Mobility

Alcatel targets Windows 10 fans with a VR-ready smartphone

The new smartphone from Alcatel is the first-ever VR-ready Windows 10 device, but is this among the last of the Windows 10 phones that we'll see?

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The Alcatel Idol 4S with Windows 10 can be be connected to a second screen, keyboard and mouse for a desktop experience.

Image: Alcatel

There's a new Microsoft Windows 10 phone, and it's from Alcatel. The phone is the first Windows 10 smartphone to arrive VR-ready with goggles and a pre-loaded VR app, and it's exclusive to T-Mobile.

It's an interesting new launch given that the number of Microsoft phone fans are dwindling, with most users turning to iPhones and Android phones. Acer and HP offer corporate Windows phones, but there are few consumer devices running Windows 10.

The Alcatel Idol 4S with Windows 10 is a basic phone that went on sale November 10. However, don't confuse basic for inexpensive. The full retail price of this phone, with a 5.5-inch display, is $469.99, but it's currently on sale at T-Mobile stores for $399 for a package that includes 4S VR Goggles and a free Incipio case. The purchase includes a few freebies, such as a 45-day free trial of Hulu Plus, a 30-day trial of Microsoft's Groove Music, and a copy of the Spartan Assault game.

SEE: Windows 10 updates will soon eat less bandwidth and battery life (TechRepublic)

What's good about it

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Image: Alcatel

The simplicity of the Windows interface is appealing for those who like Continuum, which offers PC-like productivity. You can use Continuum to connect the phone with a second screen, keyboard, and mouse for a desktop experience.

The phone is advertised as having improved battery life, with a non-removable 3,000 mAh battery powered with a USB-C connector. My hands-on test showed this to be true. I was able to use it for an entire day, and then some, without needing to recharge. This is due in part to the Snapdragon 820 power management technology, the 1080p display, and the somewhat low light output of 210 nits, according to PC World.

The 4S VR Goggles are the first time the Windows phone world has had a VR option, outside of the pricey Microsoft HoloLens. The VR experience through these goggles is decent, and there's no lag-induced nausea that I experienced with the Samsung Gear VR.

What's not so good about it

The phone has a glass front and a glass black, but for some reason the back feels and looks like plastic, with a bronze metal band sandwiched in between. The phone is lightweight, but the plastic backing makes it feel flimsy.

A definite negative is the lack of NFC support, which means it's not possible to use Microsoft's tap-to-pay wallet app. The fingerprint sensor is awkwardly placed on the back of the phone near the camera lens, so it can be hard to find to open the phone quickly. It's also not nearly as accurate as some other phone, that I've recently tested, such as the HTC Bolt and, sad to say, the ill-fated Samsung Galaxy Note 7.

While the rear camera has 21MP for clear photos, there's a slight half-second delay before the photo is taken once you tap the camera icon. The camera creates a slight bump on the back of the phone that only becomes flush once you add a case. The 8MP front-facing camera is ideal for selfies.

What it all means

In a nutshell, the new Alcatel phone probably isn't enough to lure new users to a Windows 10 phone, because other than the VR Goggles, there's nothing that stands out about it. The gimmick of VR is not enough to lure users to the Windows 10 OS. Anyone who uses a Samsung Galaxy phone can have the same experience with the Samsung Gear VR headset.

This is a decent phone, at a decent price, but it could be the swan song of Windows phones.

Tech specs

  • 5.5-inch Full-HD (1920x1080) AMOLED display
  • Snapdragon 820 processor (2x2.15GHz + 2x1.6GHz) with Qualcomm Adreno 530 GPU
  • 21MP rear camera with Sony IMX230 sensor + 8MP front camera with 84-degree wide angle lens
  • Fingerprint sensor with Windows Hello for added user convenience and device security
  • 3000mAh Battery and USB-C charging featuring Qualcomm® Quick Charge™ 3.0 technology
  • 4GB RAM + 64GB ROM (with MicroSD support up to 128GB)
  • Dual 1.2W multi-directional speaker featuring Hi-Fi audio
  • Windows 10 Mobile OS

The top 3 takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. The Alcatel Idol 4S with Windows 10 is the newest phone from Acatel, and it is the first Windows phone to come pre-loaded with a VR app.
  2. The phone went on sale November 10, and it's sold exclusively at T-Mobile.
  3. Windows phones are a dying breed, and this could be one of the last consumer phones made for the Windows 10 OS.

Also see

About Teena Maddox

Teena Maddox is a Senior Writer at TechRepublic, covering hardware devices, IoT, smart cities and wearables. She ties together the style and substance of tech. Teena has spent 20-plus years writing business and features for publications including Peo...

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