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Review: Wind Mobile Alcatel Tribe


Wind Mobile has expanded their selection of devices, with their latest Android smartphone, the Alcatel Tribe OT-981. This device sports a 2.8” touchscreen display, with a resolution of 240 x 320 QVGA (no pinch-zoom capabilities), and a slide out, QWERTY keyboard. The Tribe is approximately 112.5mm (tall) by 60.4mm (wide) by 15.9mm (thick) and weighs around 152g.

AESTHETICS
The Tribe is very light (only 152g), compared to other Android devices on the market, and easily fits into the palm of your hand. The device is covered in a soft, black, plastic bezel with a silver trim, which is resistant to fingerprints and minor cosmetics scratches. The front of the phone sports a 2.8” touchscreen with five hard-key shortcut buttons located underneath (Phone, Options, Home, Back, End/Power). I really enjoyed the shape and size of this device, and was a nice alternative to other larger Android phones currently on the market.
SIDE NOTE: Upon observation, it seems that Alcatel could have offered a bigger screen by lowering these buttons on the face of the device, or even including them as soft touch keys (similar to HTC).

The right side of the device houses a 3.5mm headphone jack, volume rockers, and a microUSB port for charging/computer connectivity. It should be noted that the top, bottom, and left side of the device do not house any features, making the lack of a camera button/shortcut and truly annoying. The back of the phone houses a small 2.0MP camera with video capabilities, as well as a small speaker for speakerphone.
SIDE NOTE: Alcatel has included two cables for the device, an AC charger, and a USB cable to connect to the computer. The AC charger is your typical “old school” charger and not similar to the more recent option of a USB cable with a removable AC-wall adapter component.

The battery door/back panel of the device can be easily removed via the small notch in the top right corner. This is another welcomed alternative to the usual battery door on other smartphones, which require the user to fiddle with interlocking groves. The Tribe comes with a 1150mAh battery, which advertises 360 minutes of talk time, and/or 400 hours of standby time. The Tribe also has a microSD slot, which supports up to 16GB. Wind has included a 2GB microSD card with the purchase of this device.
SIDE NOTE: In order to input/remove a microSD card, the battery door must be removed, since there are no exposed ports on the sides of the device.

The front of the Tribe slides up to reveal a nice, rubber-button, raised QWERTY keyboard. The hinge and sliding movements on this device feels very safe, stable and durable (it requires a violent swing to fling the Tribe shut while holding the sides of the phone). The raised rubber keys on the QWERTY keyboard allow the user to easily type messages and emails with comfort and accuracy. A virtual keyboard is also present for touchscreen use (see PERFORMANCE). It should be noted that the keyboard can be illuminated with a backlight, which automatically turns on when the lights are dimmed.

PERFORMANCE
The Alcatel Tribe comes preloaded with Android 2.1 (Éclair), along with 512MB internal memory, and supports AWS 1700/2100 GSM 1900, 1800, 900, 850 MHz networks. The Tribe advertises network speeds of up to 7.20 Mbps (download) and 5.76 Mbps (upload). The phone is powered by a 1150mAh battery, with up to 360 minutes of talk time, and/or 400 hours of standby time. The Alcatel Tribe supports GPS, +AGPS, and Bluetooth, while housing a WiFi 802.11 b/g card for WiFi support. It should be noted that most new smartphones ship with wireless “N” capability for increased speeds/connectivity and the lack of this support on this device is unsatisfactory.

In order to navigate the device, the user must utilize the touchscreen, which proved to be very unresponsive and inaccurate. I tested the accuracy through gaming and text messaging activities, and I was very disappointed. Playing Mah-jongg proved to be very frustrating as I had trouble selecting the desired tiles. Text messaging or any sort of typing on the virtual keyboard was impossible. The keys were not spaced far enough apart, making it very difficult to type a coherent message after numerous attempts. I even had a friend with smaller fingers test the virtual keyboard, and they also were unable to type properly. However, the physical QWERTY keyboard solved these problems and allowed me to easily type anything I wanted. In the end, I must say that my experience with the touchscreen on the Tribe was lackluster and disappointing, and I hope that Alcatel addresses these issues for any future touchscreen devices. The battery for this phone performed very well, and came close to the advertised specs by Alcatel, with average phone call/messaging use, and light browsing. I was never able to hit anywhere close to the network speeds as advertised by Wind Mobile and Alcatel.

SOFTWARE
The look and feel of the software on this device seems very cartoony and more user friendly driven. It was very easy to navigate through the various menus and screens of the Tribe and the use of multiple home screens give the user many options for customization. The Tribe does come preloaded with many useful apps for everyday use, including Facebook, AccuWeather, Radio, Games, Documents, Twidroyd, etc. Android 2.1 comes with a Gmail app for IMAP/POP3 email support. The Messages app allows for multi instant messaging, SMS and MMS support, and threaded conversation capabilities.

