It doesn't quite top the Orange San Francisco for us, but it's worthy to join the high-class, low-budget crowd
Cheap and cheerful
Basic phone tasks are handled pleasingly
Android 2.2 runs admirably for a budget smartphone
Good speaker and you can listen to radio
Video capture is poor
Battery will need charging daily
No Flash support
Some jerkiness in web browsing
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Some phones are all about power; others affordability. Alcatel's One Touch 990 (or OT-990) falls firmly into the latter category, as you'd expect given the company's reputation as a purveyor of budget phones.
So the question we're asking here isn't what exciting tech helps this rival Samsung's Galaxy S2, HTC's Sensation, Sony Ericsson's Xperia Arc, or any of the other powerhouses in our 20 best mobile phones list.
Rather we're concerned with whether it's money well spent. Especially when the world contains the likes of Orange's budget titan, the San Francisco. If you read our review of it, you'll know we lost our heart to that phone because of its amazing competence given its paltry cost.
Other rivals worth bearing in mind are the INQ Cloud Touch, which excels at social networking, and the LG Optimus One, but although they're not much more expensive, your budgetary concerns will clearly hold sway.
Speaking of the bank balance, at the time of writing the Alcatel One Touch 990 costs £99.99 on Pay As You Go from the O2 website. Monthly contract options weren't confirmed, but we wouldn't expect them to be too expensive. Also worthy of note is that the phone is exclusive to the O2 network in the UK.
So, what are you getting for that £100 outlay? Well, the Alcatel's spec list is respectable enough, with a 600MHz processor, Android 2.2 (expected to be upgraded to 2.3 in the future), 5MP rear camera and a 3.5-inch touchscreen.
A 2GB microSD card is supplied, but the phone can take up to a 32GB card, and there's a front-facing camera for video calls. Connectivity options include 3.0 A2DP Bluetooth, HSDPA 3G and GSM 2G. In short, the overall package is solid for the outlay.
Also solid but rather more exciting is the chassis, which is pretty impressive. Yes, it falls into the generic "glossy, flattened tech lozenge" group, but that's precisely the point: it looks like smartphones double or even treble the price. It's smart, functional and black – very black. The rear plate stamps some personality on the phone, though, throwing a monochromatic black-grey weave into the mix.
If you prefer, there's a second back cover in the box, which features some colourful splodges on a grey background. It's less tidy looking than the weave, but it's our personal favourite, which probably tells psychiatrists more than we'd really like them to know. (For all you Rorschach experts, we see a flower surrounded by butterflies.)
Lever open the back casing and you'll find the 1,300mAh battery, and underneath that are the slots for your SIM and microSD card.
Size-wise, the One Touch 990 isn't titchy, measuring 116mm tall and 62.2mm wide. It sits assuredly in the palm, although it's noticeably heftier than some similarly-sized models we've held, tipping our scales at 148g. It's a bit plasticky, too.
Most of the front's real estate is occupied by that 3.5-inch TFT capacitive touchscreen, which is more than passably bright and pretty clear indoors. However, it does struggle to punch through the reflections of its glossy coating when it's sunny out, even on the highest brightness settings.
The display resolution is good, but you will definitely notice the difference in clarity between this and a Retina display-esque screen.
Beneath it sit Menu, Search and Back touchscreen buttons, plus a physical Home key. There's a volume rocker on the right-hand edge, and the power/sleep control on the left-hand side.
The latter is placed rather awkwardly far down towards the lower extremities of the Alcatel One Touch 990, which stops you nudging it accidentally when held in your left palm, but also requires a fairly major thumb stretch to reach. Seriously, it's like doing hand yoga. Also, we noted that it's then all too easy to hit while holding the phone on its side like a camera. It's not a game-breaking design gaffe, but we found it needlessly fiddly.
The Home key is pleasingly rounded, though, making it easy to find even in the dark, and the volume rocker is nicely clicky and tactile, which we love.
Aside from the physical inputs, there's a micro-USB port and 3.5mm headphone jack socket on the very top of the phone. A speaker sits alongside the camera in an island that protrudes from the cover on the back, and that's about it.
The hardware's all functional, prettier than we have any right to expect and mostly really good. It has limitations, sure, but none that we haven't encountered on phones demanding a far bigger chunk of your change.