My daughter is only 10, but still, in today's day and age I feel to know she has a mobile phone, and like her to take it with her if she is at friend's houses or even just taking the dog for a walk. At an age when children are wanting that little bit more independence, many parents are reluctant to give it (yes, including me) but I feel much more confident knowing that I can get hold of her if necessary.
It was important to choose a phone rthat fulfilled certain criteria - it had to work well, look good and most importantly for me, not cost a fortune. Jackpot!
Look and feel
The Alcatel Touch looks fabulous. It is quite small, slim, and slightly wider than the average mobile phone. It has a reasonably large screen at the top with a full qwerty keyboard direct underneath. The phone is very similar to a Blackberry but without a price tag to match. This particular one is white with a pink back and the menu buttons pink also. It is available in several different bright colours, particularly appealing to the younger generation.
The phone is lovely and light and fits snugly into a trouser/jacket pocket without creating a bulge. The buttons are clear, easily pressed without fear of pressing the wrong key.
Reception and battery life
Reception is generally good. The odd area has seen it struggle for any reception, but these areas are generally the same with most mobile phones. My daughter doesn't stray too far away on her own anyway so this has never caused any problem.
Battery power is unbelievable. This phone can sit in her bedroom for about 4 days without needing to be charged. When it is charged a simple 2 hour plug into the mains and it's ready to go again for a few more days. There is an indicator on the display screen that allows you to see how much of the battery power remains.
My daughter's is mainly used for texting, the odd phone call and for playing games. However, there is plenty more available on this phone.
There is a 2mg built in camera, video recorder, voice recorder, email facility, phonebook, shortcuts to social networking sites, web access, music player, radio, weather reports and built in games.
It is also possible to change the background of the phone, select a ringtone from the various supplied tones and use a calendar, calculator, converter, alarm and Bluetooth facilities.
There is plenty on the phone to simply entertain my daughter whilst we're out and about, withpout actually using it for calls and texts!
And all at a great cost
The Alcatel Touch cost £40 from a mobile phone shop on a pay as you go basis. This was exactly the kind of money I was hoping to spend, and on a phone that ticked all the right boxes for me. Admittedly, the camera is not 100% wonderful, but it is ideal for my daughter to use and to be honest, unless you're used to a high quality phone camera, you wouldn't even notice its slight lack of picture quality.
Having had a number of Sagem phones, I thought it was only fair to give one of the models from Alcatel a try. Although Alcatel recently disbanded their mobile phone division, they certainly used to be the closest competitor to Sagem, especially in their native France. Part of the Thomson group, which in turn appears to be owned by American giant General Electric, Alcatel have been making telephones of one sort or another for years, so it is only natural that they should have progressed to the mobile phone genre in the 1990s. Upon the launch of Frances first mobile phone network in 1993, Alcatel had several models ready, and in 2003 they launched their first phone with an integrated camera, the One Touch 735, an updated version of their successful One Touch 535 model. In August 2004, to replace the one mobile phone I have owned for more than a period of twelve months, the Sagem MYX-6, I got my hands on a One Touch 735 from Ebay for the princely sum of £70. On paper, the model did not look too bad.
Despite having only a 128x128 pixel 4096 colour display (the same amount of colours and resolution as on the basic Nokia 3100 and 2650 models) and a CIF resolution camera, pretty much the basic resolution for a digital phone camera, the One Touch 735 still looked attractive. Despite losing out to the MYX-6 both in terms of the screen and camera, and thus not really being a true upgrade, the One Touch 735 was at least something different. The handset is much smaller than the MYX-6 or MYX-7 series, and is certainly much lighter. This is partly due to a strange type of battery, which appears to be spring loaded into the phone for some reason, and partly due to the smaller size of the screen. However, most of the other features of the MYX-6, such as polyphonic ringtones, colour wallpapers and half-decent games, were present. There were also some improvements, such as better (but still flawed) text messaging, decent-sounding ringtones, a better version of the WAP, a comfortable keypad with a five-way joystick and some rather nice themes. However, when using the phone to my own liking, certain flaws very quickly revealed themselves.
The first occurred after an unfortunate accident on the way back from the post office. I accidentally dropped the One Touch 735 on the pavement after it missed going back in my pocket. The phone still worked after being picked up, but I lost the rubber bung which covers up the external antenna socket, and the phone picked up some very nasty scratches from the tarmac which would not have materialised on any other make I have had. From that time on, the back cover became a little loose, and although a light phone is normally a good thing, the feeling of flimsiness and insubstantiality did not inspire confidence. The second flaw also became apparent in connection to the post office.
