TCL not only pushes UHD TVs and names the Hollywood Oscar’s venue, but also offers a line of smartphones under Alcatel branding. Here’s one new powerful yet budget model.

Besides the globally known Lenovo, Huawei and ZTE, there are other large – and many less large, but still not small by global scale – smartphone vendors coming from China. TCL, one of world’s top TV makers, with its own huge LCD panel fab in Shenzhen, is now also aggressively pushing its own smartphone line undel Alcatel brand.

Their team – many of them having come from Huawei as a result of the latter’s consumer division management troubles – started from the mainstream smartphones, going up the chain step by step. Here we look at their recently introduced Alcatel OneTouch Idol dual SIM thin smartphone.

Alcatel One Touch Idol Ultra TCL Alcatel One Touch Idol Smartphone – Superthin Budget Dual SIM

At the first sight, its thinness hits in, this is a very slim phone, at 7.9 mm thick and 110 grams only, especially for a unit with comparably large 4.7 inch display. The usual glass front is complemented by brushed metallic oil-repelling back surface, giving the unit a quite ‘expensive’ look, complemented by no open ports aside from the USB recharge and audio – yea, there is no microSD card slot here either, only the single SIM version would have it. This being a mainstream model, TCL provides six colour choices for the back cover.

The dual SIM sockets, uniquely, are one on each side of the phone, and don’t require opening the back cover or replacing the battery to add them. You can add and remove SIM cards as you wish, as long as the phone is off. I tried doing it once it was on, but the new card wasn’t detected till the phone was power cycled. Since the back is sealed, this would be the only way to replace those, anyway.

The 1.2 GHz dual core CPU with Android 4.1, 16 GB storage and standard 7.2 Mbps 3G specs may not be too impressive compared to top end models, but keep in mind this is a mainstream rather than really high end phone – even the display is kept to qHD 960×540 resolution despite its size, but then this helps save some battery life: the phone seems to last a long time in standby mode, with recharge needed only every 4 days or so, in my experience. The camera setup is quite decent – a 2 Mpix front camera is augmented by the 8 Mpix back camera with HDR picture and 1080p recording capability.

In the actual use, the phone handled calls received by either of two SIM cards flawlessly, including when either of them roamed during overseas crossings. However, there seems to be no ‘hotkey’ seamless switching between them when making calls or sending messages: you got to go to Settings menu to set the preferred SIM card – this is one option TCL can add in the next software upgrade. On the phone quality, the microphone is OK, yet the speaker could be just a little louder – but then, again, this is a very slim phone, so don’t expect HiFi stereo here due to space constraints.

Here are the results for the AnTuTu benchmark which everybody seems to favour nowadays:

alcatelantutu 176x300 TCL Alcatel One Touch Idol Smartphone – Superthin Budget Dual SIM

In summary, a very good looking phone from a company to watch in this space. I’d like to see a slightly larger version at 5.5 to 6 inches that would have 1080p -they do have a 1080p phone in this size already – or, better still, 16:10 1920×1200 display and a microSD card slot, with LTE capability on dual SIM, while keeping the design and the thinness.