Global smartphones sales may have eclipsed feature phone sales, but that means billions of people are still using feature phones. And let’s face it, feature phone design hasn’t changed all that much over the last ten years. Compared to sleek new smartphones like the Apple iPhone 5 and 5s or the Samsung Galaxy S5, feature phones can look, well, drab. Luckily, Samsung and Alcatel are taking center stage to making absolutely gorgeous new feature phones with a high-quality display attention to design and friendly to the pocket. It’s what all feature phones should aspire to. I, for one, looked forward to putting the Samsung chat 333 and Alcatel OneTouch 3000 to the test.
[title type=”h2″ class=””]Samsung Chat 333[/title]
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On unpacking, the tale of our white Samsung Chat 333’s design and usability can be told in two parts: the surprisingly good and the surprisingly bad.
The good is that the Chat is one of the best-looking phones at this price. It looks stylish and elegant with a brushed-metal look on the keyboard and the front buttons complemented by a metallic rim. The Chat is light but feels solid in the hand (thanks to the metallic trimming) and is quite slim too. The presence of the optical track-pad is also nice since when done well, the optical trackpad definitely works better here. Also, the Chat’s user interface (UI) is easy on the eye and has a simple design with a couple of customisation options.
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The bad begins with the keyboard – which is very disappointing to use in spite of it looking good. The keys are too soft and aren’t sufficiently raised making it difficult to type on. Reminds me of the Blackberry 8520 (for more on how much I hate it, check-out my bio below). Also, on pressing a key almost every other key around it wobbles, which takes away from the usability. The optical trackpad is also a little too sensitive and not very accurate. Even after I had set the trackpad’s sensitivity to its lowest, the Samsung Chat 333 was just too darn difficult to control. The screen on the 333 is average but at least the interface looks good on it. However, it handles terribly under sunlight and videos, even indoors, doesn’t look great on it.
Along with the qwerty keyboard, the Chat 333 has a 2.4-in TFT screen with a resolution of 320×240 pixels and 256K colour output.
It has a 3.5mm jack for plugging in headphones and uses a microUSB port to charge and connect to the PC. It has 60MB of internal memory and supports microSD cards up to 8GB (it comes with a free 2GB microSD card). Connectivity supports Wi-Fi and Bluetooth but no 3G. The Chat also has a 2Mp fixed-focus camera with no flash that can record videos in CIF resolution (176×144). It also comes pre-installed with a couple of social networking and chat applications that include Facebook, Twitter, MSN and Yahoo.
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This is definitely not a phone you want to browse the web on, nor take pictures with. In fact, it won’t let you browse most of the internet, as it almost always runs out of memory on sites that aren’t optimised for mobile browsing. Also, the optical trackpad makes it difficult to browse on the small screen. The Chat has a surprisingly capable 2Mp camera. Although you probably shouldn’t rely on it for anything more than casual shots, it takes colourful and sharp pictures – although it does falter indoors because of the absence of auto-focus. The Chat records very ordinary videos which are only good for watching on the phone’s screen.
[title type=”h2″ class=””]Alcatel OneTouch Tribe 30.00[/title]
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First thing first, even when you’re looking for a budget option (this baby goes for around R199 once-off depending on where you buy it) you don’t want it to look like a piece of junk. Even on the tightest of shoestring budgets, you still want something that looks socially acceptable. The Alcatel Tribe 30.00 does a half decent job. However with big budget constraints, it can’t pull out all the stylish stops. It has a very small screen which looks very dated, but the high-gloss, round-edged, compact style and QWERTY keyboard are not entirely hideous, especially for R199.
The QWERTY keyboard may have fallen a little out of favour in recent years, but it’s great for speedy texting once you get the hang of it. Meanwhile, measuring 107m x 58mm it’s small enough to seem chic so you’re not going to get laughed out of town, but perhaps don’t let any of your tech-savvy chums catch sight of the teeny tiny screen (hence I hardly took my review device anywhere)…
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This tribe can pull most of the basics off. You don’t have 3G (let alone 4G) capability, but you can text and call to your heart’s content with very respectable 2G connectivity and decent call clarity. This affordable little number also has Facebook and Twitter apps built in so you can stay social without 3G. Just don’t expect anything too snazzy. These social apps are very slow and look very dated. POP3/IMAP4 email is ready to go if you don’t mind taking your sweet time with it and Bluetooth 3.0 is also on board for your convenience.In terms of multimedia bits and pieces, you’re not going to get much for R199, but the Tribe 30.00 does generously give you a few entertainment odds and sodskis. There’s an FM radio and an inbuilt MP3 player if you’re willing to use up all your storage on your favourite track.
Using the micro SD card will bump you up to just 8GB of storage which makes this little phone a tight squeeze. Fine if you want to save a few contacts and photographs, not so good if you’d like to take your music library on the roadski. You might not have expected it, but this budget beauty does manage to cram in a little VGA camera as well! Just don’t take too many pictures or you’ll run out of storage sharpish.
There’s no getting away from the fact that these two are budget phones. Even its high-gloss, rounded designs ain’t fooling anybody, let’s be honest. However, for R199 and R499 once-off we can’t imagine you’ll do any better. Call quality on both these devices is good, texting is easy and, judging by user reviews, people who have invested in these little phones as a stopgap while their smartphone goes in for repairs have been pleasantly surprised by how functional and usable they are.