French firm Alcatel has been on the fringes of the UK mobile phone scene for years, and had marked out a modest place for itself at the lower end of the market. Its recent range has included some high-end devices but the T'Pop is very much in the budget comfort zone, with few specs to raise it above the double figure price.
The all-plastic body may not look premium, but it feels solid and sturdy the sort of thing that will stand up to being thrown around in a schoolbag or used as a second handset in the kitbag. It's available in seven different colours ranging from discreet black or white to retina-burning tangerine and hot pink this is a phone that does not mind being noticed.
The 3.5-inch screen is just about big enough to comfortably fit in a decent touch keyboard, and you get the choice between standard Android and SwiftKey 3, which learns from your typing to make more accurate predictions. The resolution is only 480x320 pixels however, which is not very sharp, even when you are browsing standard websites, let alone trying to view HD quality video.
The two-megapixel camera feels like a bit of an antique too. If you want small, grainy selfies for your Facebook page, it will do the job, but it's not really capable of providing much more. Unfortunately there's no front-facing camera for video calls. Still, it has GPS, Wi-Fi, an FM radio, and full access to Google Play, with the Office Suite document viewer, plus Facebook and Twitter apps already on board. There's a teensy 512MB of onboard memory on the phone itself, which is pretty stingy, but fortunately it comes with a 2GB microSD card already supplied.
One advantage of having a low-power processor is that the battery tends to last longer, and sure enough the T'Pop's 1,400mAh model kept us going for well over two days of steady use, including regular web browsing, music listening and watching video.
Hardware and Android
The single-core processor is clocked at 1GHz and backed by 256MB RAM. That is not particularly impressive for a smartphone these days. There is a bit of noticeable lag when you are swapping between apps and our AnTuTu yardstick which measures overall performance capabilities by running a series of processing tasks on the device gave it just 6,005, which puts it above fellow low-ender the Vodafone Smart III, but below LG's Optimus L7 II. It is running Android 2.3 Gingerbread, which is pretty much an antique in these version 4.4 KitKat days. It is on sale now for around £80.
There is a place for budget-priced, workhorse smartphones that can keep you connected to the web, your friends and colleagues for minimum outlay. But times are changing, and even budget handsets like Motorola's Moto G are now offering some pretty impressive specs for a modest outlay though admittedly for still for a few extra tenners. The cheap and mostly cheerful T'Pop looks and feels pretty good but its low-end spec is falling behind the curve.