The browser was able to smoothly load various web pages and the “Windows” function allows the user to open multiple websites at the same time. This functionality greatly enhanced my browsing experience and allowed me to open my email, news, sports, and tech websites all at once, as if I was on my computer. The only thing missing was pinch-zoom integration, which is vital for any touchscreen device.

CONCLUSION
The Alcatel Tribe is definitely a step in the right direction for Wind Mobile, in order to expand on their Android offerings and increase their attractiveness as a new service provider. This device is geared towards lower end users, looking for an easy to use smartphone, with all the basic features currently being offered (Android OS, touch screen, sleek/compact design, WiFi capability, cost effective etc.). The Alcatel Tribe is the perfect device for any consumer making the jump to a smartphone and anyone looking for a compact phone with slide out keyboard. The Alcatel Tribe OT-981 is currently available with Wind Mobile in Canada, under the following pricing structure:
• $190.00 (outright)
• $40.00 (WINDTab)

  • IPhone droid

    Crap. I would never buy it

  • frank y

    It is a step in the right direction if you look at it as expanding the number of phones they have but if you look at it as getting more android phones, then this was a big mistake….why would any serious android user use this phone?

    • Joseph

      frank y…
      I agree with you, but this is not for a serious android user, it is for a first time user, or someone upgrading from dumbphone to smartphone and looking for a more compact device at a low cost..

    • Dom

      While I agree with you frank, serious Android users can get the XT720.

  • Mattymo

    This is for someone who is upgrading from 2 paper cups and a string and has never used a phone before. Thats about it.

  • schultzter

    Looks to me like it was designed for Palm Pre users!

  • Hilroy

    It’s $40 on the tab, not $49.

    • Joseph

      yea my bad, sorry it is $40 on tab

  • Andrew

    Mobilicity has much better Android handsets IMHO.

    • Terry

      What? The Nexus One and Ericsson X10?
      They both cost $549 and $499 respectively. Not $190 ($40 on Tab)

      You obviously can’t compare the three. You could compare the Nexus and X10 to Winds Motorola XT720 phone and yes, Mobilicity has better phones, but again the Motorola costs $450 ($300 on tab)

      So it comes down to how much you’re willing to spend.

      If Mobilicity has any other androids, it’s not on their website, so please tell me, I honestly would love to know where you find out about upcoming Mobilicity phones.

    • Luka

      Who cares? Just use your own unlocked phone

  • Hilroy

    Motorola Spice, which should be coming out very soon, will be priced at $200. It has a muttitouch 3 inch screen, full slider QWERTY keypad, 3.1 MP camera and all the other standard stuff. It comes with Android 2.1.

  • Hilroy

    Forgot to mention, the Spice is coming out on Mobilicity. I was replying to Terry.

    • Terry

      If this phone is as good as it sounds that would be very tempting, but I can’t find any true reviews for this Spice, so I will hold judgement.

      It’s just that I don’t know ant smartphone around $200 with a capacitive touch screen that doesn’t have a serious flaw with it in some form to keep the phones costs down.

  • Hilroy

    It’s got to better than Wind’s Huawei U8100 and this Alcatel Tribe. Who has even heard of these brands in Canada?

    • Alcatel

      Actually Alcatel is huge company that builds various networks around the world and has a dominant market which they cater to in East Europe for cell phones. They are not a small company however they aren’t a high end manufacturer also.

      Price is key for majority of people and this fits in perfectly.

  • Joseph

    Agreed they must develop and promote their name and brand more…then they will become popular as reliable and cheaper alternative

  • Hilroy

    I said no one knows about them in Canada. And their “cheaper alternatives” aren’t selling as well. Sales will be hurt even more when a brand name company, Motorola launches a $200 Android with a larger screen, a better camera, and a full QWERTY slider (I know the Tribe also has this, but the U8100 doesn’t).

  • gord

    saw these phone when i was in europe they big there and the dont have contracts there

  • Hilroy

    These phones don’t have contracts in Canada either.

  • Brucie

    I hope my boyfriend Regulator buys me this for Christmas,I really love the old school charger and the space button.

  • TCom

    The Spice looks a lot better than this. Multitouch is helpful and I’d rather get a Moto phone than some chinese no name. (by the way, this phone is NOT made by french telecom company Alcatel. Its just branded “Alcatel”. They sell them at big telecom trade shows).
    Too bad Mobi beat WIND once again in the handset department. This is getting kind of embarassing for WIND.

  • CaptainZangetsu

    Yeah, When HTC Started out I didnt even know what brand it was. Until they got really good reviews and expanded.

