The Alcatel OT-222 is much more than just a basic, pay-as-you-go mobile phone. It's also the answer to a paradox that has confounded humankind for decades. For received wisdom holds that the best things in life are free, but also that there's no such thing as a free lunch -- and yet lunch is definitely one of the best things in life. The Alcatel OT-222, however, is not only effectively available for free, it will also enable you to enjoy free pizzas on Wednesdays.
That's because Asda's web site is currently offering the OT-222 online for £9 with £10 free credit. The phone may be locked to the Orange network, but that means you can take advantage of the operator's two-for-one offer on midweek jaunts to the cinema and Pizza Express. But can a phone like this be anything other than total pants? Allow us to reveal all.
But, first, note that Asda Direct will attempt to levy a £5 delivery charge, even if you opt to pick up the phone from one of its stores. If you spend £25 at once, though, Asda will waive the charge, so we recommend picking up a few ready meals at the same time. If you're too late to take advantage of Asda's promotion, you can still pick this handset up for £9 elsewhere, although you'll have to pay for the £10 top-up yourself.
Flip its lid
The plastic OT-222 isn't unattractive, resembling a shiny, black pebble when the screen is flipped down. We don't think you'll be ashamed to whip it out in public. A blue LED on the front flashes when you've received a message or missed a call, and a small port on the side of the phone lets you connect the mains charger and hands-free headset.
Flipping open the phone reveals its tiny, 37mm (1.5-inch) screen. The OT-222 looks like it could accommodate a display of twice the size, but at least the screen is colour, unlike that of the similarly priced Tesco Party Phone VX1. Beneath the screen sits the keypad, which will prove easy to use if you fall down a manhole at night, thanks to its easy-to-press buttons and blue backlight.
The OT-222 feels cheaper than it looks, mainly because the hinge that connects the display to the rest of the phone wobbles slightly. Despite that, though, the phone feels pretty robust. We dropped it a few times during our test period, without any undesirable consequences. We wish we could say the same about our iPhone.
The handset is fairly small too, measuring about by 44 by 90 by 18mm when closed. That's enough to cause a small bulge in your trousers, but not to the extent that passing mothers will take umbrage and assault you with their handbags.
Simple ain't stupid
The OT-222's simple interface isn't as visually offensive as we expected, but it is fairly click-intensive. You can assign shortcuts to pretty much every key though, so you needn't delve into the interface too often to access basic features like the calculator, calendar, converter, stopwatch or alarm. Incidentally, the alarm fails to sound if you put the phone in silent mode, which might make you late for work in the morning.
The OT-222 lacks features like Web access or a camera, but, surprisingly, it does pack an FM radio. Unfortunately, you can only use the cheap bundled headset to listen to it, and, consequently, the sound quality is pretty poor.
Also, while our headset had two earpieces, we've heard talk on the Internet of the phone being supplied with only a single-earpiece headset, arguably making the poor sound quality twice as bad -- unless you've had an ear bitten off by Mike Tyson. Still, you might find the radio provides a welcome distraction from the interminable conversations of your fellow commuters.
The OT-222 does a fairly good job of the basics. We found its call quality, for example, perfectly acceptable.
Texting is straightforward too. The predictive text turns up some unpredictable results once in a while -- for instance, it doesn't recognise the word 'bay', instead suggesting 'Abyssinians' -- but you can add unrecognised words to the dictionary quickly. Alternatively, you can turn off the predictive text for a proper old-school texting session. The phone has enough space to store about 100 messages, so you won't need to constantly delete them, as you must with the Party Phone.
The OT-222 also puts in a heroic performance on the battery-life front. We got over a week's worth of juice from the phone with moderate usage.
The Alcatel OT-222 is the best super-cheap phone we've encountered so far, suffering from few flaws given its price. If you're skint, want a disposable phone for when you're out on the lash, or just prefer simple handsets, it comes highly recommended. In fact, it's worth buying just for the promise of cheap midweek trips to the cinema and pizza parlour.