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Alcatel Onetouch A392A Cell Phone

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It entailed no mean effort to convince the sales-rodent at Wal-Mart that I really wanted something other than a smart phone. “You understand it can’t run apps,” he reminded me for the fifth time as he reluctantly applied a magnetic key to the security device that locked the packaging for the Alcatel Onetouch. I resisted the urge to reply that my toaster can’t run apps either, but that it succeeds in performing the function for which it was purchased with commendable success just the same.

“It’s just a… y’know… phone,” he said with obvious dismay.

The Alcatel Onetouch A392A is, to be sure, just a phone. It’s one of a diminishing palette of simple cellular devices that make phone calls and provide a reasonable number of ancillary functions. Most cellular networks offer one such phone for sale, presumably to illustrate how much more useful an iPhone and a data plan would be. I’m pretty sure they don’t intend anyone to actually buy such a device.

I should probably note that I don’t own a smart phone, and I feel no detectable regret at the absence of one. A small phone that fits in my pocket, exhibits reliable reception even deep into the boreal hinterland, can suffer modest abuse without imploding and has sufficient audio quality to be able to make out what whoever I’m calling has to say strikes me as all I could ask of this technology. Mastering Angry Birds has never truly inspired me.

The Alcatel Onetouch A392A is a classic flip phone, a “clamshell” case that unfolds to reveal its screen and its key pad. Flip phones have a long tradition, at least as technology goes – legend has it that Martin Cooper, the engineer who first conceived of and implemented cellular telephones in the 1970s, was inspired to do so by watching Captain Kirk communicating with his space ship through such a device on Star Trek. This said, the first commercial cell phone, the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X that appeared a decade later, looked more like a brick with an antenna.

Compared to its distant ancestor, the Alcatel Onetouch is almost weightless. It has a large, bright screen and buttons that can be operated without the need for surgery to reduce the diameter of your fingers. It’s dead easy to use.

In addition to serving as a phone, the Alcatel Onetouch includes pretty much every dedicated phone gadget imaginable. Its user interface makes operating all its ancillary toys decidedly effortless. There’s even a button on the side of the device to call up its camera at a moment’s notice.

As the ratings grid at the beginning of this post likely suggests, the only genuinely unfortunate aspect of the Alcatel Onetouch is its documentation… or rather, the almost complete lack thereof. While experienced users of cellular phone technology will likely be able to work around its terse and somewhat diminutive manual to access its basic features, you might experience a bit of screaming before you get all its toys into the box.

Ring Tone

I bought my new phone outright, rather than receiving it at no cost as part of a monthly billing package, because I use a “pay-as-you-go” plan. While receiving an ostensibly free phone when you commit to a two-year billing plan feels like winning at the time, the actual cost of the phone will be worked into your subsequent monthly bills – usually several times over.

I should also note that as of this writing, the Alcatel Onetouch A392A would have cost $80, plus ten dollars for a SIM card, had it been bought directly from my cellular carrier. The same phone with a SIM card cost $68 from Wal-Mart.

By comparison, the Motorola KRZR phone it was replacing – due to imminent demise of the CDMA network that supported my previous device – cost about $500 back in the day.

My Alcatel Onetouch was boxed by Telus Mobility, the cellular carrier I’ve used for well over a decade. The box included the phone itself, a battery, a charger, a tiny “quick start” manual – abuse to be heaped upon it presently – and a SIM card. Connecting the phone to the rest of the universe involved:

  1. Opening the box and extracting the stuff therein.
  2. Removing the back of the phone and installing the SIM card and the battery.
  3. Logging into my existing Telus account and entering the number for the new SIM card.

Easily the least demanding activation of anything more complex than a bar of soap, it all took about three minutes and worked flawlessly the first time. I should qualify this to some extent – I’ve done this before for other cellular devices, and in that I was merely changing devices for an existing account, there was no formal registration to work through.

I was immediately impressed with the ability of my new phone to provide laser-sharp speech quality even when it was confronted with the most ephemeral signal strength imaginable – we’re well into the bush, and things get ephemeral here pretty quickly.

The first thing I noticed about the Alcatel Onetouch when I initially powered it up was its introductory song, which it played at a genuinely frightening volume. It could have stopped the hearts of unsuspecting users. I consulted the Quick Start Guide included with the packaging to see how it might be silenced, or at the very least, changed to something less thunderous. The hitherto unnoticed documentation for my new phone quickly asserted its true personality.

Consisting of 40 matchbox-size pages of tiny type – only about half of which are actually instructions for operating the phone – the Quick Start Guide for the Alcatel Onetouch is a masterpiece of brevity. Had it been any briefer, I could have licked the back of it and used it to snail-mail a letter. It lacks explanations for many aspects of configuring and using this device.

Fortunately, the Quick Start Guide notes on its cover that a “complete user manual” for the Alcatel Onetouch is available at Alcatel’s web page. Less fortunately, such a manual doesn’t actually exist. I eventually e-mailed Alcatel’s support staff, who confirmed that the Quick Start Guide is as good as it gets.

As it turns out, reducing the volume of the phone’s ring tones also reduces the volume of its opening anthem – I found it possible to arrive at a reasonable volume that worked for both.

Bereft of a comprehensive manual, exploring the laudable palette of features of the Alcatel Onetouch quickly proved to resemble wandering through the downtown of an unspecified city without a map, GPS receiver or much command of the local language. I discovered, for example, that it was possible to program the numeric keys of the phone to call for features such as the internal camera and calculator if they’re pressed and held. The documentation makes no mention of this facility.

