The Alcatel One Touch Idol X+ smartphone, it's quite an enigma. On the one hand, it has amazing battery power while it rests; but on the other, it can be quick to tire if certain apps are in use. Or at least, that's what happened the first time I tried out the phone. Between us, this post below is much different to the first one I wrote, but hadn't yet got a chance to publish (luckily,) all thanks to its battery. At first charge, this phone's battery died in just over an hour while I played around with the camera and Google Music, among other apps that are normally active for me. But as time progressed, and more charges happened, the battery begun to live much longer each time. It's almost as if the smartphone's battery was shocked at what I put it through the first time around, which is something I never experienced before.
The Idol X+ has key qualities that make this phone the perfect fit for certain users, but its those same users that would highly benefit from a physical device manual to read and learn from first (this smartphone's guide is only available online.) There are three ways to create a screen capture, yet no way to turn off the LED blinky notice light for phone-specific updates. It runs on a KitKat Android OS, which is noticeable by how quick it is to respond to action (tapping, app loading, etc,) yet it looks a lot like an older OS with large buttons and rigid home screen design. The casing is quite bland at first glimpse (it has almost a "nothing to see here" vibe to it,) but it houses the best I've seen yet slot casings for both SIM, and MicroSD card readers, and the speakers are nicely displayed at the base. This phone could be your bestest friend, or your worstest enemy depending on your daily usage.
Great Quick Menu screen that scrolls down from the top bar, for those options you probably use the most.
Features You're Gonna Love
Every phone has great features that make it stand out from the rest. On top of an octa-core 2GHz processor (yep, if you do the math, that's twice the speed of a quad-core,) here are what I found to be fantastic features that make the Idol X+ a phone to consider:
Scheduled Power On & Off
Quite possibly the best bit of tech this phone has. Especially if you're currently glued to your phone, up to and including bedtime. Is your phone under your pillow so you won't miss that message while you're trying to sleep? This is a habit that many of us need to shake ourselves from. We've got to disconnect at some point. This phone will help by automatically shutting off and turning on at your specified settings. Have your phone shut down by midnight, and wake you up just in time for your first coffee at 7 AM if you please. Have those 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep that we're all looking for. And if this phone is only used for emergency usage, you're expanding the battery life quite a bit by having it turned off when you're definitely not using it.
I haven't actually had a chance to try this out, mainly 'cause I need to replace the printer ink on my HP AIOe. But if it works just like it seems to, you can easily print files, and even browser pages from your smartphone to the WiFi printer of your choice. This isn't a first for being able to print from a smartphone, but it is the first time I've seen it so well integrated as part of the smartphone instead of simply an app that may or may not work depending on what you want to print.
The charge speed is pretty good. In a couple hours you can have a fully charged battery.
This camera has some getting used to, but it has great options once you get the hang of it. For instance, it quickly snaps a multitude of photos just by holding the camera button down (and doesn't immediately ask you to save which the one and only pic you think is the best of the bunch, which is perfect when you could be using that time to take other photos.) It creates a huge folder full of duplicate photos, but if you're an organization machine, it's easy to go through the bunch later to pick out the ones you want and the ones to trash. I'm used to focusing a potential image by holding down the camera button, so its taking some getting used to using the screen for focus, but I think its a great compromise for rapid burst capturing. It also has HDR (High Dynamic Range) as a setting to get those gorgeous scenic photos with colour quality that is supposed to better match what we see, versus the flat image camera lenses are known for. I can't wait to take this to High Park, Toronto to see how it holds up on spring blooms. Here's an example of the difference between HDR and regular quality photos, in a poorly lit office at night:
Photo Options for the 13.1MP camera; the settings has further options, such as ISO choice and photo size.
Easily Choosing Which Apps Have Status
If it drives you thoroughly nuts when certain apps repeatedly send notices to the status bar all day long, no matter how desperate you are for them all to disappear, there is a painless way of choosing which apps have access to keep you up to date. In fact, if you don't want to see any apps in your status bar at all, turn the whole thing off with one tap on the on/off toggle.
Five Tips + a Bonus For Using the Alcatel One Touch Idol X+
- Holding down the menu button opens the Task Manager for quick multitasking between apps. If you keep a bunch of apps open all at once like I tend to do, its easier to jump from Twitter to Facebook to your notepad by selecting the currently open apps from the task manager (as shown below,) instead of continuously clicking the home button and reopening apps through their respective buttons on your home screen. It took me longer than I'd like to admit to figure out that the menu button was what accessed the manager, but it does have some sense to be such. My muscle memory keeps going to the home key right now to access the manager, which is how I figured out the next tip...
