Unfortunate, but true: append "dual-SIM" to any phone in the market and it's automatically labeled as "budget." While we may never wake up to a day when a brand like Apple offers two SIM carriages on their flagships, Alcatel tries their best to wriggle their way out of the "cheap" moniker with the One Touch 985N, a handsomely-designed phone that, at first glance, can even pass for a high-end unit. But is the slickness only skin deep?
As mentioned, the One Touch 985N immediately won us over in the exteriors department. We received a black unit for review, and whipping it out of the pocket never failed to elicit the requisite "nice phone!" comments. The phone is handsome. The back side is cast in a classy fingerprint-proof banded black matte, the glass plate of the camera rising thinly above the surface on the top end (sadly, an oversized One Touch logo somewhat ruins the bottom, though). The front end eschews the clicky, plasticky looking Android menu buttons of most low-enders, opting instead for discreet soft versions and a slim Home button. A more subdued logo emblazons the One Touch 985N's crown, right beside the small pinhole of the front-facing camera. A nice touch is the gentle slope of the phone's fender: dipping forward ever-so-slightly, it resembles the nose of a sci-fi car, coasting smoothly on its nonexistent hoverwheels.
The sides disappoint, though. Blame it on a swath of silver that rims along the entire edge of the phone, interrupted by the equally ugly volume rocker, camera button, USB port, headphone port, and power button. The front and back were already pretty awesome-but that silver trim sandwiched in between is nothing but unwanted filling, for us at least. We reserve faint praise for the buttons, though. They may look too "standard" but their raised profile makes it easy to change the volume, even when the phone is tucked inside your pants.
We can forgive the tacky silver, though, since the rest of the phone just looks classy overall, especially for an 8K unit.
Dual-sim optimization is fairly painless on the One Touch. Once it detects two sim cards, it immediately queues up a startup dialog box which asks you if you want SIM 1 (postpaid with data plan, in our case) to be your go-to card for 3G and calls, or SIM 2 (prepaid, bought at the sari-sari store) for texts? Or do you want your phone to prompt you whenever you need to make a choice? You can customize anytime in the settings menu.
Some apps, like GO SMS Pro, even automatically adjust their UI to reflect your dual-sim status. Handy! Others, though, wind up slightly confused. Handcent, GO SMS's erstwhile competitor, seemed saddled, unable to indicate which SIM sent which text, mixing up the time stamps on received texts (and consquently displaying them out of order), and then, its complete confusion, refusing to send texts altogether. After wrestling for a day with the mystified Handcent, we had to default to the Android messaging app.
Under the slick looks and the functional dual SIM, though, is some disappointingly mediocre hardware. The One Touch 985N runs Gingerbread with a 650MHz CPU, which, on paper, sounds decent enough. But even while running Zeam, the zippiest launcher on the planet, the phone chugged along at a chunky pace, constantly refreshing our homescreen as soon as we exited every app. Aside from Zeam, we had to install lite versions of every major app-Friendcaster, instead of Facebook, for example, or no-frills gallery viewer Quickpic-to keep the lag at bay. Even simpler action game apps like Devil Ninja 2 stuttered and hiccuped as the engine tried to keep up, and Skype kept crashing as the phone ran out of memory. Multi-widgeted customized homescreens with a live wallpaper running in the background? Forget it.
While it doesn't eat up a significant chunk of disk space, a minor annoyance is the amount of software prepackaged into the phone. Take, for example, the (most of the time) useless Currency Converter, or the embarrassing Bubble Dash 2 (a demo; the bloatware did not even grace us with the courtesy of a full game). There are others, too---apps that refuse to be uninstalled, and instead squat in your tray, begging for you to root your One Touch and put them out of their misery. The One Touch 985N is not bad; it's pretty decent as long as you don't try to stack up on resource-intensive apps and go all Rambo in terms of running them.
Another strange quirk of the One Touch 985N is that the camera button---directly across and nearly identical to the volume rocker---is on backwards. That is, when you hold your phone sideways to take a pic, the camera button is at the bottom instead of the top. A simple rotation of the onscreen icons should be able to reorient your phone so you can have the button in the "right" place, but the device refuses to cooperate, and instead you have to use your thumb to take a shot. Considering that we've never seen a camera with the shutter button on its ass instead of, you know, the normal place, this can be result in several mix-ups. Want to take a pic? Uh-oh, you increased your volume instead.
At P7,999, though, were you really expecting more? When budgets are screwed on tight and the latest features are suddenly not that important after all, you'll find that all that you've got going for you is a good looking facade---and in that score, the One Touch 985N can very well sympathize indeed.
Click here to check out the Alcatel One Touch 985N in the Buyer's Guide
Check out the gallery below for press photos