Brassy and colourful, the super-light OT-255 is fun-looking and small enough to forget you're carrying it
It's easy, not least because it's not sophisticated enough to be complicated
The OT-255 has few features, but have you seen the price tag?
It's not blazingly fast, and surfing the internet is painful, but data services apart it performs well
The phone's battery will last a day or two with no problems
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,12/12/2011 4:00:25 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
Super-affordable, light and small. Acceptable keyboard
No 3G or any other sophistications
There's affordable, and there's cheap. Alcatel is known for making cute and highly affordable handsets, but even it is pushing the boundaries with the OT-255, a QWERTY keyboard phone that you can pick up on pay-as-you-go tariffs for around a tenner. At that price, it must be a nightmare, right? Well, no, actually. Of course, there's a limited number of frills here. Not only does it lack the advanced features of a smartphone like GPS, Wi-Fi and a high-res camera but also the simple add-ons found in a medium-range phone. So there's no 3G, expandable storage or 3.5mm headphone jack, for instance. And in case you thought this kind of price earned you even a basic camera, think again - there's no snapper of any kind here. Sure, you won't want the OT-255 as your main phone, but maybe you have use for a handset that does the job and you won't mind losing. Say you need a basic phone you can take out on a pub crawl, or give to a child to use. And if your main phone is an expensive smartphone, popping your SIM in here may make it less of a target for thieves.
And, let's be fair, the phone does a lot of things well. It's got a 1.8-inch colour screen that is highly watchable, though not high-resolution and too tiddly for looking at anything in detail, anyway. It's small and preposterously light - a refreshing change from a sizeable four-inch superphone - so you can pop it in your pocket or bag without being weighed down. The phone's look is bright and fun, rather than down-at-heel and cheap, and the soft keys under the screen exactly match their on-screen labels, which is not always the case. True, the direction pad needs careful manipulation to work reliably: you may find yourself using your thumbnail to select items as the thumb itself can engage the up direction or whatever.
But it's simple to use. The menu is just a long list of icons that is laborious but straightforward to navigate: it may be slow but you won't get lost. In fact, after hundreds of separate icons became the norm in app-powered smartphones, Alcatel has a quickly recognisable system. So the Weather program sits next to the alarm clock, then there's notes, Fake Call and so on. And you can rearrange these shortcuts to suit your needs. Fake Call, by the way, is a handy little extra which you can set so the phone rings you a minute after a surreptitious long press on a key. It shows details of the caller, thus rescuing you from a tedious conversation, if needs be.
Then there's the keyboard, for texting, emails and note taking. Well, BlackBerry needn't be worried just yet, but it's actually not bad. You can type at reasonable speeds with a bit of practice. Don't expect sophistications like error correction or text prediction. Or even imagine that when you've typed a full stop that the phone knows to capitalise the next letter. Astonishingly, it doesn't. But it does have the sense to have the @ and full stop symbols on lower case keys, something BlackBerry has yet to deem worthwhile. This makes entering email addresses that bit faster. Internet browsing is not great: the tiny screen makes it hard to see much and the connection speed is unsurprisingly slow and halting.
What else? Not much, really. A couple of exceptionally basic games sit next to an FM radio and a Tasks memo function. And it makes calls. Overall, the phone isn't going to have anyone dumping the iPhone for it, but if you want a handset that you can treat with gay abandon, you can't go far wrong.