The Alcatel OT-355A mobile phone

What I know about the Alcatel OT-355A mobile phone.

The first thing you need to know is that Alcatel has released two totally different phones with the model number OT-355. A 2006 phone has a numeric keyboard, while a 2011 phone with the same model number (illustrated) has a QWERTY keyboard and completely different specifications. This caused me no end of confusion as I searched the web for information. What is documented here is the 2011 model.

My phone is designated OT-355A. I have seen references online to the OT-355D, and presumably there are other variants as well, but I’m not qualified to discuss them or describe how they differ from the OT-355A.

The phone comes with a useless single sheet of paper that tries to pass for a user guide, and there is no more complete manual available for download.

AUDIO PLAYER
Playback starts automatically upon selecting an audio file, and playback is controlled with the navigation keys. The up and down keys adjust the volume. A single press of the left or right key switches to the previous or next track. Pressing and holding the left or right key rewinds or fast forwards through the current file. The center key pauses and resumes playback. All of these actions are reflected in the on screen display. And if the screen is dark, pressing the center key illuminates it.

The playback controls have their quirks. Until you gain practice, it is easy to (for example) switch to the next audio file instead of fast forwarding the current one. Rewinding and fast forwarding starts slow and never speeds up, making these operations tedious on long podcasts. And there is a noticeable delay in adjusting volume and in resuming playback after rewinding or forwarding. Sometimes the delay after rewinding or forwarding is trivial; sometimes it is greater than normal playback would have taken. I have been unable to determine what causes a short delay vs. a long delay; rebooting the phone does not correct the issue.

The player is nicely integrated with the telephone. When an incoming call arrives or an outgoing call is placed, playback is automatically paused, and it automatically resumes when the call ends.

What is not so nicely integrated is multitasking. It is possible to perform other tasks while playing an audio file, but it is easy to accidentally stop audio playback while doing so. For this reason I tend not to multitask while listening to an audio book or lecture — which is a shame, because the phone’s note taking function and web browser would otherwise be perfect for taking notes and looking up relevant background information online.

Playback pauses when the camera’s viewfinder screen is active, and restarts shortly after leaving it.

Pausing playback and then pressing “back” to perform a function outside the audio player turns the pause into a stop, losing your place in playback.

The player can reproduce mp3 files. It cannot reproduce oga audio files, use m3u or pls playlists, or display cover art.

Tags
The player supports the album, artist, date, genre, and title tags. It truncates display of the album and artist tags to 15 characters, and the title tag to 30 characters. The date tag is mislabeled “year” but the complete tagged date is displayed.

The tracknumber tag is ignored; recordings are sorted alphabetically by the title tag. This implies that an ordered collection (say, a series of lectures) should have the track number added to the beginning of the title in order to sort properly.

Replay gain tags are ignored, so you can’t take advantage of normalized volume across your collection or attempt to compensate for playback in a noisy environment. I work around this by using an audio editor such as Audacity to apply a compressor to overly quiet files. Doing so reveals another quirk: the player does not recognize tags written by Audacity. I do not know if the problem lies with Audacity or with the player, but a workaround is to open the file in a tag editor such as Ex Falso and re-save the tags.

BACKING UP AND SYNCHRONIZATION
See Alcatel’s synchronization FAQ and their synchronization software (Windows only).

CAMERA
Using default settings, JPEG images are produced at 640×480 pixels, 72 ppi, and weigh in at approximately 35 KB, a good size for mailing. The image is not very sharp and has no EXIF data. The default settings can be changed by pressing the unlabeled left context button while in viewfinder mode. The only setting I change is to store photos on the memory card rather than in the phone’s internal memory.

FEED READER
The feed reader supports the RSS 2.0 protocol over HTTP and HTTPS. Using HTTPS, an “unknown certificate” message will halt feed updates and require manual authorization even if previously authorized, so I prefer to avoid HTTPS here when practical. It does not support images in the feed, authenticated feeds of the form http://username:password@example.com/rss, or Atom protocol feeds.

“Error on downloading file” is an unhelpful message that sometimes indicates a configuration problem on your end and sometimes is due to a transient problem out of your control.

JAVA
The phone does not have Java, which I confirmed with the manufacturer in a private communication. On this point there is considerable confusion, because the 2006 model does. This really burns my toast: when I bought the phone my one and only requirement was that it have Java, because I don’t like OEM web browsers and want to run Opera Mini.

