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Review GSM phone Alcatel OT 556
Alcatel has traditionally had strong positions due to its models distinguishing in high functionality, acceptable price and youth design. And now we see an attempt to strengthen its positions on a rapidly growing market of youth solutions with two modifications of the same device - 556 and 557. Vivid design, flashy colors including almost all the colours of the rainbow are peculiarities of the phones. Many may consider the models too pretentious and maybe won't like. On the other hand the worshipers of the brand will accept the design calmly, it will evidently satisfy young men that like similar phones. Both the models can't be called mass and are oriented on a specific niche that is their strength and weakness at the same time.
The dimensions are comfortable (108.5x48x22 mm) and the weight is 90 grams. The plastic the body is made of is not easily soiled and finger prints do not stay on it. A charger connector is closed with a shutter attached to the body. And by the way a headset connector is also here. In difference to the previous models the presence of a cable is not supposed, the connector is absent outside and the cable may not be plugged in from inside. The solution is explained with the fact there is no IrDA it is on the top end.
The screen has the resolution of 128x160 pixels, 65K, STN. Beating its rivals (Motorola C650, Siemens C65)) in resolution the device is inferior in the quality of the picture. The quality of the screen is comparable with Alcatel 735 in some kind but no any improvements appeared. In difference to the elder models Alcatel 756/757 our device is not the best in the quality of the screen. I'll note that products of this class by Alcatel always had a poor screen. The screen fades in the sun but the picture may be made out on your wish.
A keypad shows the main difference between 556 and 557 and it is more eclectic in the second one. In 556 keys are placed in a block and four impact light sources provide backlighting. Characters are seen well in various conditions. The keypad is easy to work with though it doesn't seem so considering by its appearance.
There is a comfortable coupled volume level button on the left-side surface. A VGA-camera gap and a mirror may be seen on the back panel. A 800 mAh battery is hidden behind the back cover. The cover gets a backlash with time. According to the manufacturer it is capable of providing up to 285 hours of work in the standby mode and up to 7.5 hours of talks. In Moscow the device worked for about 4 days in case of 50 minutes of talks and up to 20 minutes of using other functions. This is a good result for a device of this class and in average the phone works a day longer than rivals. Full recharging takes about 2 hours.
In principle the model may be called a cut version of Alcatel 756 with less memory, absence of mp3, the phone doesn't allow recording video, only plays it. Let's consider the main capabilities of the device.
The main menu is arranged in the rows of icons, you can choose to work in the regular full-screen mode (an icon and a caption under it). The third view is also available. A single icon is also displayed here but the edges of the nearby icons are seen in horizontal line. All the submenus are lists and traditionally there are fast switches with the help of short number series. It is possible to create a menu with tags for functions and also a fast navigation with the help of number series is supported.
A user may choose various colour schemes for the menu and themes (Atmospheres called originally). A short video clip may serve as a screen saver but you'll have to load it to the phone (mpeg4).
The typing in the phone can be done both in English (T9) and in Russian languages. While in the menu, you can select a preferable language and then it will be set by default. To change the languages when typing, you will have to turn back to the menu and select. A partial disadvantage is such, that the choice is valid for one field only, so when you enter new fields into the phone book, it means an automatic change of language of every new one.
Phone book. The phone’s memory is divided into several directories. There is a separate directory for the contacts kept on the SIM-card, in addition to that there exist three more folders by default-a General, a Business and a Personal one. The user can create the directories of his/her own; they serve as different groups of users in this phone. You can assign a call melody to some of the folders; however, you cannot do it for single files.
The main list offers you a search by the first letter of the name. Some files can be moved in between various categories. For one name you can enter a bunch of information such as first and last names, home, work, mobile and mostly used number; fax and pager numbers and some other number; two e-mail addresses, name of the company, occupation, address, city, state, zip code, country, some special notes and four margins with personal information. It turns out that up to 23 files can be assigned to one name with the occupation size being almost unlimited. You can enter any kind of information; the phone book will satisfy the most fastidious user. You can also assign voice tags to some of the phone subscribers, and then the voice recognition of these numbers is possible. This function is very sensitive to the level of the background noise, the function of voice recognition does not work very well outdoors and then the quietness is preferable.
It is possible to assign a picture to some of the files in the phone. You can also download a picture of yourself into the phone and use it as an assigned picture for the file. The phone supports work with files of JPG, GIF, aGIF, PNG, BMP standards. That's hard to say how many names you'll be able to save in the phone since the memory is shared dynamically, total number of contacts is 500. Though probably you won't meet the problem of a lack of memory in the phone book.
Messages. The phone can operate with SMS as well as with EMS and MMS. The beauty here is that the developers did not separate the messages by types, so in the Inbox you can see all types of messages (it is true for the Outbox also).
Templates for SMS are provided and it is nice how for some of the messages there is an automatic selection of your number. Here is an example: My number is 777 77 77 or Call me at 777 77 77, so if the number is the one of your own, the phone will extricate it out of the SIM-card memory.
The phone is equipped with everything you can wish for the MMS. First, every such message may be comprised of several sequential shots with melody, picture and text for each. Secondly, there is a separate function in the menu where you can create messages with voice memos. To do this, you record what you wish onto the type recorder and send your message immediately. There are advantages in such organization.
Finally, you can create a selected address list, which is a separate list that will not be connected anyhow with the phone book directories.
Personalization (Customize). Here the user can choose a melody and a ring type with its volume. It has to be taken in that you cannot choose a miscellaneous alarm mode (the vibrator and the melody functioning together). There is an option of turning on the vibrator and only then the melody. On the other hand, on the melodies’ list you can find the ones marked as “vibe”, which means that when they are playing the vibrator goes off, although this is not represented as a separate ring mode.
