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Alcatel OT-980

The Alcatel OT-980 is the latest beneficiary of the Android operating system for smartphones. The OT-980 is a slider with a full qwerty keyboard akin to the Blackberry Torch.

The Alcatel slider is packaged so well that it manages to remain compact despite having a complete keypad under its 2.8-inch screen. The overall size of the OT-980 is still pocketable, although it bulges a bit because of its 15.9mm thickness.

If one were to rate the OT-980 purely based on physical feel and design, it's a runaway hit. The body feels solid, the slider moves back and forth with satisfying feedback, and the look is elegant and simple.

The problem begins when you start using the phone. No, it's not the Android Eclair OS. Android has already proven itself by now, even against the benchmark Apple iOS. The dilemma lies in the OT-980's implementation and usage of the software.

A smartphone's sensitivity and response to touch commands is crucial because it is the main bridge between user and device. The key flaw is the Alcatel's use of a resistive screen. This kind of touchscreen depends on finger pressure. This is in contrast to the newer capacitative screens that rely on the electrical charge of the human body; the finger's mere presence on the screen constitutes as movement. Resistive screens harken back to the days of Palm Pilots and styli.

It doesn't help that the display only has 256k colors. That reminds us of another era, too. A low-res screen and a 2-megapixel camera make capturing photos not much to look forward to. Camwhores better look elsewhere.

The result of this screen is that navigation becomes difficult. The screen cannot accurately understand commands. It takes two or more presses before an icon responds, and when scrolling it selects the apps you're scrolling through.

It's a shame because the keyboard is rather good. Tactile feedback is nice and the keys are well-spaced. However the placement of the Shift key and the special key that activates the alternate button functions is confusing. It takes some time to get used to which key does what, and we tested this phone for a long time.

Software is typical Android. There are apps for web browsing, Facebook, Twitter and multimedia playback, but the clumsy resistive screen hampers all these. Even the plain act of transferring contacts from the SIM card to the OT-980's phone book is difficult because the phone keeps adding names when you're simply browsing them.

The OT-980 could have been a compelling budget smart phone if a few key features were upgraded. It has the looks and the OS, but not the physical interface. Or maybe we just need smaller thumbs.

Click here to view the Alcatel OT-980 in the Buyer's Guide

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