Away from the smartphone milieu, prolific Samsung has fashioned a tidy line in affordable touchphones. The likes of the Genio duo, the Tocco Lite, the S5560 and catwalk-conscious Diva, has proved popular with the punters on a tight budget. Its latest tickler, the Monte, might just top the lot.
This handset weighs in with the holy trinity of connectivity options – HSDPA, Wi-Fi and A-GPS. Hardly revelatory stuff in this mobile age but when you consider it hovers around the £150 prepay mark and is free on an ultra-affordable £10-a-month tariff, the Monte starts to look like a sweet deal.
This touchphone also ranks as one of Samsung’s most stylish touchphones to date with a lovely contoured rear battery bonnet and slick two-tone trim. Thankfully, there’s also no sign of prepay creak and its plastic frame is very pocket-friendly and lightweight.
The Monte is fronted by the latest version of Samsung’s lucid TouchWiz UI; this means peppering the three sliding homescreens with widgets while the main menu layout has a faint whiff of the iPhone about it, with icons spread over three panels.
It proves great to navigate around, helped enormously by the very responsive 3in capacitive touchscreen. It’s not outrageously sensitivity but certainly receptive enough to not to elicit obscenities that some lower-league touchphones can’t help but provoke.
The most popular widgets are destined to be Facebook and Twitter and whereas the Facey-B widget is built around a pre-installed app – you can send missives and update your status from the homescreen – Twitter shows top-line micro-messages but forces you to hop online to replay or send tweets.
Perhaps due to the relatively compact screen size there’s no landscape QWERTY – the accelerometers are put to use auto-rotating the screen when web browsing and watching videos – but we found tapping out messages via the traditional onscreen keypad very nippy.
Most would look to the onboard Wi-Fi to crank up web browsing speeds but it comes into its own when downloading data-rich videos from the pre-installed BBC iPlayer app (a widget provides a shortcut to this service).
Despite some digital noise, picture quality is surprisingly sharp and hugely watchable, although the bijou screen size limits prolonged viewing sessions.
Samsung’s proprietary Flash-supporting web browser also out-performs expectation, proving quick to load full-fat web pages over HSDPA while its single finger zoom operation providing a great deal of control and speed.
With no compatible third-party sat-nav software, the onboard A-GPS is used in tandem with Google Maps and is fine for basic directions and finding your mates’ locations via Latitude. Lest we forget, it’s also on hand to geo-tag your photos.
Along with the ropy QVGA-quality at 15fps video recording, the Monte’s biggest disappointment falls with the rudimentary fixed focus 3.2MP camera.
If conditions are spot-on then picture results aren’t too shabby – but perhaps after being dealt impressive connectivity suite we expected more. Autofocus would have been nice.
Still, photo quality is good enough for posting your adventures to the web and uploading to your Facebook, Flickr, Picasa and Photobucket among others is quick and easy from the camera menu.
On paper, when marked against its asking price, the Monte’s feature line-up, especially on the connectivity front, goes beyond the call of duty. But it also backs up its value-for-money tag with a classy performance. It’s a phone you’d be proud to whip out next to your smartphone-wielding friends.