Flagship head to head: Alcatel IDOL 4 Pro vs Google Pixel 2 XL

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This year's Google Pixel 2 XL has won both praise and criticism - it's the pinnacle of Google's Android dream, but it's demonstrably imperfect. Meanwhile, this being AAWP, I want to compare it to something interesting in the Windows 10 Mobile world. So what about the Alcatel IDOL 4 Pro, still sold, with similar form factor, loud stereo speakers, AMOLED screen, premium materials? Factor in purchase prices and this could be a closer fight than you might think...

IDOL 4 Pro and Pixel 2 XL

As usual, I've shaded in green an obvious 'win' for either device, I honestly have no idea which way this one's going to go (as I start to compile the feature)... Any row where a winner would be totally subjective is left uncoloured. Or, where both devices are utterly excellent but in different ways, I've given both a 'green'(!)

  Alcatel IDOL 4 Pro Pixel 2 XL
Date first available August 2017 October 2017
Current price, availability £420 (SIM-free in the UK, inc VAT), from the Microsoft online Store. See your local version for pricing. £799, SIM-free, from Google, inc VAT, for the 64GB version, £899 for the 128GB version (neither have microSD expansion)
Dimensions, form factor, weight, design

154 x 75 x 7mm, aluminium frame with toughened glass front and back, 152g

158 x 77 x 8mm, aluminium chassis, part coated with grippy texture, 175g, larger and heavier

Durability No specific durability metrics, plus the dual sided glass design means a case is a must. If water gets in then you're pretty much out of luck. Sadly.
IP67 for liquid and dust, pretty rugged because of the textured metal back
Operating system, interface Windows 10 Mobile (now running Fall Creators Update), (dismissable) virtual controls
Android 8.0, virtual controls on screen almost all the time
Display  Samsung-made 5.5" AMOLED 1080p panel, Dragontrail Glass, excellent colour balance, contrast and viewing angles. Screen area is approximately 84 cm2

6" P-OLED 1440p screen, Gorilla Glass 5, always on time date and notification icons, poor screen contrast and viewing angles (blue tint issues), well documented online. LG's display looks cheaper at every turn than the Samsung display on the IDOL 4 Pro, despite the higher resolution. Screen area is approximately 92cm2

Connectivity LTE up to 300Mbps (all bands), Wi-Fi b/g/n/ac, integral wifi tethering, Bluetooth 4.1, Continuum connectivity to use external displays as secondary screen, independent of the phone display. Note that - perhaps significantly - there's no NFC! LTE, NFC (all uses), Wi-Fi b/g/n/ac, integral wifi tethering, Bluetooth 5.0 (all uses)
Processor, performance Snapdragon 820 chipset, 4GB RAM (of which 3.5GB are used directly), the fastest Windows phone I've tested so far, despite the lack of TLC from Microsoft or Alcatel in terms of tuning Snapdragon 835 with 4GB RAM. Lightning fast at everything.
Capacity 64GB, expandable via microSD 64GB internal storage (in the variant being considered), no expansion
Imaging (stills)

21MP f/2.2 1/2.4" BSI sensor, dual LED flash, HDR shots, PDAF, very decent shots in most light conditions, but capture is relatively slow and it all falls down in really low light, as you'd expect (with no OIS). See my review part 2.

8MP front camera

12MP, f/1.8, 1/2.6" sensor, OIS, PDAF and laser auto-focus, dual LED flash, Visual Core image processor to be enabled in future updates. See here for my 950 XL shootout - the Pixel 2 camera is pretty good across the board.

8MP front camera, f/2.4

Imaging (video) 4K, optionally digitally stabilised, with 'Best photo' 8MP grabbing built-in, plus high amplitude stereo audio recording (though left and right channels are switched in current firmware). See my review part 3. Up to 4K video capture, with EIS and OIS, poor quality mono recording using only one microphone.
Music and Multimedia Terrific front-facing 3.6W stereo speakers, the best in the current smartphone world - in any ecosystem. 3.5mm headphone jack, A2DP No 3.5mm headphone jack, you get a USB Type C dongle for this in the box. Front facing stereo speakers, decent volume but fidelity not a patch on the IDOL 4 Pro. 
Navigation  Windows 10 Maps is comprehensive, has a degree of live traffic awareness (see the latest workaround), Includes full offline maps with automatic updates. 

Google Maps is now the gold standard in phone navigation, tied in with many other Google services and offering true real time navigation around traffic issues.

Cortana/Voice Cortana is now mature and well integrated, and with a surprising degree of 'assistance'. Google Assistant is baked in and works well (activated optionally with a 'squeeze!), though no more mature than Siri or Cortana in my opinion.
Battery, life  Sealed 3000mAh battery, plus USB Type C fast charging (up to 2A) and compatibility with Qualcomm's Quickcharge 3.0. Sealed 3520 mAh battery, easily gets through a day. Charging is at 3A max ('Power Delivery') through the USB Type C port. 
Cloud aids Windows Photos syncs across all signed-in devices, subject to your OneDrive tariff, should you have thousands of images in the system. Plus Windows 10 backs all your media, application data and settings to a separate backup folder system, tariff-free on OneDrive. Google Photos, once installed, does a great job of organising photos and syncing them across all signed-in phones and tablets. Plus backup space is free for two years at full quality for Pixel devices
Biometrics  The fingerprint sensor is slower than most in the industry, and it's not clear why! Plus the 'Hello' animation takes a second. On the positive side, it's a lot faster than PIN entry or iris recognition. On the (other) negative side, there's no Microsoft Wallet/Pay. Or NFC. So that side of things is a no go. The fingerprint sensor (also on the back) works well, and very fast. Works well with Android Pay.
Applications and ecosystem  Windows 10 Mobile now has just about every mainstream app covered, aside from Snapchat and Tinder. And anything to do with Google services! Most things can be done via Edge, though 'not quite' as slickly as with dedicated applications. The might of Google and Android's app ecosystem - everything is available and almost always in first party form. 
Upgrades and future

Windows 10 Mobile will be updated through 2017, 2018, and 2019, of course, as part of the global Windows 10 ecosystem and the regular patching and fixing process. Production devices can expect updates every month.

Google keeps its phones updated for two years from first availability, so we're talking the end of 2019, ironically the same time frame as for the Windows phone!

IDOL 4 Pro and Pixel 2 XL


Adding up the green 'wins' gives a 6-4 victory to the Android flagship, but this doesn't tell the whole story. There are a more than usual number of rows left white, where I couldn't pick a winner, either for equality or subjectivity reasons, meaning that the Alcatel Windows phone was at least (arguably) holding its own. Moreover, there's massive competition in the Android world for this new Pixel 2 XL, whereas the Alcatel IDOL 4 Pro is more or less the only game in town for someone happy with Windows 10 Mobile.

Of the IDOL 4 Pro's 'wins' above, the most significant is that for multimedia, with the stereo HAAC microphones and genuinely incredible speakers giving the phone something of a class-leading USP. Oh yes, and it has a 3.5mm headphone jack. Multimedia is then a strongpoint that's important not to overlook.

Plus the price, of course - perhaps this 'win' should be emphasised most of all - the IDOL 4 Pro is, literally, half the price, at original RRPs. Thought provoking?

The IDOL 4 Pro's not a perfect handset, of course - not even close - and I'll come to my long term pet peeves and 'cons' for this handset in due course.

PS. If you do pick the IDOL 4 Pro up then you'll need a case. See my IDOL 4 Pro case round-up here.