Hardy processor, brilliant budget screen, sharp, capable camera, good tweaks to freshen up Gingerbread
Uninspired design, average battery life
If you’re after an affordable Android smartphone, the name ‘Alcatel’ should be on your lips, even if you’ve never heard of it before. We’ve seen some great wallet-friendly phones from the French manufacturer recently, including the impressive BlackBerry-aping One Touch 355, but the One Touch 995 is Alcatel’s new flagship phone, a mobile that packs some strong specs and features into a solid, dependable frame.
Sure, the One Touch 995 isn’t going to blow you away with stunning good looks, opting for a simple rectangular design with rounded corners. It feels a little chunky, but build quality is sound. The 4.3-inch display’s glass panel stretches over most of the front panel, while the plastic edges give way to a rubberised rear. The body isn’t easily scuffed, which is reassuring if you’re as clumsy as us.
You certainly get a lot for your £150. A 1.4GHz single-core processor handles Google Android perfectly, and while you’re stuck with version 2.3 (Gingerbread) instead of the latest Ice Cream Sandwich, Alcatel has done a great job sprucing it up with a number of tweaks.
The One Touch 995’s desktops can be customised as usual, with app and website shortcuts as well as a limited number of widgets. However, the favourite apps bar at the bottom of the screen has a new addition, right in the centre – tap this button and you bring up a 3D carousel, which can be flicked through to take you to a specific desktop. You can add up to 12 different desktops, each with a unique theme – for instance, Weather or Pictures. It’s a pretty cool way of managing your Android setup, filled with neat little animations.
Like LG with its Optimus L3 and Optimus L7, the notifications bar also has a number of power shortcuts for turning Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth etc on and off. Unlike LG, these shortcuts are set in a scrollable bar, so you can access twice as many. Sadly, the lock screen isn’t customisable, so you can’t open apps such as the camera quickly.
Big and beautiful
Considering the low price, we were blown away by the One Touch 995’s 4.3-inch TFT screen. While obviously lacking the supreme sharpness of premium displays (such as those found on the HTC One X and Sony Xperia S), it’s just as crisp as the screens on the HTC One S and LG Optimus L7. Viewing angles are impressively wide and colours are bold. We’d happily watch full-length movies on this device.
That spacious display is also handy for web browsing, especially on dense pages packed with photos and text. If you spend your commute on BBC News (or, even better, Mobile Choice), you’ll enjoy skimming through webpages thanks to the responsive touch-screen, which is also sensitive to pinches and double-taps for zooming.
If you prefer playing with apps, the One Touch 995 comes with loads pre-installed (although it’s a pain uninstalling them if you want to free up storage space) and you have full access to the Google Play store to download more apps and games. High-speed 3D games such as Asphalt 5 HD ran smoothly, with no dip in framerate even when we exploded into shrapnel by smashing into oncoming cars.
No smartphone would be complete without a camera, and again we were highly impressed by the One Touch 995’s budget snapper. Photos are sharp thanks to the five-megpixel lens, even when viewed on a computer monitor or TV, and you have an LED flash for low light shots. It’s a great camera for taking action shots too, with minimal motion blur – perfect if you take shots of your kids or pets.
Finally, there’s the matter of battery life. With light use (texting, emailing and the occasional brief phone call) the One Touch 995 survives around 24 hours. However, stream video and the battery life plummets – the phone will be dead in around two hours. If you’re a games or media fan, you’re best off carrying your charger around.
The Alcatel One Touch 995 is the perfect example of how to do a budget Android mobile. It may not look anything special, but the capable processor, crisp and spacious screen, impressive camera and interesting Gingerbread tweaks make it as appealing as phones that cost twice as much. Only the battery life disappoints.