Alcatel’s Idol 3 lets you make calls while holding it upside down

BARCELONA — Alcatel is pulling out all the stops at this year’s Mobile World Congress.

The company, which was once known as a manufacturer of feature phones but shifted its strategy to smartphones in recent years, has never quite had a flagship device that could compete with the iPhones and the Galaxy S5s of the world. But now, Alcatel has debuted the Idol 3: a device that it claims offers flagship specs at a very low price.

This includes a 5.5-inch, full HD screen, a 1.5GHz octa-core Snapdragon 615 processor, a 13-megapixel rear camera, an 8-megapixel front camera, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of memory (expandable with microSD cards) and a 2,910mAh battery.

While that’s fairly standard for today’s top smartphones, Alcatel has a few aces up its sleeve. The display has been calibrated by Technicolor, which Alcatel says makes its colors true and readability great even in bright sunlight conditions.

The Idol 3’s most impressive trick, however, are its dual stereo speakers — located at the top and bottom of its face, much like the HTC One series of devices — and dual microphones. This unique setup means the phone is virtually the same no matter how you turn it: You can hold the Idol 3 upside down and still make or receive a call, as its UI adapts to whichever way you’re holding it.

We say “virtually” because the device’s cameras are still located on top: To take photos, you must hold the phone correctly, or else your fingers will likely be in the way. Still, it’s a pretty unique feature, and we can actually imagine it being useful, given the Idol 3’s monolithic, black design.

The phone’s near-symmetrical design is nice enough, but its true killer feature is price: The Idol 3 will be available unlocked for a mere $249 in the U.S. While it’s not quite as snappy or elegant as the iPhone 6 Plus, the device does offer the same-sized screen, similar specs and loud stereo speakers in a smaller and lighter package for much cheaper (the 6 Plus costs $299 with a contract).

For something smaller, Alcatel also offers the Idol 3’s little brother, which has a 4.7-inch, 720p screen. Its specs are not quite the same — it has a quad-core, 1.2GHz CPU, a 5-megapixel front camera, 1GB of RAM and a 2,000 mAh battery — but all other features from the 5.5-inch version, including the dual speakers and microphones combo, are all there. We don’t know the device’s exact price, but a company spokesman told us it’ll be in sub-$200 range.

Alcatel, so far mostly known for its feature phones and cheap smartphones, is now ramping up its offerings with the Idol 3: a solid, affordable smartphone with several features that raise it above many generic competitors. It might just be the killer formula Alcatel needs to truly become a global player.

Author: Stan Schroeder

Source: Mashable