Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?
CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

Alcatel OT-E801 review: Alcatel OT-E801

Looking for a basic music phone and don't want to spend the Earth? Here's one for £20. It doesn't have much memory and it doesn't sound great, but it's incredibly cheap for a working phone

3 min read

It may sound unbelievable, but it's true. For just £20, you can buy an MP3 player with a 128MB memory card that's also a phone! There's not much else to it, but if you just want a phone that's dirt cheap, makes calls and plays a few of your favourite MP3s, then check it out.


Alcatel OT-E801

The Good

Dedicated music keys; expandable microSD card slot.

The Bad

Lack of camera; no 3.5mm adaptor.

The Bottom Line

If all you need is a phone that makes calls, sends text messages and plays your favourite MP3s, then the OT-E801 is worth a look. We'd recommend spending more on something more sophisticated, but if £20 is all you have to splash, you can't complain too much

At the time of writing, the Alcatel OT-E801 only costs £20, which makes it one of the cheapest mobile phones on the market. It's also rather cute and small, fitting easily in a pocket, and it weighs only 79g.

The OT-E801 doesn't have a stellar list of features, but that doesn't mean it just makes calls. There's a built-in MP3 player that can be controlled via three music buttons on the left-hand side of the phone and an expandable microSD slot so you can add more memory.

These three easy-to-access buttons let you control the MP3 player

Our model came with a 128MB microSD card that holds around 20 to 30 songs, but it will accept up to 2GB microSD cards that can hold 1,000 songs. The music player is quite straightforward to operate and you can set the play mode to shuffle.

You also get two cute Java games, one called Russia that's a copy of Tetris and another called Bricks that's a copy of Arkanoid. These are quite entertaining, but don't expect any 3D graphics.

The Alcatel OT-E801 is pretty basic: it doesn't have a camera, an FM radio or a Web browser. Its keypad can be difficult to use, because the keys are completely flat and squashed together, making them difficult to distinguish. The screen is small (28x30mm), making text messages appear squashed.

There are also a few noteworthy problems with the MP3 player. For starters, we found it rather difficult to get our PC to recognise the OT-E801 and only succeeded after plugging and unplugging the USB cable several times until finally it was recognised as a mass-storage device.

Searching through tracks isn't particularly easy, with only the track name displayed in a list format. Once you select play, you don't get any album art or additional information.

You also can't play any file types other than MP3, which means if you've used iTunes to rip your CDs to your computer and left the default settings as they are, your AAC files won't play. (If you want to find out what format your iTunes songs are stored in, you can right-click on a track and click on properties. The file's format will appear at the top, next to 'Type of file'.)

Our final niggle with the MP3 player is that there's no 3.5mm jack, which means you can't use your own headphones with it -- you have to use the proprietary ones. So if you've just bought a pair of expensive headphones for listening to music on a mobile phone, then the OT-E801 isn't the right choice for you.

The sound quality is also rather tinny compared to other music phones such as the Sony Ericsson W950i. We imagine the proprietary headphones have a good deal to do with this. Songs that feature a lot of bass didn't sound good and while it's not the worst MP3 player we've tested, it's not going to impress any audiophiles out there.

With such a low price tag and a useable MP3 player, the Alcatel OT-E801 is a good first music phone. If all you need is the basics, then it does what it says on the tin.

If, however, you're a seasoned music phone user and you're looking for a bargain then this is too cheap. While it looks cute, its weaknesses make it much less attractive than anything from the Sony Ericsson Walkman range.

Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Nick Hide