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I find it strange that the Alcatel One Touch 511 has never been reviewed before, as it is quite an old phone. The manual which I have for it states that it first came out on 2000, which is quite a long time ago by anyone's standards. However, the example which I bought last week on Ebay as an emergency phone to replace one my sister had stolen on a train, despite being quite battered, still worked fine. Whether this is testament to the phone not being used very much, or something due to its own inherent quality, I am not too sure, but the phone was interesting when it came out too.
Being billed as the first phone to have polyphonic ringtones, the One Touch 511 was quite an achievement in that sense alone. Beforehand, the most anyone could ever hope to hear in a crowded train carriage was the terrifying sound of the monophonic Nokia ringtone, and maybe a simple 'ring ring' sound if one was lucky. The One Touch 511 actually has about eight polyphonic ringtones, probably based on MIDI files, and also some actual recordings (what Sagem used to call Hi-Fi ringtones), probably in WAV format, which are very interesting too. This must have been quite a revelation when the phone was first released in its native France.
This besides, the One Touch 511 is really rather small and light compared with a lot of more modern phones, and the design is very simple. There are only three buttons used for navigation, one being a 'clear' or 'back' key, also used for turning the phone on and off, a 'send' and 'hang up' button for use in calls, and a key for what Alcatel used to call 'Drivekey navigation'. This equates to a rocker switch just underneath the screen, with three distinct directions: up, down and in. Being the ancestor of the joystick used on a lot of more modern mobile phones, this actually works quite well, but it does take a bit of getting used to. The navigation is also rather peculiar, with the vibration alert taking up an entire option in the main menu, which itself is split up into 'Services', which is for the operator's own WAP or text services and all the other options. Some people complain that phones are too complicated to navigate and difficult to use these days. I can tell you, it was a lot worse a few years ago, even with a relatively simple phone like the One Touch 511!
The manual is not particularly helpful in explaining things either, being quite literally translated from the French (I think I would have found the original French more helpful), and the tiny font size on the tiny screen (which thankfully can be changed if you happen across the right menu option) does not make things any easier. My sister has perfectly good eyesight, and loves the fact that the One Touch 511 as an extremely low SAR rating. However, what is the use of a low SAR rating if the phone itself is so hard to use that it does not function as a phone anyway?
Texting is a nightmare. The screen is tiny, and trying to switch from capitals to normal size characters is like pulling teeth. No wonder people used to buy Nokia 3310s over more 'advanced' phones like this Alcatel. There is no character counter, nothing to say when the user has gone over into the next message of 160 characters, a really unresponsive keypad, and the phone itself is not particularly fast. Needless to say, writing essays on this may be a teeny bit tiresome.
Mind you, making calls is not too bad. The phonebook is easily accessed from the standby screen (which, in a touch of retro brilliance, is, like the keypad, lit with a green backlight), and scrolling to the name and calling someone is relatively conventional. The phone also seems to hold quite a strong signal given its size and the fact internal antennae were quite new when it came out. There is also a speakerphone, which was quite a novelty in itself too, although the quality is not that good, which could be due to the age of the phone but may well not be.
The rest of the phone is not that exciting, but it still holds one or two surprises. There are a couple of fairly incomprehensible games, there is WAP (which was still fairly rare in 2000), and, amazingly, the phone has an FM radio! I could not quite sure if this is a mistake in the instruction leaflet (I have never heard of it before), but if it is true then it makes the phone even more interesting.
The battery life and build quality do not seem too bad, but unlike the phone, the charger is absolutely enormous and very heavy. I suppose this really shows its age. It must have proven quite reliable in service to get this far, however, despite being quite a light phone.
Despite the fact that the One Touch 511 is an interesting footnote in mobile phone history, being the first phone to actually feature polyphonic ringtones (which, incidentally are not that loud after all), it is actually not that bad. Despite various idiosyncracies, such as the indecipherable menu system, terrible text messaging and dodgy 'Drivekey navigation', it remains small, light and extremely uncomplicated. If you just need a phone to make phone calls, then you could do a lot worse.