Samsung Monte

Style & Handling Summary for Samsung Monte
It looks expensive, but pick the Samsung Monte up and it feels insubstantial and flimsy.
Samsung Monte

User Friendliness Summary for Samsung Monte
We like the updated TouchWiz interface, but the lack of a QWERTY keyboard hampers the experience.

Feature Set Summary for Samsung Monte
The Monte’s features belie its price tag: a three-inch capacitive touch-screen, A-GPS, Wi-Fi and HSDPA internet connectivity and social networking shortcuts.

Performance Summary for Samsung Monte
The Samsung Monte struggles to support its software, and internet especially can be slow.

Battery Power Summary for Samsung Monte
298 minutes’ talktime is around average.

Full Review and Specification for the Samsung Monte

Touch-screen phones are rolling off of Samsung’s production line in a steady stream at the moment. The latest is the Monte, another phone being marketed by Samsung as an affordable touch-screen phone. Only this one has a lots going on, including a capacitive touch-screen.

Style and handling on the Samsung Monte

The Samsung Monte most closely resembles the Samsung Jet in appearance, with its shiny black finish and silver trim (it’s also available with orange trim if you prefer), although its corners are more tucked away. It’s a sleek-looking handset all in all – it’s only when you pick it up that it betrays its low price point. The lightweight, plasticky feel of the Monte in your hand feels flimsy, and we doubt it could withstand much in the way of knocks and bumps.

The screen measures a comfortable three inches, so we can’t work out why Samsung omitted to include a virtual QWERTY keyboard. Even when you’re using the phone in landscape mode, you have to rely on T9 predictive text, with a keyboard squeezed into the right-hand side. This is particularly difficult when trying to enter a web address, for example, but Samsung have included handy dedicated keys for ‘www’ and ‘.com’ to make the going easier. Still, we would much prefer a QWERTY keyboard.

Capacitive touch-screen on the Samsung Monte

Most lower-priced touch-screen phones come with the cheaper but inferior resistive screen; the Samsung Monte, however, boasts a capacitive screen. This is a far superior option, letting you scroll pages or move icons with a light swipe of your hand. It’s especially good when you swipe between the three customisable home screens; and you can flick around the screens in a continuous line, not have to go backwards once you’ve reached the third screen.

Despite the capacitive screen, though, there’s no multi-touch facility, which is a shame.

Like most Samsung phones, the TouchWiz user interface is installed, although the pull-out sidebar has been replaced by a widget icon on the top left of the home screen. Press the icon to reveal a scrollable menu at the bottom of the screen. It’s not unlike the old system – you still drag and drop your selected icons onto the preferred home screen – but it’s a welcome update to the sidebar system, which we felt had become dated.

Internet on the Samsung Monte

We were delighted to find that the Samsung Monte has both HSDPA and Wi-Fi internet connectivity; in a phone costing less than £100, that’s a good deal. So it was a little disappointing when the web experience was less than impressive. Images weren’t as crisp as we would have expected, and even over a Wi-Fi connection pages struggled to load while we were scrolling. Things got much better when we opted for the mobile-optimised versions of websites, especially image-heavy pages – they loaded much quicker and the end result was sharper. Saying that, though, streamed programmes through BBC iPlayer worked beautifully with no buffering and no lag.

Zooming in and out was problematic too. You don’t have the familiar option of using the volume keys, so have to hold your finger on the screen and slide up to zoom in and down to zoom out again. It’s fine in theory, but if our fingers slipped we found ourselves inadvertently opening hyperlinks.

We’ve come to expect social networking integration on phone these days, and the Monte provides shortcuts to Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. You can publish feeds directly to the home screen but if you want to update them you have to do it manually by pressing the green refresh button on the screen.

Instant messaging is also well covered. The superb Palringo application is preloaded, which aggregates Facebook Chat, Windows Live Messenger and Yahoo! Messenger. It works well, but remember that you’ll be typing on a T9 keypad.

Camera on the Samsung Monte

The camera is an average 3.2 megapixels with no flash, so isn’t about to replace your digital camera. The lens also protrudes from the body of the phone slightly, leaving a worrying potential for damage. There are lots of handy settings, though, including a particularly good Sports setting that helps to capture moving objects. The video camera isn’t half bad either, and can be launched easily by pressing the icon in the top left-hand corner.

The onboard A-GPS finds a fix quickly and routes just as rapidly. Google Maps helps you find your way, while Google Latitude lets you display your location to selected contacts as well as seeing theirs.

The verdict on the Samsung Monte

Despite its high-end features like the capacitive screen, Wi-Fi and HSDPA, and A-GPS, you have to keep in mind that the Samsung Monte is a low-cost phone. The features are a great addition to a handset costing under £100, the bodywork feels cheap and the features fail to reach their potential. However, think of it as a budget phone with extras, and you’ll feel much happier.