Telstra claims its latest Android phone, the Telstra Smart-Touch, is the first to break the $100 price barrier in Australia. Though its low price will attract plenty of positive attention, the Smart-Touch provides a mediocre user experience, largely due to a small, low quality display that isn't responsive. For $99 however, we can't fault it too much — as long as you know what to expect.
The Telstra Smart-Touch looks like what you would expect from a phone in this price range. It is a compact handset that is constructed from glossy plastic. The round edges make it comfortable to hold, and its small size means it slips easily into a pocket or bag.
The glossy plastic of the Telstra Smart-Touch attracts plenty of fingerprints, the rear battery cover creaks when pressed and the bezel surrounding the display has an annoying mirror finish that reflects light — however, these are all to be expected considering the Smart-Touch's asking price. The power button is also abnormally tiny and needs a firm press to activate, while the touch sensitive home, menu and back keys aren't backlit.
Manufacturers generally make a few compromises with budget mobile phones, and in ZTE's case (the manufacturer of the Telstra Smart-Touch) it is the display that suffers most. A stylus that slides out of the back of the Smart-Touch tells you all you need to know about the quality of the touchscreen — the small, 2.8in display uses resistive rather than capacitive technology, so it's far less responsive than screens seen on higher end Android phones.
The screen will suit those who like to tap screens with their fingernails but it possesses poor viewing angles, is difficult to see in direct sunlight and lacks the responsiveness needed to intuitively use the Android operating system on a daily basis. For example, we were forced to use a fingernail, rather than a fingertip to drag down the notifications bar; a basic action that most Android users will undertake frequently. The cramped, low quality display also affects text input — keys are tiny in the standard portrait QWERTY orientation, and although an on-screen keypad with predictive text input can be selected instead, text entry remains painful.
The Telstra Smart-Touch runs the older 2.1 'Éclair' version of Google's Android platform, but it still offers most of the features and functions of far more expensive Android smartphones. The Smart-Touch comes equipped with a GPS receiver, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity and also has a 3.2-megapixel camera that doubles as a video recorder, along with an MP3 player and FM radio. It provides full access to the Android Market for third-party apps, and automatic and seamless synchronisation with Google services. The Telstra Smart-Touch doesn't have enough processing power to offer full Flash support, nor does it offer multitouch (so you can't pinch the screen to zoom in and out) but both are too much to ask on a sub-$100 handset.
The Telstra Smart-Touch comes with the standard vanilla Android interface and predictably a large number of shortcuts to Telstra services. The standard vanilla Android interface it isn't an issue at all — it is functional, easy to use and fully customisable.
The Telstra Smart-Touch's small screen combined with a lack of multitouch support mean the Web browsing experience is noticeably inferior compared to Android smartphones with larger screens. Performance is also an issue — the Smart-Touch takes notably longer to achieve basic tasks, such as opening and closing apps. We suggest a little patience given that this is a $99 phone and the fact it can do these tasks at all is an achievement in its own right.
The Telstra Smart-Touch has a microSD card slot for extra storage, located behind the rear battery cover, and Telstra includes a 2GB microSD card in the sales package.
The Telstra Smart-Touch Android phone is exclusive to Telstra and sold online and through Telstra stores and dealers.