  • Nico

    A 2.8″ QVGA touchscreen is way small. I find my 3.2″ HVGA screen to be tiny compared to the 3.7-4″ WVGA screens found on the better Androids in Canada. Maybe this would be ok for those who need a smartphone, even when going out drinking ect and don’t want to take their expensive Android.

  • Jim

    Why does Wind insist on releasing these low end pieces of junk?

  • Adrian

    Majority of WIND’s customers are cheap people. Yes, some of them are sick of Bell and Rogers, but majority of them are downright cheap. Believe me when I say they complain about the $190 price tag on a low-end smartphone. Heck, some of them expect free phones from us.

    There is a reason we only have ONE high end android phone, the XT720, because it’s for high-end android users, and those people care about EVERYTHING, and WIND needs better coverage, which those high-end android users complain about.

    With that said, the XT720 rarely sells.

    • AlcatelOT-981_user

      XT720 still only has android 2.1 ow and wuts this i spaceificly saved up enogh for it but found out it wasnt upgradeable as well so buying thisphone at 495 dollors is a wast of time and money for anyone the hole issue witth there phones is that they cant be upgraded cause winds to cheap to allow it u say were cheap hell idd gladly even pay for the update but like i said winds to cheap for that

  • ken

    This phone is bland. There is so much better on the market. I would not be caught dead with this device.

  • DiDo

    “The look and feel of the software on this device seems very cartoony and more user friendly driven.”

    Huh? It looks like bone stock Android from that first pic.

  • JAWG

    This phone is great for welfare bums.

    • Sar

      @JAWG

      Maybe so, but at least the “welfare bums” can afford their service with WIND instead of going into debt with one of the big 3…

  • Liz

    i think wind is awful,i will never go back and neither will my husband or kid.the lies were just too much and i always had poor reception with dropped calls.customer service never helped us and we were tired of getting new sim cards to make the phones work that never did.i’m back with bell now and both my husband and son are on rogers and we’ll never go back.

    • tbr

      Liz, I don’t know where you live but here in Vancouver Mobilicity is pretty good for me. The signal sometimes weak indoors but overall it’s pretty good. The good news is that you can use your old wind phone to try it out before yo commit.

  • JAWG

    @Sar:

    The fake JAWG made that statement…NOT ME.Just cowards who can’t speak for themselves and imitate people…LOSERS.

  • brendan

    as said in earlier comments, this phone is for beginner smartphone and android users who want something cheap to test out. If someone bought a no contract smart phone from one of the big 3 or wind and didnt like android or smartphones, thats about 500 dollars down the drain right there. plus, you don’t hear names like alcatel or huawei very much yet, so wind is helping getting their names out there

  • Gerald

    Got this phone about a week ago. A few people asked me if it was a Blackberry torch. haha.. The Android 2.1 is very easy to use, so many apps! Battery life isn’t as good as advertised though, great videos, good wifi capabilities, includes lots of handy features and really so far no complaints!

  • S.B

    its an okay phone for windmobile.

  • Sunjunkie

    So, for the sake of getting out of a pointless apples-vs-oranges, how does this phone compare to other BUDGET Android devices? I’m only aware of the two on offer from Wind and, now, the upcoming Spice. Any others out there that cost around $200? & how do they compare?…

  • Mike

    I got one of these and it seems pretty good. Battery seems to go real fast (24 hours)

    I have a bold from rogers also and both phones are complete different.

    • Aeronic

      I recently bought this phone as well and I have to agree that the battery goes quite fast. It’s quite upsetting that I have to recharge it daily, when 3/4th’s of the time it’s in standby mode.

      It’s touch screen is pretty crap but the qwerty keys are excellent. nice call quality (when my phone isn’t in WindAway that is.. which happens frequently)

  • Ed

    The bigger providers always get the better phones. For the same price, Telus and Bell have LG’s very nice Optimus line, and even Virgin got the lower end Samsung. Wind and Mobilicity will be beaten out again on quality handsets going forward, I bet you.

  • shiloh pettipas

    When I first viewed this phone online I was stunned by it’s look. It is a very nice looking phone (business like) however, Reading the comments on this phone about the touch screen issues and the small keyboard has turned me into another direction. I think that a phone should be able to keep up with you, and while you’re typing u shouldn’t have to stop and wait for the phone to catch up with what ur writing.

    In addition, I also agree that based on the size of the phone, the virtual screen should be larger giving it the capability to be at easier use.

  • line

    Wind mobile service is very bad. They have a weak signal. They charge you rooming service inside their area of coverage just because their wireless towers can’t detect their weak signal.

    Their billing system is very confusing. They charge you for two months, one month behind and one month in advance when the bill only indicated one month. You can’t argue with their customer service because they simply reply “sorry, we can’t change our system and you have to pay your bill regardless”.

