The Alcatel OT-708 is a zero-frills touchscreen phone. With few of the flashy features that have made smart phones all the rage, it bears about as much relation to the iPhone 4 as a goldfish does to a great white shark. But it is very cheap.
You can pick it up for free on an £8.49 per month, 24-month contract, or for £80 SIM-free. For most people, though, it will probably make more sense to buy it on a £20 pay as you go deal.
Keep it in your trousers
Despite its tacky plastic carcass, the OT-708 isn't a bad-looking handset. Not much taller or wider than a Malted Milk biscuit, it'll slide into a pocket with no bother. It also feels like it will withstand far more torture than an iPhone or other high-faluting touchscreen handset.
The only physical controls are a power button on the left-hand side, and a volume-adjustment button on the other. Otherwise you control the handset via the 61mm (2.4-inch) resistive touchscreen, and the touch-sensitive area below the display. This area features blue LED lights that form various patterns depending on which part of the user interface you're in. That's about as flashy as this handset gets.
The OT-708's resistive touchscreen is nowhere near as slick as the capacitive touchscreens on high-end smart phones. There's no multi-touch functionality for zooming in with a pinch of the fingers, for example, and you have to apply a degree of pressure to make the display register your input. But the touchscreen still gets the job done, and we found we made few erroneous prods, due to the interface's large icons and clear menu system.
The interface is basic by the standards of most touchscreen phones. The single home screen features two panels that can be hidden away when not in use. One, along the bottom of the screen, lets you quickly write a text, look up a contact, dial a number or access the menus. The other panel, which hangs down the left-hand side of the screen, provides access to some rudimentary widgets. Note you can't customise this panel to show different apps.
People who can't be bothered to look out of the window may find the weather widget useful, but the rest are pretty mundane. You can drag and drop them from the panel on to the home screen to see an expanded version, so the music player widget, for example, will show play and skip-track buttons.
As well as a music player and elementary features such as a clock, calendar and calculator, the OT-708 offers an FM radio. You'll have to use the poor-quality bundled headphones to listen to it, though, as there's no 3.5mm jack. Also, if you want to store more than a few tunes on the OT-708, you'll need to whack a microSD card, of up to 4GB, into the slot under the battery.
We'd recommend transferring your music on to your microSD card and then putting it in the phone, rather than using Alcatel's PC Suite software to transfer files directly to the handset. The software is repellent, and our handset didn't come with a mini-USB cable for connecting it to our computer anyway.
The 1.3-megapixel camera takes snaps fairly quickly and offers plenty of settings to play with, but it won't replace your dedicated camera, as its image quality isn't great. You can record videos, but they're choppier than the seas off Cape Horn, and pretty painful to watch as a result.
The OT-708 offers a Web browser, but it's not particularly easy on the eye, and without 3G or Wi-Fi connectivity it's horrifically slow. Overall, we'd rather punch ourselves in the face than try to access the Web on this handset.
It's possible to bash out a text message fairly quickly using the OT-708's on-screen alphanumeric keypad, as long as you've got the decent predictive text mode turned on. Entering each letter manually, however, is a gruelling experience, as the keypad isn't sufficiently responsive to recognise rapid-fire inputs.
The phone's call quality is fine, with voices coming through loud and clear on both ends. You can expect the battery to last a few days with normal use.
Without a complex operating system, speedy browser or humungous app reservoir, the Alcatel OT-708's touchscreen feels rather redundant. But that's not to say it's a bad device for the price, and we'd recommend it if you're a cash-strapped and undemanding touchscreen fetishist.
Before splashing out, though, give the LG Cookie Fresh GS290 a goosey gander, as it's not much more expensive and offers a larger touch-sensitive display.
Edited by Nick Hide