Android has become well established in the sub £200 smartphone market, and we are all watching keenly to see how low the price of a good Android handset can get. There are a few offerings around the £100 mark, where the quality benchmark was set some time ago by Orange with its San Francisco. Can the £99.99 O2 exclusive Alcatel OT 990 give Orange’s baby a run for its money?
Starts out well
Certainly initial impressions are good. For your £99.99, you get a handset running Android 2.2. While not the most advanced version of the operating system, it’s not far behind – and it’s perfectly good enough to power a smartphone well.
Alcatel hasn’t skinned Android, but that doesn’t matter as the basic, generic Android interface is easy enough to get to grips with and works well. There are five home screens, widgets, and three themes that help personalise the look and feel.
Things start to get a little iffy, though, when you look at the screen. At 3.5in across the diagonal, in theory it’s large enough to cater for easy web page viewing and media watching. But in fact things don’t quite work out like that.
The touchscreen’s resolution of 320 x 480 pixels is low by modern standards, and if you are used to a higher resolution you’ll really notice it. Furthermore, the screen is a TFT panel and it is very difficult to see outdoors in bright sunshine. Given that the screen is the key user interface of any smartphone, this is all a bit disappointing.
You win some, you lose some
The remaining specifications are a mix of pros and cons. The build is quite robust. You get a second backplate, the design of which – and we aren’t sure why you should care about this – was chosen by users on Facebook.
There’s Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS here, and there is 200MB of onboard memory, with a 2GB microSD card included to help boost that and give you some storage space for apps and media. This is all good.
The processor, though, runs at 600MHz – and that’s simply not powerful enough to support Flash. So if you pop onto a web site with embedded video, chances are you won’t be able to enjoy it. A VGA-resolution (640×480) front-facing camera for videoconferencing is joined by a 5-megapixel main camera with small LED flash. Shots are reasonable, but not outstanding. Alcatel has added an FM radio into the apps mix, which is nice to see.
Contact: O2 on 08442 020202
- Low price; good build.
- Poor screen; no Flash support.
The Alcatel OT 990 is certainly low cost. The compromises that have been made to meet the low price include an absence of Flash support and a low-resolution screen. The overall effect is a handset that feels compromised.