Alcatel’s mobile phones don’t always impress me hugely and recent models have been a bit of a let-down. For example, the Mandarina Duck, produced primarily as a tie-in with the bag brand of the same name, didn’t do it for me, and nor did the OT-E201 mainly because of its poor user interface. These handsets were a surprise as Alcatel tends to think carefully about design and offers phones that meet its budget users’ requirements nicely.
So I am glad to report that we are back on form with the OT-S210 which comes out of this review well, overall, but as ever for a budget phone, it lost out on scores for features.
The OT-S210 is one of three launches in Alcatel’s new ‘Essence’ range. The three new handsets are all quite similar in design. The final pricing has yet to be revealed, but the least expensive of the trio will be the OT-S120. It has a black and white display. The other two in the range have colour displays and the OT-S211 will have an FM radio, which the others lack.
All three handsets in the range are candybar mobiles and they share the same dimensions and weight. They are a slim and tidy 98mm tall, 44mm wide, and 12.3mm thick, and tip the scales at 69g. I had no trouble at all pocketing the OT-S210 at any time during testing.
Now, clearly, as a budget priced phone some things have to suffer in the specifications department. There is no camera, for example, so budding photographers need to look somewhere else for their new mobile phone. Without a camera there is no outgoing MMS support and none incoming either. Nor will you find things like mobile email or Web browsing here. And you can’t use the OT-S210 as a music player.
What is on offer is a pretty ordinary and basic mobile phone, designed for making voice calls, texting and not a lot else. The handset is dual band, and it has memory for 250 contacts but nothing much more to speak of. There is no memory slot for adding your own storage.
Perhaps even more interestingly, there is no headset slot so you can’t use a handsfree headset, though you can go hands-free via the phone’s own loudspeaker.
In fact, the overall design of this mobile phone leaves it with no side buttons or slots at all except for the single mini USB port on the left edge that you use to charge the battery.
All this is fine as long as everything that is provided on the phone works. And the good news is that it does work quite well.
I’ve already noted that this is a small, thin and light phone. The bodywork is not unattractive. There are three colour options offering a choice of green or purple trim or, as my review sample, an all black shell.
There are a few concave and shiny circles on the back casing that add a splash of designery looks to things. White highlights are used on the two softmenu keys, the Call and End keys, navigation button and numberpad.
There is a red backlight behind the number keys and this kicks in when you press anything. It is very uneven, and is at its strongest behind the 7, 8 and 9 row and the navigation button. This unevenness is a shame as it spoils what is otherwise quite a neat look.
The keys themselves are built as a single rubber pad and differentiated by patterning in the rubber as well as by their white markings. They are easy enough to find and hit accurately partly thanks to these markings and partly because the keys are all very large. I’ve no complaints here.
However the screen is a bit of a let down. Its tiny size is the reason the number keys can be as large as they are, and at 128 x 128 pixels and just 1.5 inches across opposite corners it really is small. It is a CSTN screen and offers 65 thousand colours. Quite clearly it doesn’t have the vibrancy of screens found in more expensive handsets.
But let’s look at SMS messages to see how well it works in everyday use. It displays five lines of message text as well as the date and time received. If the sender is in the address book it’ll put their name above the message; if not it puts the number of the sending phone. In short, it does what you want from an SMS capable handset. And the phone can extract the phone number from an incoming message so you can add it to the address book.
Voice calls were no problem to make and receive, and perhaps best of all, with no fancy features to cater for, the battery life was quite good too. My experience during testing suggests that with minimal calls and texting you might even get a week’s worth from this handset between charges. Alcatel says the battery should give you 400 hours on standby and 5 hours of talk.
There is some additional software over and above the standard calling and texting facilities, but not a lot. A calculator, four alarms and a Tetris clone called Russia round things off.
The price is still to be confirmed but we expect the OT-S210 to be very cheap, so if you don’t have much money to spend or are looking for a mobile just for voice calls and texting then this slimline and unobtrusive phone is worth considering.
Score in detail
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