With the OneTouch 916 Alcatel is targeting the band of youngsters who lapped up BlackBerry devices on budget PAYG deals just a couple of years ago. It’s a rare form factor for Android, and comes in at an ultra budget price of just £60.
You will be aware, though, that at this price you are looking at a low level of specs. And you’ll be working with a small screen, of a ‘wider than tall’ format that Android was not designed to accommodate.
The general build of the Alcatel OneTouch 916 Smart is quite good. It’s a reasonably solid, if slightly thick phone, that feels neat in the hand. It has a rubbery back that helps with grip – and that’s important if you intend to prod at its keys one-handed.
Those budget level specs are apparent in the use of Android 2.3 and a very lowly 650MHz processor. The phone feels slow in the hands, more akin to a feature phone than a smartphone. There’s just 150MB of user storage and Alcatel provides a 2GB card, which may be enough for the target audience.
The 3.2 megapixel back camera isn’t much to write home about, good for only low-res Facebook shots at best. Most handily you can use its flash as a torch via a dedicated button on the keyboard.
The screen measures 2.6 inches across the diagonal and it is only 1.5 inches tall with a pixel count of 320 x 240. Android is ill-suited to either this format or size and even common tasks like reading text messages or web pages become frustrating. In a throwback to yesteryear Alcatel has chosen to integrate an optical touchpad beneath the screen and build two giant call and end buttons too to aid usability.
Saving the bacon of this handset Alcatel has built a pretty fantastic keyboard into the OneTouch 916 Smart. The keys are well made, each one separated from the other by a rounded design and thus easy to find by touch. The keys feel great under the fingers and even click slightly. Symbols are accessed via a Fn key, and there’s a whole barrage of smilies on hand.
Bearing in mind that this is a phone for the messaging fan, you can hit a key on the bottom row of the keyboard to call up the pre-installed WhatsApp.
The OneTouch 916 Smart is a barebones handset that offers little improvement over a three year old BlackBerry; the low specs reduce the benefit that the vastly superior OS offers. We’d recommend an all-touch device with something like SwiftKey over it every time, but if you are wedded to the physical keyboard then the one on offer here is surprisingly good.