The Monte from Samsung is one of an increasing number of mid- to low-end touchscreen handsets. It looks quite good at first glance, but in fact, when you start to get under the hood, the Monte is very much a case of you getting what you pay for. And in smartphone terms, you aren’t paying a lot here. You can work the rest out, probably.
The first glance information is unerringly positive. There is HSDPA, Wi-Fi and GPS, the three elements that help make up a smartphone’s credentials these days. Social networking is to the fore with Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and Bebo all supported. Anyone wanting to use this handset in a business context will find Microsoft Exchange is also supported.
But there are creaks and cracks in this handset’s make-up from the very first moment it comes out of its box. The first thing you notice about any phone is its chassis design and this one is not so hot. The orange sides to our review sample were eye-catching, but the build quality is not very good.
The real problem though, is the screen. It measures three inches across diagonal corners, which is a good dimension for a touchscreen. Its 240 x 400 pixels aren’t leading edge, but offer a fair resolution considering the price of this phone.
The screen is capacitive and pretty responsive to finger taps, but it doesn’t support multitouch. This means there is no ‘pinch to zoom’ support. This is most noticeable when Web browsing where you have to use a rather cack-handed zooming system. We didn’t enjoy it.
What is really annoying on the user interface front is the absence of a QWERTY keypad for text entry in wide screen mode. In both tall and wide modes there is just a standard phone keypad arrangement. Working at speed to write texts and emails isn’t really possible with this arrangement.
There are three home screens between which you flick with a finger. You can pull widgets onto these. The old slide-out widget sidebar is gone, and instead you drag widgets from a popup menu. Each home screen has a button which takes you to the main apps menu, leaving the large button beneath the screen to function simply as a back button.
The 3.2-megapixel camera is without a flash, so shots taken indoors are not particularly good at the best of times. Smile shot and face detection are handy, but really the camera is quite basic.
There are things to like. Samsung’s neat Smart Unlock system is here: you can draw a character on the screen and unlock the handset directly into an application. It is a bit of a gimmick, sure, but it does work well and will save you vital milliseconds of time on occasions.
We also like the 3.5mm headset slot perched on the top edge of the handset. This is the type of headset slot all phones should have, and it is in the perfect position. Samsung even manages to provide a fairly capable headset with round in-ear buds that stay put.
There’s 200MB of built-in memory, and you can boost this with a microSD card whose slot is very accessible under a cover on the right edge of the chassis.
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