When it comes to sub-£100 mobiles, there’s a lot of similarly-specced competition vying for your attention, and not always much to differentiate between handsets. For a phone with a bargain basement pedigree, though, French mobile pedlar Alcatel are a go-to brand, with a solid back catalogue of budget mobile options of which the OneTouch 990 is the flagship.
Design and build
We couldn’t ever accuse the OneTouch 990 of being dainty – it’s noticeably heavier than many other offerings in its price range, like the Nokia c3-01 or the Orange Stockholm. Solid, we’d call it. You wouldn’t worry overly about dropping it, unless it landed on your foot.
The body is made from black gloss plastic all over, although the OneTouch 990 does come with a choice of two patterned backplates, like the Nokia 3310s of yore. Irritatingly, the first few attempts at getting the back casing off needed a variety of tools (in the end we used a spoon), and removing the SIM card requires that awkward lifting and pushing manoeuvre to slide it from the sunken SIM slot. For most people this is a chore they’ll only have to go through once, and both movements became less stiff with repetition, but it’s still a bother we could do without, and might irk those who need a phone for travel outside of the UK.
Base storage isn’t great, with just 200MB available for data. However, this is expandable up to 32GB via MicroSD card, so using the OneTouch as a replacement PMP or for storing video is a viable option (so long as the screen size doesn’t get you down).
The OneTouch comes running Android 2.2 FroYo out of the box, so it misses out on some of the snazzier features of later Android releases, but for simple tasks we don’t have any serious complaints with the OS or with the 600MHz processor.
The OneTouch does take a curiously long time to boot up, however – you hold the power button down for three seconds before the phone buzzes in acknowledgement, and from there it’s a full seven seconds more before the screen turns on. Patience is a virtue.
The OneTouch 990 comes with WiFi and Bluetooth 2.0, as well as the standard 3.5mm headphone jack.
The screen on the OneTouch 990 is an acceptable 3.5 inches, but looks a bit grainy, with a resolution of just 480 x 320 pixels. For casual use – checking e-mails, sending texts, and maybe a spot of Angry Birds – this isn’t a big nag, however, and the multi-touch interface on apps like Google Maps as quick and responsive as we could ask.
Video on the OneTouch 990 suffers from the poor resolution, but music played through the phone’s speaker was surprisingly good – less tinny than we expected from a low-end handset.
On the back we find a generous 5MP camera with an LED flash, which also records video. The video suffers badly from blurring – for comparison, the 3.2MP camera on the iPhone 3GS, while outwardly lower-spec, is much smoother. Photos look a bit washed out, but again, for a phone with a sub-£100 asking price, we can’t complain too much. In its favour, the OneTouch 990 does actually offer a selection of photo tweaks, like brightness and ISO settings, so the cameras failings can be compensated for by the dedicated mobile photographer.
The Alcatel OneTouch 990 does everything we’d expect a handset to do with such a low price tag. It’s not the lightest or the prettiest phone out there, but for basic mobile phone duties in a handset that can take the odd bump, it’s a solid choice, especially for buyers on a budget or parents looking for a first mobile for offspring.
The Alcatel OneTouch 990 will set you back £100 on Pay As You Go, and is available now from O2.