The "1-Minute" Review
- Weak battery
- No rapid charging
- Slippery finish
- No NFC
Typically, when a manufacturer releases a new phone, you can count on upgrades to the previous model. The Idol 5S is a weird exception to this rule. Apart from software, many of the features are a downgrade from the Idol 4S.
However, with that comes a reduced cost—especially if you spring for the Amazon-sponsored model. So, with the price drop, is the 5S still an attractive option?
Looking at the phone, you’d never guess it was a budget option. The metal frame and glass back look expensive. There’s also a fingerprint sensor on the rear and two front-facing speakers. You’ll also find USB Type-C and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
Grip and smudging issues aside, reviewers all loved the design and materials used for the Idol 5S. The curved edges made it comfortable in the hand while the fingerprint scanner’s accuracy and placement made it simple to use. However, there’s no NFC support, so you can’t use it to make mobile payments.
Around front, you’ll find a 5.2-inch 1080p LCD panel. While a step down from the panel on the 4S, the screen offers plenty of detail for the size and enough brightness to stand up to direct sunlight while you’re on the go. Color reproduction was hit-or-miss in reviews. Fortunately, you’ll find settings to tune the colors to your preferences.
While slightly slower than the processor in the 4S, the 2Ghz octa-core Snapdragon 625 used in the 5S offers enough punch to perform basic tasks and gaming with ease. There’s also 3GB of RAM to help speed up response times and smooth out multitasking. Reviewers had no issues with delays or stuttering during normal use. However, some noted issues with VR content.
The phone includes a 12MP rear camera and an 8MP front-facing lens. In good lighting, the cameras appear to take detailed shots with plenty of contrast. While reviewers noted that color was often muted, many still found the images acceptable for the price of the phone. As with most budget phones, it struggles as lights dim. However, you’ll find a wealth of camera features to help make the most of the low-light shots if you’re feeling adventurous.
Shipping with Android 7.1 Nougat, there is no confirmation if the phone will receive additional updates. However, apart from adding gesture support and other minor features, Alcatel left the software stock and didn’t fill the phone with pre-installed apps and bloat.
With 32GB of internal storage and microSD support for cards up to 512GB, there’s little worry about running out of space. There are also dual front-facing speakers to help you get the most out of your media and games.
While the previous downgrades worked to cut cost without impacting the experience, reviewers all agreed that cutting the battery to 2,620mAh was a mistake. Most reviewers could last a full day with light usage. However, moderate usage might leave you searching for a charger. Heavy usage is out of the question unless you have access to a charger throughout the day.
To further complicate matters, though the phone uses USB Type-C, there’s no support for any of the many rapid charging protocols. So you’ll want to plug in every night to avoid surprises.
Overall, reviewers were cautious to recommend the Idol 5S. CNet sums up concerns well, saying, “The Alcatel Idol 5S is a good phone, but its Achilles' heel is its mediocre battery. While it's a deal breaker for me personally, it may not be for others.” Android Authority is less critical, saying, “... the Alcatel Idol 5S is a gorgeous looking phone with a price point that makes it feel like you’re getting something far more premium.”
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