We’ve been sent a preview model of O2’s forthcoming Android phone, the Alcatel OT990.

Looking to soak up beginners and Android converts, it looks to be pitched as an entry-level smartphone. It's currently running Android 2.2, but we've been told it will arrive in shops with the very latest version of Android, Gingerbread (2.3).

The phone has a satisfying weight to it- it feels like a HTC model, and the screen-size is comparable to other mid-range smartphones. We already like the triumphant return of the physical home-button.

There’s also an impressive 5-megapixel camera on the back, paired with an LED flash, and a front-facing camera.

The 3.5-inch touchscreen may not reach the dizzying heights of the Samsung Galaxy S2, but nor does the price-tag.

O2 will face strong competition from not only phone-makers like HTC and Sony Ericsson, looking to drop the prices of older, lower-specification phones, but also rival phone networks.

Orange has revealed on its online store that it will have the spiritual successor to the San Francisco, the Barcelona, out soon, and it’s packing a full Qwerty keyboard.

Vodafone, too, has already revealed the Smart, a customisable Android phone.

O2 has sent us a prototype to play with, and we’ve been told there are still a few wrinkles to iron out. O2's coming soon page points to an August release date.

Due to this, we thought that the ‘on button’ wasn’t working; despite charging from the mains, and some dangerously stern prodding. Embarrassingly, it turns out we had the wrong button; and the power-on and screen-lock button is actually on the side. Sorry O2.

We’ll be reviewing the finished model soon, until then peruse our hands-on pictures. Click on!
 

At the base of the handset, you'll find three Android buttons, menu, search and back. The physical button acts as home, and will take you back to the main homescreen.

The purple hue may not be to your tastes, but the O2 site shows a more subtle black finish.

O2 are also running a vote on their Facebook page. You can also vote for your favourite backing, and the one with the most votes will be  packaged alongside the phone on launch.

 

Here's the 5-megapixel camera. It's also capable of recording video. A cheeky bit of Google branding at the bottom.

On the right side, you'll find the volume rocker. Not much else, sir. The silver rim is a nice touch, and makes the phone look less plastic.  It doesn't feel particularly plastic in the hand.

At the top, there's both the headphone jack and microUSB charger.

Here's the actual screen-lock/power button. Sneaky.

Web-browsing was suitably responsive, and the screen's brightness and sharpness surprised us, given the phone's target audience.

The phone is currently running Android Froyo (2.2), but O2 has told Recombu that the phone will be launched running Android Gingerbread (2.3).