BARCELONA — How do you innovate in the smartphone space, where the vast majority of devices are essentially large screens with a metal or plastic case?
One thing you can do is focus on the packaging, and that’s exactly what Alcatel did with its new Idol 4 smartphone, launched two days before the official start of Mobile World Congress. The phone comes in a box that transforms into a VR headset, a la Google Cardboard. It’s a nifty trick, and in a year in which everyone will try to sell you some form of VR experience, it’s cool to get a headset for free together with a phone.
Packaging aside, the new Alcatel flagship phone — which actually comes in two versions, the Idol 4, and the bigger, more powerful Idol 4S — is a continuation of the company’s philosophy of offering solid (but not high-end) specs for a decent price, and an unexpected feature or two to spice up the package.
The Idol 4 is a 5.2-inch smartphone with a full HD screen, an octa-core Snapdragon 617 processor, a 13-megapixel rear camera, an 8-megapixel selfie cam, 3GB of RAM, 16GB of memory and a 2,610mAh battery.
The Idol 4S has a 5.5-inch screen with 2K resolution, an octa-core Snapdragon 652 processor, a 16-megapixel rear camera (coupled with an 8-megapixel selfie cam on the front), 3GB of RAM, 32GB of memory and a 3,000mAh battery.
Both devices have a metal frame and tapered glass on both front and back. Also — just like their predecessor, the Idol 3 — they both work when turned upside down thanks to dual speakers and microphones, one on each side. Alcatel took the concept even further, however, drilling speaker grills on both the front and the back of the phones, so they sound should be loud and clear even if you place the phone on a surface facing down.
Alcatel also added a special “boom” button to the side of both phones. It does different things depending on the context: When the phone is asleep, press it to take photos instantly, and hold it to take burst photos. If you’re watching a photo gallery, the button will let you share a photo collage or a slideshow, and if you’re listening to music, the button “optimizes” the sound by changing the bass and loudness settings.
Both phones will be available in four colors: gold, rose gold, dark grey and metal silver. The handset will be launching globally in April and the price will start at 279 euros for the Idol 4, and 429 euros for the Idol 4S.