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Alcatel OT-990 review: Alcatel OT-990

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OT-990 colours
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Colours on the OT-990's display tend to look drab, and the brightness could be better.

We wondered if this were a processing issue, but a quick check of the pre-loaded Android task manager shows that few apps were actually running at the time.

This worrying lack of responsiveness could have something to do with the screen protector, which comes pre-applied to the OT-990. Sony Ericsson has done a similar thing with some of its Xperia smart phones, although we never noticed a problem with touchscreen performance on those handsets.

There's a chance that removing this protective barrier will improve the accuracy of the screen, but we're not convinced. 

OT-990 screen protector
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The pre-applied screen protector prevents damage to the display, but we suspect it may also impede usability.

Processing power and internal storage

Because we're well into budget territory here, it should come as no great shock to learn that the OT-990 is sporting a 600MHz processor. This in itself is hardly a crime at this end of the market, but these CPUs were doing the rounds on cheap Android phones many months ago, and we can't help but feel it's high time that some brave manufacturer upped the stakes a little.

OT-990 data control
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Power-management options are available to help your battery last as long as possible.

It's immediately apparent that you're running a humble CPU the moment you fire up the device. It takes an age to boot up, and swiping between home screens is occasionally jerky. We didn't notice any massive issues with moving between applications, though. Core apps such as Google Mail, Google Maps and YouTube functioned without a hitch, too.

Internal storage is rather stingy, with just 200MB available from the get-go. Thankfully the device comes with a 2GB microSD card, so you've got a little more space for vital media. You'll need to make use of Android's ability to store a portion of application data on the microSD card, too, because the phone's tiny amount of app storage space fills up alarmingly quickly.

OT-990 microSD card slot
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Annoying, the OT-990's microSD card slot is located under the battery, which means you have to power-down to swap cards.

Fans of hot-swapping will be disappointed to note that the microSD card bay is located underneath the battery, so you'll have to totally power-down the handset to replace it.

Internet

The OT-990 is furnished with a relatively untouched edition of the stock Android 2.2 browser.

OT-990 internet
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The OT-990's browser lacks Flash support, and the low resolution makes detailed pages look a bit ropey.

The occasionally unresponsive screen and low resolution have a predictably detrimental effect on the phone’s suitability for Web browser. To add insult to injury, Adobe Flash isn’t supported either.

Camera and video recording

The OT-990’s 5-megapixel camera is a pleasant surprise, given the budget nature of the handset. It has autofocus, so you can take some pretty decent close-up shots, should the mood take you.

OT-990 camera
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The 5-megapixel camera is pretty good for a phone of this class, although HD video doesn't make the cut.

The LED flash is problematic, however. It completely blasts most low-light shots, so a close-up of someone's face tends to look like you’ve captured a ghost on film. When you’re not taking tight shots it’s less of an issue.

The OT-990 also captures video, although it’s restricted to VGA resolution, so don’t go getting any lofty notions of HD recording.

Connectivity and battery life

With this being an Android device, you get your usual 3G, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity -- although it’s worth noting that the latter omits the more recent ‘n’ wireless standard, which just happens to be the one that’s fastest and has the best range.

OT-990 battery charge
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As the phone's battery charges, you get a neat animation of dripping liquid on the lock screen.

Battery life is average, with the OT-990 managing around a day on one charge. One thing we did like was the way in which the battery charging status is displayed on the phone’s lock screen.

A pool of green liquid forms at the bottom of the display, with drops slowly filling it up to the top. When your battery is fully charged, this pool of liquid totally fills the bottom third of the screen.

Conclusion

This time last year, an Android 2.2 device with a 600MHz processor and 5-megapixel camera would have been a real achievement, and we’d have had no qualms about giving it a hearty recommendation. Unfortunately for Alcatel, times have changed somewhat in the past 12 months.

Cheap Android phones are not as rare a commodity as they once were, with the likes of the Orange San Francisco and Huawei Blaze coming in at less than £100. For only slightly more than that figure you can purchase an Orange Monte Carlo, which features a massive 4.3-inch screen, Android 2.3 and a 800MHz CPU.

Against this competition, the OT-990 struggles to shine. It’s a certainly a well-made device, and is sure to survive a few drops and bumps. Sadly, the touchscreen is a unpredictable and Android 2.2 just feels tired and worn out now. With 4.0 around the corner, releasing a Froyo handset just seems like poor judgement, regardless of the low price.

For the undemanding user, however, the OT-990 is going to represent a sound investment. That interchangeable battery cover and tough case design could make the phone ideal for accident-prone youngsters, too.

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