Whilst posting another phone off (as I do on a regular basis), my mother rang me. I expected to hear the ringtone at the same time as feel it vibrating, as I have been able to do on every other mobile phone I have ever owned (and I have had about 25). Unfortunately, this was not the case, and by the time I had managed to answer the phone, the ringtone had not even kicked in, despite the fact that I had had to fish it out of a deep pocket. It seems that the ringtone settings on the phone are Ring, Silent, Vibrate and Vibrate then Ring. The Vibrate then Ring, which was even common to my dreadful old Sagem MC920, the first phone I ever owned, was not present. Whilst the vibration is probably strong enough for most situations, and the ringtones are loud enough once they start, it would be nice to have both at the same time. Everyone else seems to manage it, so why not Alcatel? Whilst calling had its disadvantages, text messaging also came in for scrutiny.
Although better than the Sagem MYX-6 which had nothing at all to say whether or not the user had gone over the 160 character limit, and was thus pretty much useless for economical text messaging, the One Touch 735 is still far from perfect. Every phone in the past few years has managed to get individual words to appear on different lines, instead of them being split up. This is not the case with the One Touch 735. Although it seemed to be perfectly easy to have messages read in the conventional manner, it was impossible to write them without words being split across lines, which looked very untidy and could have lead to errors. There was also no character counter, although the phone would tell you had you gone over a single message. The joystick did help in these matters, but with such poor presentation, there was not much point. The buttons themselves were actually fairly responsive for a modern camera phone, but with such poor implementation, there did not seem to be much point in using them. The camera itself was not exactly state of the art.
Although pictures looked distinctly average when viewed on the phones screen, it was clear that with CIF resolution, the camera was never going to be a photographers delight. It would also appear that the infra-red port on the One Touch 735 cannot be used to transfer anything other than contacts, meaning that I was not able to transfer the pictures to any other device with a better screen to see how they had come out. The Mitsubishi M320 which I used to own, also sold as an Alcatel, had a better screen than this, and that was only 4096 colours too! There was also a problem with the games, which, in addition to lacking any form of Java support (later remedied with the One Touch 735i), had to be played with the phone held horizontally, thus rendering any form of control completely ineffective. The standard In-Fusion games would have been adequate had this not been the case. That said, however, the One Touch 735 did have some rather surprising redeeming features.
Being the first phone I had ever owned with a five-way joystick, the One Touch 735 was rather easier to navigate, although I still prefer the D-pad on my current Sharp GX15. Unfortunately, the menu view in which this would have been most useful, the 9 x 9 grid format, is not available on the One Touch 735, which was a shame. There were also quite a few differently named categories for the menus which did create some confusion, and some of the lesser menus could only be reached through guesswork. The normal scrolling for menus is up and down on an Alcatel, but on the One Touch 735, the main menu moves left to right, which is rather confusion. Suffice it to say that a good few minutes with the instruction book is not wasted time as far as this particular handset is concerned. In particular, there are two keys which appear to be soft-keys on first inspection, but are then virtually never used in normal navigation. There is also a short cut key, situated above the display, which is all but useless considering the stretch required to operate it from the rest of the keypad.
The One Touch 735 does have a good selection of pictures, menu themes and ringtones. This is hardly surprising given that Alcatel invented polyphonic ringtones with the One Touch 511, and the statutory Gallic talent for graphic design. As one reviewer put it, If you ever wanted to hear what a wet cat sounded like, this is the phone for you! But once again, this is a good idea poorly executed. The inability to transfer ringtones and pictures via infra-red is a serious flaw, which companies like Sagem, Sharp and Siemens fixed a long time ago. A product CD is cheekily included in the One Touch 735 box, but there is no data cable supplied, leading to another capital outlay to correct one of the phones flaws. The You Got a Message AMR file which the One Touch 735 contained is something which I sorely miss however, and the infra-red prevented me from having it permanently! In fact, the selection is so good, Alcatel probably want to them for themselves.
As a basic phone for making calls, the One Touch 735 has slightly better than average battery life, fairly standard reception, and good call quality. There is also a speakerphone, although this is not as easy to operate without separate volume control buttons, and the phones light weight enable it to be easily carried around everywhere, provided it is not dropped.
All in all, I was disappointed with the One Touch 735, from which I expected great things. This was a phone which had a similar price to my old Sagem MYX-6, but had lesser features, and then was a let down in key areas, such as build quality, ringtone implementation and text messaging. Judging from this model, the two weeks I spent as an Alcatel user was far too long.