Once all its secrets have been unearthed, the Alcatel Onetouch proves to offer pretty much every feature you could ask of a cellular telephone. In addition to just being able to place and receive calls, it includes:

  • A 2 megapixel still camera.
  • A 30 frame-per-second video camera that can be pressed into service as a webcam.
  • An FM radio, albeit only if you plug a headset into the phone.
  • A calculator.
  • A calendar.
  • A web browser – which I admittedly haven’t tried.
  • A picture viewer.
  • A music player.
  • A video player.
  • A voice recorder.
  • An alarm clock.
  • A world time clock.
  • A stopwatch.
  • A unit converter.
  • A number of dedicated web-based applications, such as news and weather, which, once again, I haven’t used.

The Alcatel Onetouch supports GSM on the 1900, 850, 1800 and 900 megahertz bands, and UMTS on 850 and 1900 megahertz. It supports HSPA. It also features Bluetooth support, and there’s space for an internal micro SD card with up to 32 megabytes of memory. The phone can be charged and its internal folders accessed through a standard micro-USB connector.

The phone includes a large contacts list – I’m not sure how large, as I haven’t managed to fill it as yet – and it can maintain its contacts both in its own memory and in its SIM card, should you have cause to change phones or carriers periodically.

The user interface of the Alcatel Onetouch is nicely thought-out, and largely intuitive right out of the box. You can configure its theme to your taste, and it offers a number of canned themes for use in extreme lighting conditions. It allows for up to five on-screen selectable icons to access its more commonly-used features. You can also, as noted earlier, assign pretty much anything it knows how to do to its numeric keys.

The keypad keys of the Alcatel Onetouch are large, comfortable and they have a positive tactile feel when they’re depressed. They unquestionably beat trying to touch the imaginary keys displayed on the glass screen of a smart phone. Its case has a robust, solid feel that suggests the phone’s ability to survive well past its two-year warranty with ease.

There’s a second, external display at the front of the phone that will show you who’s calling before you open the phone to answer it.

The battery provided with the Alcatel Onetouch is substantial – it promises four hours of talk time and up to 240 hours in standby.

The Alcatel Onetouch is available in any color you like, as long as you really like black.

My Telus Onetouch came locked to the Telus network. Telus will unlock it for $35 as of this writing – a few seconds with Google found a number of suppliers of unlock codes for this device at about fifteen dollars.

Were it not for its negligible documentation, this phone would be perfect. It’s small, light, inexpensive, easy to use and it looks slightly sinister. If you really just want a cellular telephone to use as a telephone, its lack of a serious manual probably won’t be an issue – it’s genuinely simple enough not to require one. In the event that you intend to access its many additional features, plan on a few hours of digging before you get them all completely surrounded.

Comments (4)

Jon PearkinsApril 28th, 2016 at 6:24 pm

I just received one of these phones for free as a long-standing Prepaid customer of TELUS. The SIM card was also free.

The best part is that TELUS grandfathered me into my existing $10/month Prepaid plan.

Unlike the author of this blog page, this was a biggie for me: “As it turns out, reducing the volume of the phone’s ring tones also reduces the volume of its opening anthem – I found it possible to arrive at a reasonable volume that worked for both.”

It is my wife’s phone, but I prefer to use it for listening to voice mail or making voice calls over my smartphone. So, I leave it powered off. Even at lowest ringer volume, the Power On “anthem” is much too loud for a restaurant environment. Which means I have to turn the Ringer completely off for my use, but have to remember to turn it way up when my wife has the phone powered on while she is shopping alone.

All that said, being forced to give up a 9 year old Samsung clamshell because CDMA is going away in June at TELUS, makes me very happy that something so similar in usage is still available and capable of something newer than CDMA.

AndrejaSeptember 8th, 2016 at 7:14 pm

This is very well written comment about phone. So there is NO way to completely remove that crescendo of opening song when phone is turned on/off. That sucks. Lowering sound doesn’t work cause phone is for my parents so they are not going to hear ringer if volume is less than 6. Wonder if there is any other way around.

MartinNovember 25th, 2016 at 2:57 pm

Put your finger over the slot in the back that the sound comes out of when turning on or off.

Be sure to place the phone face-down on the bedside table when using it as a wake-up alarm, otherwise the slot will be blocked and you might not wake up!

MauriceFebruary 11th, 2018 at 1:12 am

I bought this phone recently at a Walmart and although I’m not a telus customer, I was able to buy the phone, have the rep unlock it for me for free and off I go with a new phone on my plan, which gives me unlimited everything for $35 except data which I don’t care for since I have a Laptop and a smartphone, which I rarely use. I also put a memory card into my Alcatel, so even though some people make fun of me for my humble phone, they immediately shut up when they find out my phone has way more memory than theirs, and although my phone is good for 4 hours of talk time, it is automatically jacked up to just over 12 hours with the battery pack I carry with me in my jacket. So basically, my humble phone is a superphone given just a few adjustments, which far surpasses my friends ‘smartphones’ which is always updating and running an anti-virus/ phone cleaning apps while my phone gives me no such headaches only hours of great music which is on my SD card. My phone, along with my phone plan, is an awesome combo and I wouldn’t change it for the world!! I can call and text anyone anywhere for $35. We have too many smartphone zombies out there as it is!!!