MAIL CLIENT
The mail client does not identify itself with an X-Mailer header, so I don’t know what it is. It sends in plain text, UTF-8. Using IMAP, it can access INBOX, INBOX.Sent, and INBOX.Drafts, and that’s all: not INBOX.Trash, not user-created folders on the server. The client also has a local outbox folder.

To CC or BCC recipients, or to add an attachment, select Options – Add anywhere in the outgoing message editor.

Deletion is permanent: messages are not sent to INBOX.Trash.

Reading incoming mail, it is limited to the first 1000 characters of the plain text portion of the body. It doesn’t do HTML mail or attachments — blessings in disguise, I say.

When replying, it top posts by default — ugh. It has an advanced option to reply without quoting, which is helpful when replying to lengthy messages that otherwise would fill the 1000 character limit and force you to trim quoted text before you could write. The only means of deletion is with the delete key, one character at a time, so replying without quoting can save a lot of tedium. Spell checking is not available.

MEMORY
The phone has one MicroSD slot which can accommodate one card up to 4 GB. The card seats deeply into the phone, so I find it helpful to use the tip of a mechanical pencil when inserting or removing the card. I do not know if it is hot pluggable, so to be safe I turn off the phone when inserting or removing a card.

When a new card is inserted in the phone for the first time, the following directories are created on it:

Audios/
  Melodies/
  Music/
  Recorded/
Creation/
Images/
Received/

The Audios/Music/ directory is where I place audio files for playback in the audio player. The Received/ directory contains any files you have downloaded from the Internet.

The Creation/ directory is where photos go if you choose to store them on the memory card instead of the phone’s internal memory.

WEB BROWSER
Browser Spy reports the following:

  • Accept Info – Types of encodings: No encodings detected (implying that compressed pages are not supported)
  • Environment Info – HTTP-ACCEPT=text/html, text/vnd.wap.wml, text/x-vcalendar, text/x-vcard, text/x-imelody, text/css, image/jpeg, image/gif, image/bmp, image/vnd.wap.wbmp, audio/midi, audio/x-midi, audio/mid, audio/wav, audio/x-wav, audio/sp-midi, audio/amr, application/vnd.wap.wmlc, application/vnd.oma.drm.message, application/vnd.oma.drm.content, application/vnd.wap.xhtml+xml, application/vnd.wap.hashed-certificate, application/vnd.wap.signed-certificate, application/vnd.wap.wtls-ca-certificate, application/x-x509-ca-cert, application/vnd.oma.dd+xml, application/xhtml+xml;profile=http://www.wapforum.org/xhtml, application/vnd.wap.mms-message, application/vnd.wap.wbxml, audio/mp3, audio/mpeg, */*
  • Environment Info – HTTP-ACCEPT-CHARSET=usf-8, utf-16, iso-8859-1, iso-8859-2, iso-8859-15, iso-10646-uss-2, us-ascii
  • Environment Info – HTTP-ACCEPT-LANGUAGE=en, en-US, en-GB, fr, es
  • Environment Info – HTTP-USER-AGENT=Alcatel-OT-355A/1.0ObigoInternetBrowser/QO3C
  • Environment Info – HTTP-X-WAP-PROFILE=http://www-ccpp.tcl.ta.com/files/ALCATEL-OT355A.rdf
  • Cookies: Supported
  • Text and format info – Types of alignment: Left, right
  • Text and format info – Types of formats: Italic, emphasis, underline, small, big
  • Redirection: Supported
  • HTTP password: Supported

REFERENCES
Alcatel OneTouch FAQ and contact form. Unlike many consumer goods companies, they reply, and (even more unusually) their replies are even helpful.

Phone specifications at GSM Arena (who get the credit for the photo illustrating this article)

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About Warren Post

So far: Customer support guy, jungle guide, IT consultant, beach bum, entrepreneur, teacher, diplomat, over-enthusiastic cyclist. Tomorrow: who knows?
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2 Responses to The Alcatel OT-355A mobile phone

  1. anonymous says:

    Alexandar Toshoski writes:Alcatel 355 A has slot for only one SIM card, while Alcatel 355 D has dual SIM slot. For other issuses, see Hiryki's blog.

  2. wpost says:

    Thanks, and a very special extra thanks for your comment on Hiroyuki's blog about the audio player's controls. I've added your information into this article.

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