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Alcatel OT-980 review: Alcatel OT-980

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The Good Android 2.1;. Nippy performance;. Qwerty keyboard is great.

The Bad Resistive screen requires a stylus;. Slightly ugly design;. User interface feels outdated.

The Bottom Line With its unresponsive touchscreen and rather awkward appearance, the Alcatel OT-980 struggles to distinguish itself from similarly priced Android devices. If you're looking to upgrade from 'dumb phone' territory, the low price is undeniably attractive.

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5.5 Overall

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Alcatel's latest effort comes with Android 2.1, a full Qwerty keyboard and a price tag that makes it one of the cheapest Android devices on the market right now. Unfortunately, the phone relies on irksome resistive-touchscreen technology, and comes with several quirks that thwart it from ousting its low-cost, Android-based rivals. The Alcatel OT-980 is available solely on pay as you go, and costs £99.

Budget blowout

With Android, BlackBerry, iPhone and Windows Phone 7 all scrapping relentlessly to carve up the biggest slice of the smart-phone pie, big-spending mobile users have an embarrassment of choice available to them. Out of all the key players, though, Google's Android is the only one attempting to offer its services to the lower end of the market. We've already seen devices such as the T-Mobile Pulse Mini and Orange San Francisco break through the sub-£100 barrier, and there's more competition on the way -- with Alcatel's OT-980 being one of the most notable rivals.

A portrait-format slider with a full Qwerty keyboard, the OT-980's appearance calls to mind similar phones such as the Palm Pre and BlackBerry Torch. In reality, it's much chunkier than the Pre and lacks the reassuring build quality of the Torch, but when you consider it's pitched at the lower end of the market, such differences are easier to stomach.

Slightly less welcome is the presence of a resistive touchscreen display. As the Android platform has developed and matured over the past couple of years, it has become more reliant on highly responsive capacitive technology, where no finger pressure is required. Gestures such as 'pinch to zoom' are now commonplace in many Android applications -- including the gallery viewer, Web browser and Google Maps -- but unfortunately, resistive screens cannot register more than one touch at a time, which makes such functionality impossible.

My kingdom for a stylus

Matters are made worse by the fact that the OT-980's display is often a real pig to use. Cycling through the various home screens and menus isn't an issue, but precise tapping is infuriatingly awkward. Opening hyperlinks contained within emails and Web pages is nigh-on impossible, and there were several moments when we had to resort to using a pen, or any other pointy implement that was close at hand. Lamentably, the OT-980 doesn't come with a stylus -- an item which really should be standard issue with resistive-screen handsets.

The screen-related woes don't end there, either. With a resolution of 240x320 pixels, the 2.8-inch TFT display makes a real hash of rendering high-detail images. Where applicable, you'll need to configure your apps to display their text in a larger font, as small letters become ill-defined and almost unreadable. The screen also has a curiously washed-out look to it, and even when the backlight is at full blast, it lacks the vibrancy of the latest Super LCD and Super AMOLED handsets, like the HTC Desire Z and Samsung Galaxy S.

The low resolution of the 2.8-inch screen causes problems on highly detailed Web pages.

The disappointing nature of the resistive screen is mitigated slightly when you slide open the phone's Qwerty keyboard. Typing on the OT-980 is a breeze, despite the densely packed cluster of buttons. The only complaint we have is that, for some strange reason, several keys are incorrect -- pressing 'Q' actually types 'A', and 'Z' is 'W'. Although we tried tinkering with the keyboard configuration in the options menu, the problem remained. We can only assume this is a pre-production issue that will be rectified before the device goes on sale.

Chunky monkey

With its muscular dimensions and 152g weight, the OT-980 feels like a monster when compared to other devices. Despite its considerable heft, much of the phone is fashioned out of cheap plastic rather than metal. Although it's unlikely to capture any admiring glances when you reveal it in public, the OT-980 is at least comfortable to use. The rounded casing allows it to sit snugly in the palm, even when the keyboard is exposed.

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