The Alcatel OT-799 uses its own custom OS, rather than something like Android. The menu system is very straight forward, as it simply presents you with a grid of icons for the various built-in apps and functions. This makes it quick to navigate around and there are a couple of neat effects. For example, when you leave an app to return to the menus, there’s a rotating cube effect to transition between the two. However, it doesn’t feel quite as polished as the user interfaces on phones from bigger name brands.
Alcatel has added a number of small apps, which include basic offerings for accessing social media sites like Facebook and Twitter as well as a Java app for the Palringo messaging services that lets you message across platforms like AOL’s AIM and Yahoo’s Messenger. Alongside these you’ll also find a simple RSS news reader and a weather forecasting app with data from Accuweather. The phone’s music player is very basic too, but it gets the job done and if you get fed up of your own tunes you can switch to the FM tuner.
This handset doesn’t support 3G or Wi-Fi, so you’re left reliant on slow GPRS data speeds. This is very noticeable when you’re using the rudimentary browser or accessing any of the internet enabled apps, as pages or pictures take an age to load. The Email app is reasonably easy to set-up and use, although again, it’s reliance on GPRS data speeds means that messages can take a long time to download.
On the rear of the phone you’ll find a 2.0 megapixel camera, but it’s very basic as there’s no autofocus and also no LED flash. Shots tend to look a little bit smudged, as it’s not great at capturing finer levels of details, and although colours are generally strong, it has a tendency to over egg them slightly, especially when it comes to redder hues. All in all, it does a passable job and the photos it captures are fine for uploading to social networking sites, but when you transfer them to a computer they don’t stand up very well to scrutiny. The camera can also be used to shoot video, but the resolution is extremely low at just 177 x 144 pixels and the results suffer from a very jerky frame rate, so they’re hardly worth the bother.
When it comes to call quality, though, this handset punches well above its weight. The earpiece is very loud, so it makes it easy to hear callers even when you’re phoning people from a noisy environment, like a busy street. The mic also delivers crisp and clear speech, and the phone has quite a large speaker mounted on the rear that delivers loud and clear audio when you put the handset into speaker mode. It also does a remarkably good job of holding onto to a signal even in more challenging conditions. Battery life is a bit of a disappointment, though. Used for a mixture of phone calls, web browsing and music playing, it only lasted for a day before it needed a recharge. That’s pretty poor for a 2G handset.
The OT-799 is a solidly built messaging handset with a good range of features for the price and above average call quality. However, it’s marred slightly by the unpolished feel of its software and its relatively short battery life.