- Hold down the home button to open up Google Now. Google Now is an intuitive program that works to make you happy. It watches what you do during the day and establishes your routine to help you get from A to B faster if possible. Its a scary thought, this little digital assistant knowing where you want to be before you get there yourself. It also lets you in on little secrets, like the score for your favourite team, and your friends birthdays if you're connected to Google+.
- Screenshots - There are three ways to take a screenshot, which makes this a good phone for individuals that are prone to bookmarking everything by taking pics of their phone screen. Quickest way is probably by pressing the power down for a few seconds until a window pops up with the screen saving option; but you can also access it in drop-down quick menu, and pressing the ScreenSnap button, or hold down power and down-volumn buttons simultaneously for an instant screenshot.
- How to Extend a Battery Charge - there are ways to help save the battery for as long as possible, whether the phone sits idly by most of the time, or is in hand constantly. Here are options to choose to improve the
- Go through Settings > Battery Management - Saving mode - enable this pre-defined setting to optimally save battery. If you've manually set the screen display brightness to its lowest setting (also a great way to save batter,) turning on this saving mode will increase brightness to 25%.
- Click on the Battery option within the Battery Management window and ensure "CPU power saving mode" is checked as well. If you feel like keeping a watchful eye on your batter, you might also want to check the "Battery percentage" box to get a better idea of how much life your battery has left for its current charge.
- Make sure that certain options are turned off when not in need, including: Bluetooth, GPS/Location, Sync, Data Connection. All of these options can be found in the drop down settings menu in the top bar.
- Have your phone charging if it reaches below 60%. It sounds silly to suggest, but for those still in the frame of mind that batteries are better off fully dying out before charging again, it's not an issue with smartphone batteries. If your phone reaches a certain level, and you happen to be near a charger for some time, plug it in and you'll be better off with a fully charged phone when you're out and about.
- Organize your home screen. Unlike other android phones that I'm accustomed to, the Idol X+ is pretty strict with a four-icon only rule on the bottom of the home screen. An organized home screen makes for a happy user, so start off with the very basics and rearrange the base set of icons to the four apps that you use most. I have the running joke that the one app I don't need on my smartphone is the phone-dialer. After spending a year as a telemarketing researcher, I have an avid dislike for talking on the phone at all (and I'm SO sorry if I called your house, but those surveys helped me get through my last year of university.) So, the phone app goes bye-bye for me, and in goes Gmail. Also? I don't need the camera app right there, so it goes into my SocialMe folder and hello Starbucks! Just because your phone app is no longer in the bottom four, doesn't mean it can't still sit on the home screen. For optimal organization, create easily accessible folders on the front page as well. To create a folder, simply drag one app icon on top of another to create a folder with those two icons to start. Once the folder is created (and named,) you can drag in as many icons as you want into that same folder.
- BONUS TIP - Check out ebay for the cheapest price to unlocking your phone. I paid $1.30 US for the key to unlock my Idol X+ (it was a Telus locked phone, and as much as I love their service and how they help so many communities, my current provider is Rogers.) Its good to have an unlocked phone if you travel to the US even just once a year, 'cause its much cheaper to purchase a SIM and a daily/weekly phone plan from Canadian companies like Roam Mobility, instead of most travel packages from the main communications providers.
Despite all the great options this phone has, it also has some quirks that aren't what I look for in a phone. The biggest confusion at the moment for me is the battery. As mentioned right at the beginning, its the quirkiest bit that I'm still trying to get a firm handle on. It went from the most lame of sustaining batteries to one of the best, and I'm not sure what changes I made to make it so stellar. Part of me feels that it needed to learn to be good by going through multiple charges; another part of me thinks that's absolutely silly, and maybe it needed to reboot after clicking the battery management settings in order for those to take into effect. If I figure it out, you'll be the first to know. But right at this moment, I've got 17 hours of moderate use, and still a 33% battery which is entirely night and day compared to day one's usage. Here are a few other areas that I feel need improvement:
Audio Levels and Quality
Audio isn't the best while playing Google Music (even if you download the songs to your phone.) There is some occasional distortion while playing music, that I couldn't attribute to background apps running, and I was streaming from a full-barred 5G WiFi signal. Netflix and other audio/video quality was okay; so if you don't use Google Music, you won't have an issue. There's a button for HiFi, but I couldn't hear a difference in audio quality after pressing the button, but perhaps I was just using it wrong, or don't really understand the reasoning behind a HiFi button (unless it improves battery life by having this turned off.)
