Given the exclusivity and prestige surrounding the ownership of a BlackBerry phone, the idea of replicating it with a handset that can cost no more than £30 seems like folly, yet budget manufacturer Alcatel has done just that. The OT-255 takes what is arguably RIM's most famous signature feature -- a full Qwerty keyboard on a portrait-oriented device with email connectivity -- and offers it to consumers shopping on a shoestring.
The Alcatel OT-255 can be purchased for around £80 SIM-free or £30 on a pay as you go deal.
Like so many of Alcatel's handsets, the OT-255 resembles a child's plaything. The inordinate amount of cheap-looking plastic on display doesn't exactly instil the impression of quality, and at 76g, it lacks that all-important weighty feel that goes hand-in-hand with expensive tech. On the upside, the lack of heft means it won't become an unwelcome impediment in your pocket.
Despite the cheap casing, the OT-255 boasts a decent TFT screen, which eclipses the dim and blurry displays seen on rival budget handsets. At 1.8 inches and boasting just 128x160 pixels, it's hardly gigantic, but the landscape aspect ratio comes in handy when composing epic emails and titanic text messages. It also has a neat two-stage power saving mode, which dims the screen down a little when left unattended before finally switching it off altogether.
As impressive as the display is, the OT-255's main attraction is unquestionably its Qwerty keyboard. As is often the case with keyboards on candybar handsets, the buttons are small and initially feel quite cramped, especially if you're blessed with particularly large digits. However, after a few minutes, things begin to fall into place and typing becomes a swift and pleasurable affair.
Key to my heart
The keys themselves emit a satisfying click when pressed, and mercifully lack the spongy quality that sometimes afflicts low-cost phones. Accessing special characters is done via a separate menu button, while capitalisation and other functions can quickly be toggled on and off by tapping the relevant shortcut key.
Aside from the keyboard and traditional arrangement of call and direction-pad commands, the casing of the OT-255 is disappointingly bare. The back of the phone is entirely featureless, and the sides are only interrupted by the USB port and a quick select key, which opens up an on-screen menu granting swifter access to key functions.