If ever a phone were aimed at ladies, the Alcatel OT-808 is it. It's pink, it's shiny and it looks like a compact mirror. It's also "made for gossip", according to Alcatel, sporting a number of social-networking features that'll keep you updated about who wants to claw whose eyes out. Clearly, the OT-808 does a cracking job of patronising half of humankind, but is it any good otherwise?
The OT-808 is available for free on a £10 per month contract, or £100 SIM-free. It makes most sense, however, to pick it up for £50 on a pay as you go deal.
Mirror, mirror, on the phone
The square OT-808 looks unusual, but not entirely repellent, and we're sure someone, somewhere, will take a shine to it. The lid houses a 2-megapixel camera and a basic external display. You can take advantage of the lid's reflective surface to discreetly check up on the pulsating spot that's warping your entire face.
Flipping open the lid reveals an array of navigation buttons and a full Qwerty keyboard. Above those sits a fairly large, 62mm (2.4-inch) screen. On one side of the phone resides a mini-USB port for connecting the bundled headphones, and, on the other, there's a shortcut button for quick access to the music player.
The phone measures 71 by 21 by 71mm, so it's fairly chunky. Alcatel no doubt intends you to keep it in a pink furry handbag, but be warned regardless: it sits awkwardly in a pair of pantaloons. It does feel robust, though, so it'll survive a drop from a reasonable distance. That said, the lid's prone to scratching, so don't be alarmed if you see an unexpected gash on your reflected bonce.
The OT-808's keyboard is surprisingly good, given the phone's price. The keys don't offer the satisfying click of a BlackBerry's buttons, but they're fairly large and easy to press. It's easy to type quickly and accurately, and the predictive-text system works well. We encountered very few problems entering the choicest expletives from our salty vocabulary.
The navigation buttons are equally easy to press. Unfortunately, they're arranged in such a fashion that it's often unclear which one you need to press to navigate through the user interface, and the on-screen prompts don't particularly help matters.
Interface all over the place
Indeed, the OT-808's interface isn't very inspiring generally. The large grid of icons that constitutes the main menu is reminiscent of the interface seen on smart phones such as the iPhone 4 and HTC Desire, only uglier. Using the four-way navigation pad to find your way around is also far less intuitive than using a touchscreen.
The dated-looking sub-menus that appear when you click on many of the icons aren't exactly a visual treat either. The phone frequently confronts you with long lists of options, many of which don't have an immediately obvious purpose.
At least the OT-808 attempts to supply a decent range of features beyond the staples of an alarm clock, calendar, calculator and so on. Most notably, the phone offers Facebook and Twitter apps for
spying on following your chums, the Opera Mini browser for speedy Web surfing, and a Palringo instant messaging client that brings together your IM contacts from various services. "Heavens," you might think, "that's a surefire recipe for online jollity, right there."
How wrong you'd be. The phone lacks Wi-Fi or 3G connectivity, so you could commit Moby-Dick to memory in the time it takes for the social-networking apps to update. Even when they do update, 'pants' would be a charitable description of their appearance.
We couldn't get the Opera Mini browser to work either, despite shedding copious quantities of blood, sweat and tears. That means we had to resort to using the phone's standard browser, which mentally transported us back to 2001 on first sight. Nor could we get the Palringo app to work. It's possible we suffered these problems as a result of receiving our handset directly from Alcatel -- you may not encounter the same difficulties on a phone provided by a network, as they often tweak the software.
Face the music
The OT-808 offers a radio and music player. Its audio is of a surprisingly good quality when you put the phone in loudspeaker mode, but you're unlikely to do that unless you spend an inordinate amount of time on the back of buses and voluntarily wear a tracksuit. Otherwise, you'll have to use the poor-quality bundled headphones.
You'll need to insert a microSD card of up to 8GB into the OT-808 if you want to listen to more than a few tunes, as there's only 80MB of built-in storage. We'd suggest transferring your music directly on to a memory card and then whacking that in your phone, rather than using Alcatel's software to transfer music to the phone directly. The Alcatel PC Suite software makes iTunes look positively slick.
The OT-808's 2-megapixel snapper may prove useful if you've left your main camera at home and need to capture a fleeting moment, but its image quality isn't particularly good. Video looks choppy too.
Heed the call
The OT-808's call quality is fine. The phone's shape means it feels slightly awkward when held against your face, but that's not a real problem when it comes to holding conversations.
The handset's battery life is good too. Using the phone predominantly for calling and texting, we found the battery lasted for about 5 days before it needed recharging. Masochists who insist on using the online features will find the battery drains more quickly.
If you like its design and want a cheap handset for making calls and sending texts, the Alcatel OT-808 will do the job. But if you're expecting a slick online experience, you'll be disappointed. For cash-strapped mobile surfers, we'd recommend the INQ Mini 3G instead -- it's cheaper and its 3G connectivity will make for speedier browsing.
Edited by Nick Hide