Review by Sunetra Chakravati,
12/12/2011 4:01:25 PM
For less than £100 you get a handset brimming with features and the chance to experience the Android OS
Despite being the superior capacitive variety, the touch-screen is laggy and can lead to a frustrating experience
Fair play to Alcatel. Rather than resting on its laurels as the go-to manufacturer for “affordable” but featureless handsets, it’s evolved, producing smartphones that run on the Android OS but without the expensive price tag. The Alcatel OT-990 is the latest of this ilk, and may well be the company’s best yet.
The Alcatel OT-990 is certainly the manufacturer’s best-looking handset to date. It’s not up there with premium devices, but gone is that cheap plastic feel we’ve seen with previous Alcatel phones. It reminded us of the HTC Desire S with its curved body and substantial girth without feeling too bulky. Available in an array of colours, including two chosen by O2 customers, you’re guaranteed a handset that will stand out from the crowd.
Hold the phone face on and you’ll notice there’s only one hard key; a Home key found at the bottom of the phone. It sits directly under three touch-sensitive keys; a Menu, Search and Back key. Unlike other handsets that take this approach, these keys don’t illuminate, but they’re prominent enough without any additional lighting.
The touch-screen is a respectable 3.5 inches and is of the superior capacitive variety. Sadly it’s not the most fluid we’ve encountered, with a slight lag on finger swipes and key presses. The virtual keyboard also failed to impresss. Now it’s important to note that the Alcatel OT-990 runs on Android 2.2, and as such doesn’t have the improved QWERTY keyboard that comes with Android Gingerbread (an update will be available later in the year). What you do get is three different options that you can switch between by sliding the keyboard from left to right. The options are a QWERTY keyboard, a traditional alphanumeric keyboard and a bigger QWERTY keyboard that shares two characters per button. We found them all to be a little cramped, partly due to Alcatel’s decision to place a tool bar above the keyboard that takes up vital display space. To type in one of the secondary characters (for example ‘?’, which sits under the letter ‘g’) you need to hold your finger down until you are again given the option of whether it is the ‘?’ or ‘g’ or even one of the surrounding letters. While it does ensure a more accurate typing process, it also slows proceedings down somewhat.
For a phone of this calibre, the display is actually not too shabby. Icons look crisp, with sharp edges and backgrounds, and live wallpapers or your own photos look vibrant on the screen. Unfortunately, when browsing the web pictures are a lot more pixilated, with the likes of Twitter avatars or Facebook profile pictures becoming near unrecognisable. Apart from that minor gripe, the browsing experience was actually pretty good. Kitted out with both HSDPA and Wi-Fi, webpages were quick to open, though we’d advise against opening up too many at once on account of the 600MHz processor. Moreover, there’s also no Flash video due to the phone’s Android 2.2 credentials. You can still pinch and pull to zoom in and out of a webpage, and a double tap will realign the page. And while you can copy and paste text, you will need to go through the Settings menu rather than simply holding your finger on the designated text.
We’ve been waiting for an Android phone to possess a jaw-dropping camera and the Alcatel OT-990 was never going to be the one to deliver. That said, for taking the odd snap and uploading to Facebook it proves more than competent. It’s annoying that you have to use virtual controls to zoom, rather than the perfectly placed volume keys, but the snaps maintain colour and even the LED flash makes low light shots possible. What really impressed us was the speed with which the A-GPS picked up our location, pinpointing our position to the doorstep we were standing on. To enjoy full voice instructions you’ll be prompted to download an additional app (for free), but the Alcatel OT-990 can serve as a genuine sat nav alternative.
The Alcatel OT-990 is never going to be the choice of the early adopter. Indeed, there’s a collection of budget Android smartphones that boast better features – some even run on the superior 2.3 Gingerbread OS. However, for just £99.99, the Alcatel OT-990 proves excellent value for money and if shopping on a budget, is well worth a look.