There are many phones that try to blind us with science and attempt to push the envelope to find yet more uses and functionality for our pocket pals. And there are some phones that really just want to be phones. Somewhere between two is the Samsung Monte Slider, which does a pretty good job of being a neat little phone, but comes a cropper when it tries to get above itself.
The original Monte was a mid-level smartphone with some good features and a sensible price. But what’s in a name? Well, not much going by this example, since virtually none of the Monte Slider’s specs match those of its popular predecessor. Make no mistake, this is an extremely basic phone, though it does have a few smart pretensions.
It’s a good-looking device, snappily turned out in gloss black with smoothly rounded curves and measuring an extremely pocket-friendly 99 x 49 x 14mm and 84g. It feels solidly put together too and fits nicely in the palm.
Samsung’s own (i.e., not USB) power/sync slot is on the side covered by a solid plastic grommet and as the name suggests, the top slides up to reveal a standard 12-button keypad. The buttons are flush but big enough to find easily under the thumb and there’s a satisfying amount of travel when you push them. Texting and email messaging therefore is fine, but the speaker sounded a bit distorted during voice calls.
Under the back cover there’s a microSD slot that that will allow you to add up to 8GB to the measly 15MB of onboard memory, though none is supplied. Something else that isn’t supplied is a data cable for syncing to your PC - if you want to swap media or sync your contacts, you’ll need to invest in one as an optional extra.
The 2-inch non-touch screen sports a relatively low resolution of 128 x 160 pixels with resultant images that tend to look fuzzy and unfocused - even the numbers when you’re dialling. Beneath it are two soft keys, call start and stop buttons and a pleasingly asymmetric D-pad.
The 1.3-megapixel camera seems like a throwback to another age. Maximum picture size is 1280 x 960 pixels and the only extras are a night mode setting and a timer, with frames and effects thrown in. That said, picture quality is surprisingly good considering the low resolution, with decent colour balance and contrast. That’s not to say it can compete with 5- and 8-megapixel cameras on many modern handsets, but it will do for quick snaps.
With no 3G or Wi-Fi, surfing the Internet is a laborious business, and to make matters worse, the browser seemed to have trouble rendering pages. It showed the Guardian’s new stories in type that was big enough to read comfortably, but made the site all but impossible to navigate.
There are Facebook and Google apps on board, but the screen’s low resolution makes checking your updates, and indeed your emails, a bit of a pain. There’s also a cache of web links to Facebook, MySpace, Picasa and others for uploading pics and updates, but the slow internet access makes using them a bit of a chore.
The music player is basic in the extreme and not particularly intuitive to navigate - changing albums or artists involves a lot of unnecessary fiddling with menus. The supplied headphones are nasty and tinny but you’re stuck with them since they connect via Samsung’s own port interface rather than a generic 3.5mm headphone jack. There’s an FM radio on board though, which is basic, but okay.
The battery held up pretty well, and we got a good 4 days of moderate use out of it - something you won’t get with a true smartphone, but then you’re likely to use a real smartphone a lot more.
The Monte Slider is a good-looking basic phone, and it has a few nice features, at least on paper. The trouble is that they’re not very good, so it acts less as a gateway model to the smartphone universe, more of a gatekeeper likely to persuade you don’t really need this fancy stuff ‘cos it will just get on your nerves.