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Alcatel OT-980 Android 2.1 smart phone flogged for less than £100

It's another budget phone from Alcatel, the king of cheap and cheerful, but this one is staggeringly upscale -- it sports 3G, a touchscreen and, amazingly, Android 2.1.

Alcatel, famous among skinflints across the land for its serviceable budget mobiles, is threatening to go all lah-de-dah by bringing out an Android smart phone. Worry not, cheapsters, because it's set to cost just £99.95.

The OT-980 is Alcatel's first Android-based slider phone, with a 2.8-inch resistive touchscreen and a Qwerty keypad, reminding us of a low-rent Palm Pre.

But for this price it looks remarkably well stacked, featuring Wi-Fi, HSPA data up to 7Mbps, a compass, a multi-IM client, an MP3 player and a 2-megapixel camera. It will be available on pay as you go from Carphone Warehouse and online, in cherry red and silver colours.

Smart phones are often hideously expensive -- just take a look at how much the new BlackBerry Torch will set you back -- so it's fantastic that companies such as Alcatel can produce phones for the cheap end of the market, with most of the functionality that makes smart phones smart. And without trying to stretch a contract out of it either.

"We position our product to bring aspirational feature sets and design to new price points," said Alcatel's William Paterson. "We have always done pre-pay and think there is an opportunity to change with the Android."

Phones such as the OT-980 will make it easier for those on a microbudget to take on an app-friendly Android phone, whereas before they might have had to plump for janky old Symbian.

It's the latest attempt by Alcatel to provide cheap phones targeted at specific markets. Last month we saw a pink and black Microsoft Kin-styled device in the VM202, which only cost £30 and was aimed at young social networkers.

Just a week later it reached out to skint emailers with the Alcatel OT-802, a BlackBerry-styled Qwerty phone priced at £45. Fine, but pretty short of the features we expect today, particularly 3G browsing.

But with Android 2.1, the OT-980 carries a powerful version of the mobile OS, if not the latest. More expensive phones don't manage this version, such as the Motorola Dext, which is permanently stuck on 1.6, while the Sony Ericsson Xperia is still awaiting a 2.1 upgrade.

We'll be extremely interested to see how a sub-£100 phone can handle Android, and whether it proves adequate for your app and Web-browsing needs. Key concerns will be how responsive the old-fashioned resistive touchscreen is, and whether its processor can handle the Android smoothly. We'll have a full review soon.