Mid-price head to head: Alcatel IDOL 4 Pro vs Nokia 7 Plus

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With the Nokia 7 Plus in for review, one of the latest hero devices from the 'reborn' Finnish company, I wondered which Windows 10 Mobile handsets to compare it to. At £350 inc VAT in the UK, the 7 Plus is distinctly mid-range in some ways, yet high end in others. In the end I cheated slightly in terms of content - I'll be doing a camera comparison with the Lumia 950 XL, since the Nokia 7 Plus imaging is really very good, but I picked the IDOL 4 Pro for the general head-to-head, since that remains the highest specced W10M phone.

IDOL 4 Pro and Nokia 7 Plus

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 Nokia 7 Plus
Date first available August 2017 April 2018
Current price, availability Currently sold out from the Microsoft online Store in the UK. See your local version for pricing and - maybe - clearance deals. Or get it from Microsoft France or Microsoft Germany and live with the mains adapter? Guide price E300? £350, SIM-free, inc VAT
Dimensions, form factor, weight, design

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

158 x 76 x 8mm, aluminium with 2.5D Gorilla Glass 3 front and tough painted back, 183g, longer, wider and heavier than the IDOL 4 Pro, but not dissimilar in the hand once both are cased.

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.
Again, no specific durability metrics. You do get a clear TPU case in the box, though.
Operating system, interface Windows 10 Mobile (now running Fall Creators Update), (dismissable) virtual controls, for maximum screen real estate.
Android 8.1, 'Android One'-approved, so effectively stock Android in every way. Permanent on-screen controls, they only disappear under app control, e.g. for media and gaming.
Display  Samsung-made 5.5" AMOLED 16:9 1080p panel, Dragontrail Glass, excellent colour balance, contrast and viewing angles. Screen area is approximately 84 cm2

6" IPS LCD '2 by 1' 1080p Gorilla Glass 3 screen, display is larger and 'whiter' (thanks to the backlight), but also tails off at angles, lacks the colour punch of AMOLED, and has worse contrast in bright light. Screen area is fractionally larger, at 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 there's no NFC, though there's also no Microsoft contactless payment tech in the platform worldwide yet either, so the omission is moot! LTE, NFC (all uses, including Android Pay), Wi-Fi b/g/n/ac, integral wifi tethering, Bluetooth 5.0 (all uses). NFC should win the day here, but the IDOL 4 Pro's wired and wireless Continuum compatibility does add a certain levelling factor.
Processor, performance Snapdragon 820 chipset, 4GB RAM (of which only 3.5GB can be 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 660 chipset with 4GB RAM. Slowish for an Android handset in 2018, and for most operations the two phones are on par.
Capacity 64GB internal storage, expandable via microSD. 64GB internal storage, expandable via microSD.
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/1.75, plus 13MP 2x f/2.6 lens, both with ZEISS optics and both with dual pixel PDAF, dual LED flash. Camera tests still ongoing, but the more modern sensors and pro optics, compared to the IDOL 4 Pro, ensure better photos. A comparison with the Lumia 950 XL for imaging is coming in a day or so, that should be a much closer match.

16MP front camera

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 randomly(?) switched in current firmware). See my review part 3. Up to 4K video capture, digitally stabilised, very high quality stereo audio (Nokia Ozo).
Music and Multimedia
Terrific front-facing 3.6W stereo speakers, arguably the best in the current smartphone world - in any ecosystem - if you discount Dolby Atmos and other EQ enhancers.  Decent mono speaker on the bottom edge, but it's on its own and is easily muffled.
Music (headphones) 3.5mm headphone jack, really excellent and loud DAC for audio output. Plus A2DP over Bluetooth. 3.5mm headphone jack, average DAC built-in. Plus A2DP over Bluetooth.
Navigation  Windows 10 Maps is comprehensive, has a degree of live traffic awareness (see the latest workaround), Includes full offline maps with automatic updates (though we haven't had one for a while, summer 2018 is the next scheduled!)

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. Some degree of offline capability, thanks to user-selectable cached areas.

Cortana/Voice Cortana is now mature and well integrated, and with a surprising degree of 'assistance'. Google Assistant is baked in with a long press of the 'home' control, and arguably the pick of the current voice aids.
Battery, life  Sealed 3000mAh battery, plus USB Type C fast charging with compatibility with Qualcomm's Quickcharge 3.0. Sealed 3800 mAh battery. plus USB Type C fast charging with compatibility with Qualcomm's Quickcharge 3.0. The 7 Plus gets the win here on sheer capacity, though the battery is fine for each device.
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. You do lose some quality unless you pay, but this is comparable to the Microsoft tariffs for OneDrive, etc.
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 (even if there was NFC, which there isn't!) So that side of things is a no go. The fingerprint sensor on the back is very fast and works every time. Works with Android Pay, too.
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 2018 and the whole of 2019, of course, as part of the global Windows 10 ecosystem and the regular patching and fixing process for the 'Fall Creators Update' branch. Production devices can expect updates every month. Would love to give the IDOL 4 Pro the win here on this technicality, but suspect I'd get shouted at!

Nokia has a proven track record now of bang up to date Android security, helped by the use of Android One, so the OS part of things is effectively direct from Google, there's not much for Nokia to add. Expect updates well into 2020.

IDOL 4 Pro and Nokia 7 Plus


Adding up the green 'wins' gives a 7-4 score win for the Nokia 7 Plus. Most functions considered were actually pretty even though - these two phones aren't that far apart overall. Which is a compliment to the Windows 10 device, considering that it's basically a 2016 design and spec at heart.

As with previous comparisons though, there's massive competition in the Android world for this new Nokia phone, whereas the Alcatel IDOL 4 Pro is more or less the only game in town for someone happy with Windows 10 Mobile and wanting shiny new (reasonably high spec) hardware.

Of the IDOL 4 Pro's 'wins' above, the most significant is that for multimedia, with the genuinely incredible speakers, high quality DAC, and fabulous display, all giving the phone something of a class-leading USP. The IDOL 4 Pro's not a perfect handset, of course - not even close, but it's not bad and I for one am glad that it exists at all. Kind of a 'last hurrah' for Windows 10 Mobile?

PS. Next up from me will be a camera shootout between the Nokia 7 Plus and the Lumia 950 XL - I've already shot the test images and you can guess the winner, though the margin will be interesting.

PPS. If you do pick the IDOL 4 Pro up then you'll need a case. See my IDOL 4 Pro case round-up here, recently added to.