With the new iPhone having just been released, and the constantly growing abundance of Android phones on the market, for those looking for a new phone it can be irritatingly complex trying to choose the right one. There are some which are fairly pretentious, attempting to rival the likes of the iPhone 4, Nexus One and HTC Desire without much success and there are those which simply don’t make the most of the resources available to them, such as the Sony Ericsson Satio or Aino. However, after testing the Samsung Monte (S5620) for just a few days, I really feel as though I’ve stumbled across a hidden gem.
So why is the Samsung Monte so special you may ask? Well, not only does it come packed in a comfortable and compact form factor; it doesn’t look half bad either. With the majority of the casing being a glossy black and the sides, speaker and the edges of the buttons wearing a contrasting silver finish, it perhaps won’t be the first phone which leaps off of the shelf at you, but at the same time you certainly won’t attract many peculiar looks with it pressed against your ear or held in your hand.
Furthermore, the sleek phone has a real sense of identity. It just appears to know its own capabilities whilst all the while knowing its limits too. Processing speed, memory and the likes are far from the forefront of the phones spec lists and promotions, multitasking is a no-no, but a huge array of applications and expert social integration makes all of that completely unnecessary in the Samsung Monte.
As I have already touched upon, the phone is centred around social networking, so how this relates to the hardware is a desperate need for network connectivity on the move. Happily, not only does the Samsung Monte boast Wi-Fi connectivity, HSDPA 3.6Mbps is also built in for real mobile connectivity. Both of which perform as you would expect, however obviously it is dependant on the network you are using.
Aside from connectivity, the phone has a relatively modest 3.2 megapixel camera with Smile Shot, delaying the snap until it detects a smile, which could really do with some sort of lens cover, but is ultimately as good as you could imagine for a budget phone.
The 3.0” touch-screen is hardly the most spacious you will come across, but provides ample room for browsing the web, checking e-mail etc. the WQVGA LCD capacitive screen is extremely responsive and vastly superior to many resistive screens I have used in the past.
Some other interesting and useful features hardware-wise is the inclusion of a Micro-SD slot which can obviously be used to expand the limited internal storage, a 3.5mm headphone jack and a mini-USB port found on the top of the device.
Aesthetically, I have already sung the Samsung Monte’s praises, however it is worth mentioning that the glossy finish can after even a short period of use become smeared with fingerprints, dirty marks and other unwelcome blemishes.
This is where the Monte really comes into its own. Again with a definite social networking aspect, featuring more apps by default than the iPhone including Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Bebo, Friendster, Photobucket, Flickr, Picasa, Instant Messaging, Google Search and Mail, as well as Yahoo Search, BBC iPlayer, a music player, FM Radio and several games. That’s not all of them either but I fear a bout of RSI should I list them all.
All of these apps are accessible through the main menu, however another great addition to the phones TouchWiz UI is a favourite of Samsung of late, is the inclusion of widgets which you can add to the home screen simply via opening up a menu on the home screen itself. Simplicity is key and it delivers extremely well. Once the widgets for sites such as iPlayer, Facebook or tools such as Wi-Fi or Google Search are added, they are accessible through any of the three home screens which you can navigate between by a simple swipe on the 3” Touch-Screen in either direction and widgets are easily arranged too using a drag & drop method.
Other great software packed into the phone is the Internet browser which although functional is unfortunately fairly limited in terms of space due to the small screen. However, for locating some information on the web is easily done, and due to the specifically designed apps, most of the social side of the web isn’t even necessary. In addition to that you have GPS software, which makes use of the necessary hardware.
So, a vast collection of applications, the majority of which centred around social networking, the Samsung Monte (S5620) is very much a contender in the mobile phone market. You can buy the phone (sim-free) for under £150 from Amazon, a bargain when you consider the level at which it delivers probably the greatest range of social networking applications on any phone, all free of charge.
Though not the most spectacular set of spec you have ever come across, the innards of the Monte are more than capable of handling your social stuff, which ultimately is the entire purpose. The camera is also sufficient for the odd snap and making phone calls is as good as should be expected.
What is important is your level of expectancy with this phone. For under £150 you are not going to get the level of quality or functionality you find in the likes of the iPhone or Nexus One, but the Samsung Monte (S5620) provides a good enough mix of quality hardware and vast quantities of functional software and won’t leave you disappointed.