The Alcatel OT-209 is cheaper than many things in life, among them chips, crinkle-cut or otherwise. At 99 pence on a pay as you go contract, it's a ridiculously inexpensive option if you don't want to lose your expensive smart phone while out on the razzle, or just can't be bothered with highfalutin handsets.
Carphone Warehouse's 99p deal will require you to use Virgin's mobile network and make at least a £10 top-up at the time of purchase. If you opt for Orange's network, you'll pay £2.95 for the phone and £10 for a top-up. This means you'll be able to take advantage of Orange Wednesdays, entitling you to two-for-one cinema tickets and pizzas. The OT-209 is also available for free on a £4.99 per month contract, or £40 SIM-free.
With a small screen, rubbery buttons and cheap, plastic chassis, the OT-209 is far from beautiful. It's not a total monstrosity, but you can be sure that iPhone users and their ilk will -- rightly or wrongly -- mentally brand you a buffoon when you whip it out in public.
But the robust OT-209 is more likely than an iPhone to survive being repeatedly squashed -- even by very sizeable buttocks. It's small too, so you'll be able to slip it into the pocket of your slender breeches with no bother. Its rounded edges mean falling on this phone won't hurt as much as falling on your keys either.
The phone's backlit buttons click satisfyingly. They won't cause you any problems when navigating the simple user interface on the 1.5-inch colour screen.
Shine a light
The OT-209 offers a couple of features you won't see on all of its super-cheap brethren. On the back of the phone, for example, there's a torch, which could come in useful when you've fallen down a mine, even though it's not very powerful.
The phone also offers an FM radio, which could have proved useful for rapidly blocking out irritating conversations. Unfortunately, however, Alcatel has seen fit to supply a headset with only one earphone. You can't use your own headphones with the phone either, unless you buy a mini-USB adaptor.
The OT-209 can receive fake calls too, a feature activated by holding down one of the buttons by the central navigation pad. If you've ever been held conversational hostage by a deeply tedious relative at a party, you'll appreciate just how valuable this feature could be -- and no one will ever suspect your basic phone of having such a sneaky gimmick.
Apart from those bonus features, the OT-209 offers the usual stalwarts, such as a calendar, alarm clock, stopwatch, calculator and some truly diabolical games. Unsurprisingly, there is no camera. You can assign shortcuts to most of the phone's features, which will prevent you having to regularly navigate the interface, perfectly intelligible and acceptable though it is.
The OT-209 handles all the basics with aplomb. Texting is simple, and we found the optional predictive-text system worked well. It occasionally failed to automatically suggest commonplace words such as 'pint', but adding that word and any unrecognised expletives to the system's dictionary is a piece of cake.
The phone's call quality is fine, with voices coming through loud and clear on both ends. Its battery life is also thoroughly laudable. With moderate use, you can expect the OT-209 to last about a week or more on a single charge. You'd be justified in telling any smart-phone user to put that fact in their pipe and smoke it.
The Alcatel OT-209 isn't pretty but it's perfectly usable and ludicrously cheap. As a back-up phone or primary handset for undemanding users, we're more than happy to recommend it. If you don't mind spending a few more pounds, you'll find the Alcatel OT-222, our favourite uber-affordable handset so far, just as usable and much easier on the eye.
Edited by Nick Hide