The jump between 0/Silent and 1 on the volume scroll is quite high with many apps. This phone could use an option for a quieter sound level before it hits silent. I wouldn't be comfortable listening to music or watching YouTube with this on its absolutely lowest level while having my baby nephew sleeping beside me in our family room for instance; I'm pretty sure it'd wake him up if he was dozing.
LED Notification Choices
The white blinking light of doom... okay, I might be a bit harsh about this, but there is a blinking light that I believe gets set off if the battery is under 10%. I personally need a way to shut this off, as it gives me a headache while it blinks out of the corner of my eye, and as far as I can tell there isn't a way to do so. My only option is to turn the phone screen to facing down and not use the phone (which isn't ideal,) until I can charge the phone. If blinking lights don't bug you physically, its most likely not a big deal.
The How To Guide
The manual, while thoroughly describing how to make a phone call in a multitude of ways (direct calling, internet calling, conference calling, call forwarding, etc,) it doesn't discuss Guest Mode, nor LED notifications, nor other phone features that I would personally find as key. All phones need Guest Modes these day for when they're inevitably handed off to a child for entertainment, but admittedly, this version baffles me a bit.
As far as I can tell, the biggest feature of this version of guest mode is that the contact list disappears, so your phone's "guest" won't know how to dial out to your friends/family/business partners, etc, nor can they see your call history for easy redial. They can, however, still make a phone call. Guests can download apps, but don't have the ability to move the app icons around (ie. place them in folders, remove them from your home screen, or even uninstall.) They also have access to your apps that you're automatically logged into. So your Twitter and Shomi accounts aren't safe from mismanagement should your guest have ideas. While its a great start to limiting access to the phone, its not enough to make this a reason to purchase this phone.
I must have been spoiled in the past, 'cause I thought LTE was the common option now for data transfer, but despite a lot of advanced features on this phone, it still only boasts 4G as its optimal network band. Is there a big difference between 4G and LTE? Probably? I tend to use WiFi more than anything else, 'cause my data plan is expensive and very limited, but I haven't been left standing around waiting for it to load a browser page or refresh my Twitter feed while using the 4G network. I haven't notice a difference in speed yet, but I'd imagine 4G will be quicker to become outdated over LTE networks in the future.
This smartphone is perfect for those who want an actual phone. It may sound crazy to you and I, but there are many people out there who want a smartphone simply so that they can call or message their friends and family, and perhaps play a game of solitaire when they need to find time to kill. I'm talking about my parents. I gave both both of them smartphones over the past couple years and it was a true struggle for them to figure out what the hoopla was all about. Twitter? Yeah, no. Facebook? OMGosh, thank all the deities that they don't use that either. While they were both savvy users of DOS (my mom taught me the beauty of C:\DOS\RUN when I was nine, fcol,) it has taken quite a bit of convincing that they can access their GMail from any computer, and not just from the one desktop at home. So yeah, they need working phones, maybe something that will help them look up the phone number to a doctor or dentist if there's an emergency, but they don't need any sort of web services 24/7 like their incredibly social children do. The One Touch Idol X+ is *perfect* for them, because the battery is probably the best they're ever going to find at the moment, at least while its on standby. I've had this phone on, without charging for over two days, and could have pushed it to last MUCH longer if I didn't play around with the camera and various audio/video apps. In fact, if I did the math right, we could be looking at over 40 days of charge time if all I did was leave the phone to sit idly by. If the phone manages to maintain such quality battery life while utilizing popular 3rd party apps, this would be one of the best phones on the market.
This phone is also perfect for parents that want to give their children a phone that won't be used much for social apps. If the phone is only used for emergencies, you're looking at a phone that can potentially remain charged for over a month, if only to make quick phone calls and text messages.
I'm hesitant to say that this phone would be agreeable to social media enthusiasts/socialites, and its all because of the darn battery. I'll admit, up to this point I didn't take it out and about with me, 'cause I didn't see a point of doing so with a weak battery. But now? Now I'm curious, and its got my Rogers SIM in, so lets see what happens in a weeks time. Any smartphone I've used has been virtually glued to my hand at all times of the day, so if it holds up to the kind of workout I want to give it, it'll move from a good phone to an incredible one.
I'm not the only blogger who has had a chance to try out the Alcatel Idol X+ phone recently. When I find their blog post links, I'll paste them below so you can see what they think. I know that the battery thing wasn't common... but it wasn't uncommon either.
Are you in the market for a new phone? What options are mandatory for you? What bells n' whistles do you look for in a new smartphone?
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