Microsoft has had terrible luck with Windows on smartphones. Earlier this year it announced its intention to scale back its efforts in mobile, but it’s not completely out of the game. To prove it, Microsoft has gotten a mid-tier Android phone maker to create a Windows 10 version of its latest device. Starting next week, you’ll be able to get a Windows version of the Alcatel Idol 4S from T-Mobile in the US. Although, this doesn’t seem like the exact same device you can get with Android.
The Idol 4s
Microsoft is pushing the VR angle with the Idol 4S, which is also true of the Android version. The “box” for this phone is actually a VR headset, which is clever. On the Android side, that means Cardboard content. On Windows 10, there’s a lot less VR content available. The Android version of this phone has a 5.5-inch 1440p AMOLED display, but according to Microsoft, the Windows version will only have a 5.5-inch 1080p AMOLED panel.
Now, no one is saying that a 1080p display is unusable at 5.5-inches. After all, most TVs are still 1080p and they’re considerably larger. Your TV is across the room, though. A phone with a VR focus is literally right in front of your face. With that pixel density, the Windows version of the phone could look much worse in VR than the Android one.
Rest of the Specs
The rest of the Windows version’s specs seems identical to its Google-inclined cousin. It has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage with a microSD card slot. The 21MP camera uses a high-quality Sony image sensor, and there’s a fingerprint scanner right below it. The robust specs matter here because Windows 10 phones can be used as a sort of mini desktop PC. Just plug it into a monitor and it switches to a desktop interface. The Snapdragon 820 is a fast mobile chip, but it won’t replace a truly desktop-class experience. If you just need to fiddle around with a document on a larger screen, this could be good enough.
You can get the unlocked Android Idol 4S for $400, so you’d probably expect a similar price for the Windows version. Hey, maybe even a little less considering the apparent screen downgrade. Nope, this phone will run you $470. I guess that’s the Windows tax at work (it was a similar situation with the Windows variant of other Android phones like the HTC One M8). Still, if you want a Windows-based smartphone, this is probably your best bet.