Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 – An awesome budget and T-Mobile friendly smartphone [review]

It was back in March at MWC where I got my first hands-on experience with the new Alcatel OneTouch smartphone. And – for the first time – I was impressed by an Alcatel phone. In the past, the company has perhaps built the wrong kind of reputation for making cheap phones with far too many compromises. But the Idol 3 is the manufacturer’s attempt at making its own flagship at an affordable price. And I have to say, I’ve been impressed.

I’ll not write out my whole review again, you can see it in the video above, but I did want to share some daily real-life usage experiences with you.

I guess the biggest surprise for me was how often I went to grab the Idol 3 instead of my Galaxy Note 4 over the past couple of weeks. Even after I’d spent the usual time testing it and making observations about specific features (for review purposes), I still wanted to use it as my main Android phone. And – as many of you know – I always carry an Android phone alongside my iPhone 6 Plus. It just so happened that the Alcatel was my green robot-powered smartphone of choice.

It’s not like I preferred every feature of the Idol 3 to my Galaxy Note 4. I mean, the display isn’t as good. Neither is the camera, and its performance isn’t quite as smooth. I think it was more about having the right combination of features I enjoyed. I liked the almost stock version of Android, I liked the display size and I liked the thinness and lightness of the device. Technically, it’s not as good, but I’ve really enjoyed using it every day. And I’m a little sad I have to switch my attention to a different Android phone now, for review purposes.

For $249, this is a steal. And it’s compatible with all of T-Mobile’s LTE bands. If you buy one, you’ll miss out on T-Mobile’s built in services like Wi-Fi calling. But if you don’t have a lot to spend on a smartphone or you just want a great backup to your flagship that’ll play nice with T-Mo’s network, I can’t think of much better than this. If you want to, you can pre-order it now from Alcatel’s online store.

As always, let us know if you order and how you get on with the Idol 3 if you did.

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  • besweeet

    Domino’s Pizza in your contacts :D.

    I’ve been enjoying my unit. Just wish it wasn’t *so* slippery. Its RF performance (at least with T-Mobile) isn’t as strong as Samsung or cheaper Moto smartphones. Haven’t been to a band 12 area yes to experience that unfortunately.

    • Cam Bunton

      Haha. Yeah, I’ve had Gmail contact sync since my student days, when the G1 was out. Domino’s has been in there since then, most likely. ;-) I order online now.

      • will

        Hi Cam, would you upload some camera samples for us?
        Thanks!

    • AS118

      Nah dude, it’s not what you think. He has an unfortunately named friend Named Dominos L. Pizza.

      She’s Italian.

  • Thanks for the review, setting expectations right; should be a great phone for what I do. And if it breaks, it was only a $200 phone (I got the early deal). I am just a little concerned on how durable this thing will be; my Galaxy S3 has been solid for 3 years. I’ll consider this a big win if I get 2 years out of it.

  • Baxter DeBerry

    ill stick to my avant for now but that is a def a impressive phone

    • AS118

      Not a bad choice. The Avant is a great phone, great bang for the buck.

  • myremarq

    Hi Cam
    Is there any news about ZTE NUBIA Z9 (SPECIAL EDITION) or zte nubia 9 max?
    zte come-to-t-mobile again.. LOL

  • steveb944

    Thanks Cam! I guess I’ll be keeping my preorder, testing it out a bit, but more than likely handing it down to my sibling while I keep searching for a new worthy powerhouse. I’m a processor junkie.

  • Derek

    I’m done with Android. I gave it a try with the Galaxy S4, and the contant lack of updates is what drove me away. At least with an iPhone or Windows Phone you can grab updates whenever you want. Change your ways Google and bypass the carriers. Your certainly big enough to push your way around.

    • ssjchaseutley

      Only the S4 has experienced this. All the other carriers have released Lollipop for the S4 but not TmobIle. No explanation given either.

    • Jose Hernandez

      Well, the S4 in an android based phone. If you want a real android phone with fast updates, then you need to get a Nexus or Motorola device.

    • Jay J. Blanco

      Get a nexus geessh. They get updates way faster then any other

    • Christopher Olson

      The S4 is probably the worst basis for judging android. This was the device that Samsung did all wrong, this was the last Samsung device that I owned and hated it. But with my past experience with android I knew it wasn’t because of the OS. I switched to the G3 after that and it is a remarkable device that I had no complaints about. Also the nexus devices are just as appraised and get pushed updates immediately.

    • FQ2

      If you want a phone exclusively for quick updates, get a Nexus. Also, you picked the single worst brand for quick updates there is; 30 seconds of internet research would’ve told you that.

    • That would be a relevant comment if you had truly tried the “Android” experience. You tried one device and wrote it off. Samsung is notorious for lagging behind in Android OS updates. If you had tried a Nexus or Motorola, and or had tried a variety of Android smartphones, then your comment would be more relevant and somewhat valid. Though Samsung paints itself as “Android” or the “best of Android” they truly aren’t the best in every area of Android.

    • Who gives a crap about updates!? Lemmings mostly. Most updates don’t improve anything at all or they just plain ruin something that was working perfectly before. Just root it and forget it!

  • Haggy

    I ordered it. It will be a few weeks before. WiFi calling is going to be a big issue and I’m surprised that they left that out given that T-mobile is a prominent carrier. I can try to get by with Google’s Hangouts dialer, but then people get confused by the caller ID and it doesn’t help for incoming calls.

    T-mobile’s international roaming works quite well but there is a charge for voice calls to the US. So WiFi calling works well from hotels and many other places with free WiFi. The Hangouts dialer should work from even more places and might be a good overall solution except for the primary phone number.

    Several people on my phone account ported their number to Google to make things easier. I just don’t trust Google with my phone number. They already lost a Google Voice number of mine, and customer service is non-existent. I was fortunate enough to be able to get it back because when I asked the system to let me pick a new one, I was able to find the old one on the list. But losing a number you use regularly can be a big risk.

  • mary5652

    [>/

  • Omar Steele

    does it only work on the lte and not the 3G for tmobile

    • It works on T-Mobile’s 2G and 3G frequencies as well. Cheers!