The Orange Monte Carlo (nee the ZTE Skate) was released earlier this week, priced at a very attractive £150 (plus an obligatory £10 top up) on Orange pay-as-you-go.
It’s obvious that Orange is looking to repeat the trick of last year’s runaway hit, the Orange San Francisco. That phone was also priced super-competitively and it proved a success with buyers who lapped it up. The San Francisco too was manufactured by ZTE; it’s better known in some circles as the ZTE Blade.
So, then the Monte Carlo. It’s got a huge 4.3-inch touchscreen, a 5-megapixel camera with an LED Flash and it runs on Android 2.3 Gingerbread, the latest iteration of Android for phones. As it rus on Android, you get Google Maps, Gmail and all the usual Google goodies.
Kineto’s Smart Wi-Fi app also comes pre-installed. This app helps clear up reception problems in the home by using your home broadband wirelss router as a kind of extension of the mobile network. So the Monte Carlo gives you a taste of the smartphone experience for a considerably handsome price.
We also reckon that this will be a hit with modders who want an inexpensive Gingerbread phone to tinker with. Well, the Monte Carlo is exactly that.
Before we get on with the process of reviewing it, we’ll What’s in the box? it as usual, letting you know exactly what you get for your £150.
The Monte Carlo is a big old phone; it measures 10.4mm x 125.9mm x 67.8mm. It feels a little chunky and blocky in the hand but it’s not cumbersome and it feels solid.
Volume rocker up there on the left hand side.
The micro USB connection and power button sit on the opposite side. As you can see, the screen doesn’t have the best viewing angle but it’s not the worst we’ve seen on a budget phone.
As you’ve probably seen by now, you get three buttons along the bottom instead of the usual Android four; Home, Menu and Back.
A 3.5mm jack sits up there on the top.
The camera unit and flash, with an external speaker opposite.
The battery cover is shiny reflective plastic that’s a bit of a fingerprint magnet. Not as bad as the Xperia Play’s though.
Whenever you’re connected to a Wi-Fi point, the Signal Boost icon (a little green house – how cute) pops up in the notif bar to let you know it’s active.
Orange has not only pre-installed its usual retinue of apps on here (like the Orange Wednesdays app) but has redrawn several of the icons as well. Those four icons at the bottom (app launcher, messages, phone, contacts) remain with you as you pan across homescreens.
You get the basics bunged in; a standard USB cable that connects to a mains adapter for all your data and charging needs plus some free headphones.
A 2GB microSD card was included with our Monte Carlo. You can expand the memory (up to 32GB) with another card if you like. No luck hotswappers, you’ll have to dig that rather long-looking abttery out in order to get to the card slot.