    Just because I have to wait for three month to get my cell phone unlocked, I had to pay that bill. Here is the surprise !!! their online payment service does not work. I tried and tried and tried for several days but their online service was down, then had to go personally to one of their shopping stands to pay the bill. Now more surprise, the bill I had to pay had an amount very different from the bill shown online.
    My advice, Never think about using windmobile service. It is a bit cheaper than other companies but will give you real nightmares.

  • glenn

    Alcatel tribe user – first foray into this type of phone so price was ok to try. Disike. Battery has to be charged nightly and I’m not a heavy browsing user. Reception is ok but long distance people I call say they hear a sharp squealing periodically. Like the qwerty keyboard and thank god for it because the touch screen sucks. Not sure about wind yet..

  • kymess

    I’m one of those moving up from a dumbphone to their first smartphone. I had the Moto Spice last year briefly; while the phone had its flaws (freezing without warning) it was fun to use. Sadly, Mobilicity didn’t have the range of service I needed, and I didn’t want to be ‘roaming’ when using the phone from my home! Ended up returning the phone and ending my service, but……if Mobilicity had better range I’d go back…I miss the phone!!
    And for people like me, not ready to leap to iPhones or who don’t want the 3-year contract, these lower-end models are fine. Friends in Vancouver love their “semi”-smartphones! (one has the Tribe, her daughter has the Spice)

  • Leah

    I actually have this phone and i say it’s crap. I’ll be in the middle of listening to music and I try to turn up the music. the music stops and it goes to my main screen. the gray plastic that it is covered with peels away easily. you cant use the touch screen to type because you never get the proper word that you want. games suck too. ohhh and if you lock it where you have to draw the pattern, it sometimes dials 911 (there’s an emergency button on the touch screen). i thought i was in love with the phone when i first got it, but it slowly turned into a nightmare.

  • grandle

    3 replacement phones in as many months. Picked up a replacement last Wedneday (22.6.2011) pull down menus dont work already. Getting new one next week and putting it on Kijiji immediately.

  • AlcatelOT-981_user

    well in my opinion in owning one get this i was downgraded in the pretence that it could play flash hell i cant even upgrade this pice of s**t the battery is shot says its dischargeing but has no solution and as for gameing and msging its crap in my opinion this phone shold just be taken off the market i want my old one back

  • rex

    For those of you had touch screen phone/s, The trick is to use a pen or stylus pen to calibrate the touch screen and not your finger. I’ve been doing the same calibration ever since I bought my first PDA and my BB Storm and still works best with new Touch Screen devices.

    Though this phone requires constant charging, my only complaint is the time the screen locks especially when accessing voices mail. But this phone is way better than my dlite that Ive spent at the same price from Wind, Though my BB Bold is a better phone; you can’t compare this Alcatel OT-981 to $450 phone – but if you do then the phone is that good!…

  • sam

    The battery is crap…second battery and its bs there is 400 standby mins. or 360 talk time!!

  • Sonya

    I bought this phone as my first smart phone not wanting to spend the money on a BB hoping they will get the iPhone soon..was told it is a good upgrade..I get almost no reception and always have complaints from friends that they can not hear me! I have to stand outside to have a decent conversation! If I could get a good reception I would love my phone but that is key therefore can not wait to get rid of it!

  • Rahat

    I’ve got this phone and I got no complaints. I am a high end user too. People now a days complain about anything they can complain about, either that or it is much easier these days to hear/see all these complaints (aided by web 2.0).

    Anyways, yeah this phone does not have a lot of memory, does not have the best touch screen, does not have a side entrance for a microSD card etc. etc. This phone also does not cost $200 CAD even! (last I checked wind was selling it for $140 CAD). If you want a $700 CAD worth of high end Samsung or HTC like materials on a $190 CAD device, then it is a problem and it resides solely within your physical and mental being.

    This phone also came with a 2 GB microSD. I dropped the phone several times, and it still has a like new appearance. I’ve had this phone for about a year now and well it’s still going great. It was the best $40 bux I spent (thank god for WindTAB), I actually did not have to pay a dime more than $40 for this phone. And that’s what I always think of, at $40, the next best option was a kids play mobile phone for ken, which could not be used to make a call even…

    And the cherry on top is, Alcatel has a fully functional desktop software, that allows for easy access to backup device content, settings and also tether data.

  • Kismet

    Phone will dial 911 while locked, cannot disable this feature
    OS auto loads so many apps, that phone becomes quickly slow, removing apps does not solve this problem
    terrible phone

  • Martin

    It is a piece of junk just good for garbage. I exchange it 4 times all the same this one just destroy WIND service so i am looking to find another company to go after ending contract with wind I think other company don’t offer some piece of s**t like this.

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