Cellatel is the company bringing Alcatel phones to the US market. At last year's CTIA, they had grand plans to bring a huge lineup to the US. Since then, they've had limited success with that. They have scored a deal to distribute unlocked GSM phones through Sears, and are working on a deal with Best Buy, which is embarking on a major new effort surrounding unlocked GSM phones.
To try to gain additional traction in the US, Cellatel is now partnering with a couple of major consumer brands: Playboy and Sharper Image.
The Playboy phone is based on a simple Alcatel model. It's a simple-looking monolith of a phone with a landscape display. It's not strictly an entry-level model; features like a 1.3 megapixel camera, music player, memory card slot, and stereo Bluetooth give it some cred.
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The phone definitely feels cheap. The d-pad is easy enough to use, but the large center key is a flimsy circle of plastic that feels like it's about to fall off. The rest of the keys felt only marginally better in terms of quality, and stumbled when it came to usability. The flat keys are hard to tell apart, and the wide gap down the middle means there's less space between the first and second columns than the second and third. That, combined with the unusual key layout makes texting more difficult than it should be.
The phone does have some things going for it, though. The screen is nice, and the size and weight are good.
The Playboy phone is based on the Alcatel V770, but Alcatel executives were quick to distance themselves from it. They pointed out that the Playboy phone bears no Alcatel branding of any kind.
We're not sure who the Playboy phone is targeted at, exactly. At first the answer might seem obvious, but it's not like this is a porn phone. The pink color option is especially perplexing.
The Sharper Image phones are somewhat more interesting. At first glance, the 202TSI is a standard-issue Windows Mobile 6 device with QWERTY keyboard and landscape display, much like the Motorola Q, etc. One stand-out feature is the trackball in the center. It's the same exact type as a BlackBerry or Sidekick.
Cellatel wouldn't tell us who actually makes it; we assume it's from one of the standard ODMs. There are a lot of these "generic" Windows Mobile device designs floating around; most of them aren't that great. The 202TSI has potential, though. We were pleasantly surprised by the keyboard design and feel. The keys surrounding the trackball are excellent as well.
Key features include quad-band GSM, Bluetooth, microSD memory card slot, and a 2 megapixel camera. In other words, it's nothing special in the specs department, but it has the basics covered. The body is a bit on the thick side. If there was one obvious shortcoming, that was it. It's not a huge phone, though. At the right price, it could be a good choice for those looking for a basic Windows Mobile device.
The other Sharper Image device coming out soon is the 909TSI "Signature Collection Platinum Edition". This phone is impressively light and thin. It also packs in quad-band GSM, Bluetooth, 2 megapixel camera, and a memory card slot.
Unfortunately, it's downhill from there. The screen is small and dim, and the keys are simply terrible: they feel very cheap, and they're difficult to use in a number of ways. The design is also a blatant rip-off of Vertu's signature look.
The Sharper Image phones should be available later this year through both Sharper Image stores and Sears.
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