 17, 2017
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Review: Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3

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Screen

At 5.5 inches across the diagonal and full HD resolution, the Idol 3 screen matches the iPhone 6 Plus exactly as far as the spec sheet is concerned. Alcatel's screen is very good. It's incredibly bright and sharp. Colors look excellent, and viewing angles are superb. It's not quite as easy to read outdoors as I'd like it to be, but it should be good enough for most people most of the time. It will likely exceed the expectations of people who buy this phone.

Signal

As noted, the Idol 3 is sold unlocked and it supports most GSM networks. That means it works with AT&T/Cricket and T-Mobile/MetroPCS, for example, and is compatible with LTE 4G across the board. We tested the phone on AT&T's network and it performed admirably. I didn't have any trouble connecting calls even under questionable network coverage. The Idol 3 did drop one call when transitioning between cells at highway speeds. The phone supports CAT 4 LTE (theoretical max download speeds of 150 Mbps) and it was very fast on AT&T's LTE network across the greater New York area. It posted max speeds in the low 40 Mbps range and averaged about 25 Mbps. I'll take it.

Sound

I've really come to appreciate phones that have stereo speakers. The Idol 3 has two JBL speakers, each with its own 1.2W amplifier. In practical terms, that means it can pump out the jams, and some incredibly loud phone calls. Seriously, don't crank the volume on this puppy unless you want to damage your hearing. I was able to hear calls in practically all environments with the volume set at about 60 or 70%. The quality of calls coming through those speakers was good enough, but not great. I would have prefered more clarity and warmth. People I spoke to through the Idol 3 said I sounded pretty good but noted they'd heard better. Taking calls via the speakerphone will make your neighbors and officemates hate you. Seriously, make sure you turn down the volume first. The quality there is pretty good. Ringers and alerts will wake people up in the next town over if you're not careful. The vibrate alert is on par with most other phones.

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Of course, the powerful stereo speakers are awesome for rocking to your favorite tunes or enjoying the new Star Wars trailer at space-battle volumes. The Idol 3 filled my garage with plenty of sound while I pulled out all my deck furniture for the season; no Bluetooth speaker required. The quality was quite good. The Idol 3 can produce a massive amount of sound and do so without distortion, even when I was banging my head to the latest album from Machine Head. Good stuff.

Battery

Alcatel claims the 2,910 mAh battery provides up to 13 hours of talk time. The Idol 3 did last from breakfast to bedtime consistently across a week of heavy testing. The battery did tend to drain a bit quicker when blasting some dubstep, but if you confine yourself to standard behaviors (messaging, social networking, browsing the web, watching YouTube, downloading apps) you should be totally fine most days. Keep in mind, we tested the phone with the LTE, GPS, Bluetooth, WiFi, and NFC radios on at all times.

The Idol 3 comes with only the basic Android battery saver tool that's available to all Android 5.0 Lollipop handsets. Turning it on will dim the screen, rev down the processor, and shut the screen off more aggressively.

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