One of the perks of buying the upcoming Alcatel Idol 4s is the fact that it’s VR-ready right from the onset. Well, you might not be all too shocked by this revelation, especially when most phones nowadays are capable of handling mobile VR through soultions like Google Cardboard. What’s different, though, is that the Idol 4s comes bundled with its own specialized VR headset. So yeah, it’s truly VR-ready out of the box because it has the components and software for the occasion.
See also: Alcatel Idol 4S review
This headset doesn’t deviate from the formula we see in other comparable VR headsets, as it’s essentially comprised out of two components – the headset chassis that accommodates the phone and lenses, as well as the straps that help it to stay fitted over our head. Naturally, it’ll draw comparisons to Samsung’s Gear VR headset, as they appear very similar, but we will say that we do like how Alcatel’s offering offers more substantial padding around the strap area that rests behind the head.
Other aspects of the design indicates it’s been meticulously thought out, evident in the slight gaps that are present on the front shielding panel, which enables the phone to provide continued and uninterrupted access to the headphone jack and microUSB port. These access areas are great to have, even though the speakers in the phone are quite powerful on their own! And lastly, there are two touch-sensitive buttons along the bottom that are placed near the ridge where your nose rests on the cushioning – they’re the back and select buttons.
Visually, we wouldn’t say that there’s something exponentially better here than other comparable VR headsets on the market that are of similar caliber. The design is a predictable one, where its fit and feel falls into pretty much the same category as the rest, but there’s just one thing it does that no other mobile VR headset can advertise to do – and that’s doubling as a useful traveling case. Yes, you read that right because it can carry the phone, along with the charger, microUSB cable, and headphones, inside its cavity when the bottom base is attached.
Functionality & Interface
As soon as the phone’s placed into position, the phone automatically launches Alcatel’s VR interface. Since there isn’t necessarily a touch-sensitive d-pad like what’s on the Samsung Gear VR, navigating around the interface is done with a lot of head movement, and then pointing the dot at what you want to select. This implementation inherently requires more movement on our part, which is what VR is all about in the first place.
In terms of the VR experience, there isn’t much that’s different from what we can experience elsewhere. On the surface, it’s still the same “static” VR experience because it mainly centers around being in a fixed position – whether it be sitting down or standing up. Alcatel’s interface launches automatically the moment is placed into the headset, which is a horizontal interface broken into seven categories; they break down to games, videos, photos, 360 video, 360 photo, tutorial, and Littlestar. There are some preloaded content that tease what it’s capable of doing, but the weakest area we believe is the portal for downloading content.
That pertains to Littlestar, which is the aggregator for downloadable content for the VR experience. From the looks of it all, the vast majority of what’s available are simply 360 videos. They’re nice if that tickles your fancy, however, gaming has no presence at the moment. We hope this all changes, once the phone officially launches in the US on August 3rd, since right now, you really can’t do much using Alcatel’s VR interface.
As an alternative, thankfully, you can still download and utilize the Google Cardboard app with the headset – so at the very least, it’s a way of getting additional content beyond just the 360 videos that are available with Littlestar. And in our testing, the Cardboard app work well with the VR headset. Alcatel’s VR interface and portal will greatly benefit from having a more diversified catalog, especially given that games tend to be driving a lot of traffic for virtual reality as a whole.
The Alcatel Idol 4s’ Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 processor and 3GB RAM provide enough punch to deliver a tangible mobile VR experience. Well, this doesn’t surprise as us much, since that viewing media content through the VR headset, like photos and videos, don’t tend to be too taxing for the hardware. Some of the games we’ve installed and played, too, exhibit a fair amount of responsiveness in the VR world – it’s not like the experience is being crushed by lag or something else. It’s good, but it’ll be interesting to see what kind of gaming content Alcatel and Littlestar will/might have available in its store when August 3rd comes around, as well as afterwards of course.
At the end of the day, we can say two things about Alcatel’s VR headset. First, it’s ingeniously designed to accommodate the phone and its accessories, so that traveling is made easier thanks to its design. Secondly, you don’t have to dish out any additional money to buy it, since it’s already included with the purchase of the phone. Besides that, there really isn’t anything else new here that differentiates, or enhances the experience over other competing headsets.
Needless to say, it’s wonderful that the phone is VR ready right out of the box and that there’s no additional incurred cost with it, as this one comes bundled for free, but you can find the same experience everywhere else at this point.