When a phone is less cutting edge and more cost effective, it’s very easy to let it slip under the radar. Of late though, there have been a few extremely affordable smartphones like the ZTE Kis that give you full Android functionality, creating a ‘good £50 smartphone club’, as opposed to the ‘bad £50 smartphone club’ we’ve groan to know and loath. This is awesome. The Alcatel One Touch 916 hopes to join this category of modestly priced mobile jaw droppers, introducing a QWERTY keyboard and robust body in the hopes of joining the affordable elite.
Alcatel One Touch 916 – Design and Screen
The Alcatel 916 isn’t a looker per se, we can get that out of the way from the offset. It is a robust phone though. What do we mean by robust? This thing could double up as a weapon should the need arise. It’s dense, it’s solid and it’s evenly weighted, perfect for holding in the hand or lobbing at a foe. Seriously though, it’s a nice phone to use and it feels more premium than the price would suggest.
The QWERTY keyboard is well spaced with raised keys and good sizing. The keys are spongy, though travel is fair and you do get a reassuring click at the end of your key-press journey. There’s a call/end button above the keyboard along with an optical touch-pad, with four capacitive buttons and the 2.6-inch QVGA touch-screen.
What we aren’t sold on is the keyboard layout, specifically one button. Next to full-stop is an SNS shortcut that’s set to Whatsapp by default. Thankfully, the button is customisable, but we simply turned it off as we found ourselves pressing it instead of the frequently used full-stop key all the time.
The screen delivers decent viewing angles from left to right, though vertically washes out very quickly. Thanks to the small display size, sharpness is ok despite the low resolution. When we say ok, we mean – passable for messaging and basic web browsing, not for ebook reading or lengthy emailing.
Alcatel One Touch 916 – User Interface
The One Touch 916 runs Android 2.3, Gingerbread and it’s powered along by a 600MHz processor. Alcatel haven’t skinned Android heavily, mainly optimising it to work well in landscape and take advantage of the touchpad and QWERTY keyboard. This makes the UI simple, usable and generally smooth.
Other highlights include the kitch default wallpapers and novel audio chimes. Alcatel are clearly aiming this at the young pay as you go market.
Alcatel One Touch 916 – Camera and Multimedia
There’s a 3.2-megapixel camera on the back of the One Touch 916 and despite being fixed focus, it’s pretty impressive for the price, capturing shots quickly and offering a host of shooting modes. It misleadingly gives you an artificial 5-megapixel capture mode for larger images, with there being very little point going with this unless you’re going to be printing your images off. Detail is decent and despite poor noise handling, you can still Instagram a night time shot to look ok. Despite no flash, the additional shooting modes and a burst capture of up to 16 images makes sure the 916 camera trumps the vast majority of £50ers on the market, the ZTE Kis included. Click an image below to view the full version.
Video is recorded at an uncommon D1 resolution of 720×640 at a smooth 25fps. Neither detail or noise handling are great, but content looks good on the phone and is comfortably exportable to a small monitor.
In terms of other multimedia functionality the Alcatel One Touch 916 is expandable, housing up to 32GB of music or video content. The screen’s size and resolution means it’s considerably better suited to the prior with apps like Spotify available through the Google Play store.
Alcatel One Touch 916 – Storage and Connectivity
With a negligible amount of internal storage pre-loaded on the Alcatel One Touch 916, the microSD card expandability is a given. Expandable up to 32GB, it’s up to you to decide what capacity you go for, though you’ll get a 2GB card out of the box. In addition, there’s also Wi-Fi, 3G, GPS and Bluetooth on board. Web browsing on a 2.6-inch QVGA screen was never going to be the best experience out there, but the Android browser still trumps that of the Alcatel’s main rivals, the BlackBerry 9320 which comes in at over double the price, and the Nokia Asha 201 which packs the wholly inferior S40.
Alcatel One Touch 916 – Performance and Battery
Despite being relatively zippy upon startup given the 600MHz processor, the Alcatel One Touch 916 does have some stability quirks that require a press of the home button to get back to familiar, stable turf. There are also occasional hanging moments when a number is entered, a phone call is made or the phone is unlocked. So while the 916 is perfectly usable, don’t expect an entirely flawless, rapid ride throughout the UI.
Audio quality is pretty mediocre. Voices are audible, though clarity isn’t great and max volume could be a little louder. You can also expect to see about 1-2 days battery out of the Alcatel One Touch 916 with moderate use.
Alcatel One Touch 916 – Conclusion
An Android QWERTY that represents great value for money, the Alcatel One Touch 916 is a good phone despite a lacklustre screen and occasional performance quirks. It’s expandable, gives you access to the Google Play Store, feels hardy and manages to pull off a QWERTY form factor relatively well. Alcatel seems to be aiming the 916 at teens, but with its large keyboard and solid feel, we’d be more tempted to recommend this robust, great value phone to an older generation less comfortable with touch input. Proudly therefore, we welcome the Alcatel One Touch 916 to the ‘good £50 smartphone club’.