When a phone is available for under £5 on a pay as you go deal, its specs are as predictable as an episode of The A-Team. You can send texts, make calls, possibly listen to the radio, and that's about it. The 1661 is no exception, but, with Nokia's name on the front, you might also expect decent build quality. Prepare to be disappointed.
The Nokia 1661 can be yours for a mere £4.95 on a pay as you go deal, or £30 SIM-free. It's also available for free on an £8.49-per-month contract.
Built by Satan
Visually, the 1661 isn't exactly a masterpiece. It's not physically repulsive, but its plastic body looks cheap, and the crimson trim around the edge of the phone is far from classy. An attachment point for a lanyard sits on the upper right-hand corner of the phone. We advise against exploiting this feature -- it would be the mobile-phone equivalent of wearing your spectacles on a string around your neck.
While we can forgive the phone's appearance given its price, we can't say the same for its build quality. Most similarly-priced phones feel cheap, but the 1661 takes it to an unpleasant new level. If you squeeze it at any point, it will creak like a woodworm-infested rowboat in a typhoon. It'll withstand being repeatedly sat on, but it feels like a few tumbles down a staircase might prove fatal.
A particularly fiery pit in mobile-phone hell must be reserved for the keypad, which is among the worst we've ever come across. It's bad enough that the buttons noticeably sink into the centre of the handset when pressed, but it's unforgivable that you can actually slide your thumbnail under the call-answer and call-end buttons.
Placed near the charging port on the side of the phone, a 2.5mm audio jack will let you listen to the radio through the bundled headphones. The audio quality isn't great, but it's good enough for the price.
There's also a torch on the top of the phone, which is sufficiently bright to enable you to avoid stepping on a plug in a dark room.
Blast from the past
The 1661's shoddy build quality is a particular shame since the remaining aspects of the phone aren't bad. Its basic but functional interface will be immediately familiar to anyone who's used a mid-range Nokia handset in the past, and it offers some handy features too. For example, one of the buttons on the front of the phone provides quick access to a customisable list of shortcuts, so you don't have to trawl through the interface to access features like the alarm clock or flashlight.
The 1661 also handles the phone essentials fairly well. Its call quality is decent enough, and you can expect to get around a week's use out of it before it needs recharging. Texting will never be a joy on a handset with such a lamentable keypad, but it can be done pretty quickly, thanks to a decent predictive-text system.