The Alcatel OT-810's 2.4in screen is actually reasonably large and has a fairly decent resolution of 320x240 pixels. It's not a touchscreen so you control most of the phone menus using the four way navigation button, along with the two soft keys that are positioned directly beneath the display. The screen is bright though, and colours look rich and vivid, especially by budget phone standards. This helps to make reading web pages or email messages that little bit easier.
As this handset is heavily focused on messaging and social networking, it's no surprise to find that it has a full Qwerty keyboard. The layout of the keyboard is good as Alcatel has placed common punctuation marks, such as fullstop, comma and the '@' symbol on their own dedicated keys rather than forcing you to use the Alt button to access them. The keys are gently curved into a very slight peak, but we found them a little bit on the small side. However, as the phone is obviously aimed at teenagers, it's probably appropriate for the target market.
Alcatel has done a pretty good job on the phone's user interface. As well as showing the time and date, signal level and icons for unread emails or text messages, the home screen also displays a row of five shortcuts (or widgets as they're perhaps over-generously referred to by Alcatel) ranged across the bottom of the screen. These are customisable and can point to stuff like the apps for text messaging, email, calendar, music and camera, amongst others.
In the main menu you'll find the web browser. There are actually two of them. The standard browser is desperately slow to load and render pages, partly because the phone only supports GPRS data speeds. However, Alcatel has also loaded Opera Mini which is much faster to use and provides a vastly superior browsing experience, although page navigation is still a bit tricky due to the phone's reliance on the clickable D-pad.
The OT-810 also has Java apps for accessing Facebook and Twitter, along with an RSS news reader and Weather app that draws its data from the Accuweather service. The onboard music play is a bit basic, but gets the job done and the phone also has an FM tuner onboard, which is handy. Add in an eBook reader app, voice recorder and basic video viewer and you've got a fairly useful line-up of apps to choose from.
When it comes to the camera things are more basic, though. The 2.0megapixel shooter doesn't have an LED flash and is fixed focus only. Perhaps unsurprisingly the quality of the shots it takes vary pretty widely. In good lighting conditions photos tend to look relatively decent (as you can see below), but when faced with more demanding situations, such as a bright sky in the background it tends to over expose the sky and leave the foreground objects looking quite dark and dingy. It's also very poor when working indoors under low light, delivering dark photos with lots of picture noise – even when you enable the night mode in the settings menu.
Call quality is reasonably good and the ear piece delivers loud and pretty clear audio. However, the battery life is only so-so. We only really managed to get around a day-and-a-half out of it before it needed a recharge, which is poor for a 2G phone, but perhaps not surprising given the battery's small 850mAh capacity.
Overall, this is cute handset form Alcatel that stands out from the crowd thanks to its unique design. It's also got a good screen and keyboard, an easy to use menu system and some interesting social networking features. For the money, we think it's one of the better budget messaging handsets around at the moment.