Looks and feels solid;
Great battery life;
WAP web browsing;
Tough to type;
Basic functionality – Android phones can be bagged for the same price
Alcatel’s One Touch 720 is a £40 basic handset offering a decent range of features, including social networking and video playback. Unfortunately some usability issues make it a tough sell.
The Alcatel One Touch 720 is a stumpy little phone, featuring a compact 2.8-inch screen. We found it fit well in the hand and was comfortable to use, with a solid finish that can tolerate a fair bit of abuse. The faux-metallic rim is a neat touch that breaks up the white chassis. It’s a good-looking mobile considering the low cost.
Breaking convention, the volume buttons are located on the left side, along with the Micro USB charging port. The power button and 3.5mm audio jack are found on top. The back plate is removeable tso you can access the battery, and you’ll also find the SIM card slot and a space for a micro SD card slot, to add up to 8GB of storage space for your media. Beneath the screen you’ll find four physical buttons for Menu, Home, Back and Wireless Networking.
That 2.8-inch TFT display is low-resolution, so photos and other images look blocky and lifeless, but we expected nothing less at this price. Touch controls are capacitive, but thankfully you don’t have to prod too hard on the screen for your touch to register. You’ll definitely have to use a bit of pressure when swiping, however – for instance, to unlock the phone.
Unfortunately the compact screen also makes for a tiny virtual keyboard, so mistakes are common no matter how careful you are. Turning the phone sideways sadly doesn’t swivel the keyboard into landscape mode, which usually offers a bit more room, giving larger keys. There’s no predictive text either, so you have to physically type out every word in full and either delete or tolerate any mistakes you make. If you constantly text or email, we’d recommend buying a phone with a larger display.
Browsing the internet is done via the rather antiquated WAP system, making for a not-too-enjoyable experience. The Opera browser is as basic as it comes, offering blocky text and burying useful options away in menus. For instance, to enter a web address, reload a page or add a bookmark you have to go to ‘Menu’ and then a sub-menu, whereas the likes of Android’s browser has those options right on the main page. Also, pressing the physical ‘back’ button actually takes you out of the browser, dumping you to the Home page.
Another issue is the low-resolution screen, which means you have to zoom right in to a webpage to read the text. This means you’ll only see a small portion of a page at a time, so you’ll be scrolling around an awful lot. We also found that prodding links was a hit-and-miss affair. Occasionally the screen would vibrate as if our poke had registered, but nothing would happen, forcing us to prod again until it worked. The worst was tapping text boxes to enter text: often we had to tap them a dozen or more times before the virtual keyboard appeared.
The 2MP snapper is a bog-standard affair, not surprising considering the sub-£50 asking price. Our shots were grainy and each photo takes several seconds to capture and save, so don’t expect to get any decent action shots. We’d use it only for capturing profile pics of your friends and family, but at least it’s there if you need it. Impressively, there’s also a built-in flash for night shots and you can also shoot low-res video.
The One Touch 720’s desktop looks similar to Android’s, allowing you to add some simple widgets as well as shortcuts to your favourite apps (but not websites as far as we could see). You get three desktops in all, plus virtual shortcuts to your phone book, messages, dialler and apps. In addition to a built-in radio, you have video and music players to keep you entertained on the move. You also get an ebook reader (although reading novels on the tiny screen, much like watching your downloaded TV shows, is a brow-furrowing experience), plus various productivity apps such as a calendar and voice recorder.
Rounding off the built-in apps are Facebook and Twitter efforts that allow you to view your social streams and post updates. They don’t offer full functionality, but are good enough for catching up on your mates’ movements.
The good news is, the One Touch 720 has a long-lasting battery that’ll survive for days. If you’re off on a weekend trip, you shouldn’t need to pack the charger.
Alcatel’s One Touch 720 is a very affordable phone that looks smart and packs in a decent range of features. The problem is that for just a few pounds more you can bag yourself budget Android devices such as the Alcatel One Touch 903, which are a lot more user-friendly and can also access the internet using a ‘proper’ browser.