There are no profiles in the phone, but you can turn on all the sounds by one press when in the stand by mode, which is sufficient especially for the phone of this class.
You can access all the menu settings from this menu and the wallpaper setting too. You can also record voice commands for the calls of different menu functions.
The phone is equipped with the built in music editor. There is also an option of saving the melody for any type recorder footage.
Tools. The phone is supplied with an alarm clock that might be set for a single or for an everyday mode. There is also a countdown timer.
The organizer allows you to record the events for separate days and to set an alarm for them. It is not possible to enter the repetitive events, the one-time events only. You can view the weekly or the monthly calendar.
The clock in this phone can be set for the local as well as for the remote time. The phone is also empowered with the calculator and the money converter. The type recorder gives you up to 60 seconds of recording time.
Call lists. This is a menu where you can view last 10 outgoing, incoming and missed calls. And also notes about all the other events are here.
WAP. The browser in the phone is of 2.0 version, there are no particularities here.
Games. The phone is equipped with two games, one of them being SpeedDevils and the other one GylosTale. You cannot delete these games, but you can download the new ones (it is heard around that you can download using the wap).
Multimedia Album. All the pictures and melodies are represented here. The range of the pictures and melodies is very large and in this sense, the phone is great. The selection of droll and funny pictures is such that you just do not know where to start choosing from. Judging by the sounds, melodies and pictures variety it is easy to conclude that the phone is designed for the young generation.
Camera. The pictures can be taken in the resolution of 640x480, 352x288, 128x128, 64x64, 32x32 and 16x16 pixels. Besides, the big scale mode shooting is offered for which the image is scratched horizontally. In any case, the picture format will be the JPEG one and the three different dimensions and quality types are presented (high, standard and economy).
The phone’s display is used as a viewfinder. The interface has been thought through in all the details so while shooting you can change almost every image parameter by several presses. The function of the number keys 1, 2, 3 is to tune in the quality of the required size of the screen. The left soft key is there for the color choice (color picture, white and black, Sepia, Negative, Thin or contours).
With the # key you can quickly switch the picture resolutions, while the * key offers a set of several special modes. One of the modes is the option to create a GIF file using four shots. This means that you take four sequential shots, which then immediately turn into an animation in your phone. One restriction here is the resolution of 128x128 pixels that the developers found mostly convenient to save phone’s memory.
Another special shooting mode is the mosaic. This mode allows you to take four pictures (64x64 pixels) and then pleat them into one complete image (128x128).
The phone is equipped with the timer for the shooting with a delay. I am not to judge how necessary this function is, I find the Exposure setting more interesting. This function controls the lighting conditions by default although you can identify them yourself. In most cases, the automatic Exposure is sufficient.
You can choose the folders, where the pictures will be saved and can be taken out of for the MMS screen savers, by default.
I forgot to mention that you could use the frames for the pictures with the resolution of 128x128 pixels. This is a sort of an effect when you border the picture with a frame while shooting. Another exceptional feature of the phone is that you can download the frames’ files (PNG format) from PC, which means that you can create the special effects of your own.
The phone is also empowered with the digital eight times zoom that you can activate by moving the joystick away from you.
Software. The software is not included into the phone’s standard delivery kit; however, you can download it from the manufacturer’s website. When you do that, the setting file only is downloaded. With this file, you set the modem connection with the phone and the PC and only afterwards, you can choose the necessary programs and download them from the shell of the setting utility.
Using Alcatel PC Suite, you can synchronize the data from your phone with programs such as Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Notes. Besides, you will be able to work with pictures and melodies. Finally, there is a special program for using the phone as modem (GPRS connection). I must acknowledge that the software and its possibilities in the phone is of the best kind, the programs are nice too. I will talk a bit more about some other programs. In the Windows control panel there is an icon that will allow you to access all programs offered in the set.
The synchronization can be done through the IrDA.
Create Stamp. This function lets you create an icon of 128x128 or 64x64 pixels resolution out of any image. You can also use these pictures in your phone as you like, for example apply them to the MMS.
Create Animation. It is all the same although you do create here an animation file. This might be an animation of your own or it can be a set of three pictures with the intervals between them. To draw a bottom line: enjoy being an artist!
Customize Sound. Your can mix your own sound out of two music files or else choose a file to download into your phone-it is all very easy. Even the convenience of this program granted, it is still striking how it operates with MP3, Wave and Midi formats.
Customize Image. This is an image editor of a kind. You can find several special effects here that you can employ for the picture. As usual, you can send an edited file to the phone by one click.
Content Manager. You can download any picture and melody into/from the phone using this function. Actually, you can download files separately using the programs described above.
The device has no problems with the quality of connection and provides a stable one. The volume of its 40-tones call signal is enough in the majority of cases and the power of the vibra is average. The phone book is a strong point of the phone as well as the presence of IrDA and a standard function set in general. The absence of any support for mp3 melodies and a cut possibility of recording video are shortcomings. The total memory size of 2 MB is not big but will be enough for an average user of the model.
Today price of the phone is 175-180 USD and doesn't seem right. Rival phones with better functionality (for instance, C65) cost about 140 USD. The bigger price is explained with the fact 556 is a novelty. And its chances grow since the elder model 756 (hard to find) is absent in the market. The device is pleasant in general and will be considered as an alternative for Siemens C65, Sony Ericsson K500, Motorola C650 when the price gets 130-140 USD. The model doesn't have a great functionality but is interesting in its category. I'd like to avoid making tags but the model seems to be a great gift for a middle-school pupil, it has necessary functions and an attractive for children design.
The SAR value for the model is 0.4 Watt/kg.
Published 9 December 2004
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