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REVIEW: Telstra’s $99 Smart-touch smartphone

Telstra recently shook up the mobile market with a $99 smartphone, the Smart-Touch. But after a few days using the phone we feel it's far from the smartest phone we've ever used.

When Telstra announced a $99 smartphone, the Smart-Touch, last March, we had hopes it might just be the smartphone for the masses.

Now that we’ve used one for a few days, we feel it may instead be the smartphone to inspire mass apathy.

The phone looks nice enough and has decent specifications including a 3.2 megapixel camera, 2.8 inch screen and the Android operating system.

But it just isn’t much fun to use.

You can put the blame for that squarely on the phone’s touch-screen, which is maddeningly unresponsive. There’s a horribly thin line between pressing it too softly – which produces no results - and pressing it too hard which sets it spinning way past the function you want to activate. Sometimes you'll try to scroll and an app will open instead.

To help things along the phone comes with a stylus that you tap on the screen. We’ve checked and the need for a stylus wasn’t mentioned in any of the promotional material distributed to the media at launch, probably because styli are a relic on the early 2000s when touch screens weren’t as good as they are now. The stylus helps to make the phone a bit more usable, but also adds a layer of confusion as you juggle it and the touch-screen.

But even with the stylus helping things along, we keep getting back to the dud of a screen, which has wan colours, a narrow viewing angle and produces nasty grainy photos on top of its touchy problems.

The interface is also a tad confusing: it's hard to find the phone dialer which is surely a big no-no for a phone of any sort!

After a while you’ll get used to the phone’s quirks and probably get some decent value out of it. Email works well, we had no trouble transferring music and sound quality was good. The various Telstra apps perform as advertised and the Android experience remains pleasant even if it is a good-sized rung below the sophistication and slickness of the iPhone.

But we just cannot imagine you’ll ever end up loving this phone.

To be fair, we didn’t expect a $99 phone to offer the slickest of experiences. We can therefore imagine that this handset could be good if your phone breaks and you have a few months to go on a contract: it’ll tide you over in that role, or could be a decent phone to have as a spare mobile around the office.

But as your main phone? No way.