Nokia's much-hyped N8 may be getting the lion's share of column inches right now, but that doesn't mean the firm is ignoring the other end of the mobile phone spectrum. The Nokia 1616 is a low-rent blower which makes calls and sends text messages, but does little else in between.
The Nokia 1616 is available for as little as £10 on pay as you go and can be obtained free of charge with many £10-a-month contracts. Buy it for around £24 SIM-free.
Communication on a shoestring
With its incredibly modest price tag, it's hard not to approach the Nokia 1616 in the same manner in which you'd treat any other piece of budget electrical equipment -- namely, with contempt.
Unashamedly aimed at the absolute bottom end of the mobile phone spectrum, the 1616 suffers from the same uninspiring build quality that afflicted its unfortunate sibling, the similarly named 1661. At just 78g, it's so light it feels like a child's plaything, and the cheap plastic exterior does little to install confidence. The casing is hardly what you'd describe as robust, and applying pressure on the back of the phone causes the battery cover to flex in an alarming fashion.
Mercifully, the 1616 isn't blighted with the same dodgy keypad that plagued the 1661. The all-in-one key mat is designed to keep out dust and is surprisingly comfortable to use. Sadly, the same can't be said for the direction pad, which is awkward to press and lacks a central 'enter' button, meaning you have to move your finger to the left-hand soft key to confirm your selection.
Under the bonnet, things remain distinctly unimpressive. Like the Samsung E1170, the Nokia 1616 lacks a camera or any kind of data connectivity, so sending photos to friends isn't an option -- although low-resolution monochrome picture messages are supported.
The complete absence of Internet connectivity is worth pointing out because the 1616's packaging misleadingly refers to the phone as an Ovi-enabled device, which suggests you can connect to the Ovi Store and download apps and games. This simply isn't the case.
Not on the menu
The 1616's menu system is painfully basic, even when compared to the bare-bones version witnessed on the 1661, but it's easy to find your way around. A sprinkling of intriguing options -- including a handy spreadsheet to keep track of your finances -- helps to add a little value. Because of its straightforward approach and bright, colourful TFT screen, we can certainly see the 1616 finding favour with less-experienced mobile users.
Interestingly, the 1616 boasts a 3.5mm headphone jack. As the packaging warns, however, this is only used to listen to the built-in FM radio. Like so many devices in this class, the phone is incapable of playing MP3 audio and relies solely on retro-sounding polyphonic tunes.
Aside from catching up on the latest episode of The Archers, you can also use the bundled headphones as a hands-free kit. This is a neat gesture as many rival phones, such as the aforementioned Samsung E1170, don't come pre-packed with such accessories.
Like the 1661, the 1616 has a flashlight built into the top of the phone. It throws out a surprisingly powerful beam, and is incredibly useful when you're attempting to locate items in the dark. Another unique feature is the talking clock, accessed by pressing the lower left-hand button on the key pad.
Despite packing a pathetic-sounding 800mAh, the 1616 has impressive stamina. Unlike modern smart phones, which can't be away from a wall charger for more than a day or so, this plucky device can last for days before needing a top up. It also offers an impressive amount of talk time.
With so many cheap phones on the market, it's hard to decide which offers the best deal. All of the phones we've reviewed recently have been seriously lacking in features, and the Nokia 1616 does nothing to buck this unwelcome trend. It's unquestionably competent when it comes to making phone calls and sending messages, however, and at the end of the day, that's what mobiles phones are for.
Although the Samsung E1170 is a more visually alluring proposition, there is actually very little between them. The Nokia 1616 takes the edge thanks to the inclusion of an FM radio, flashlight and bundled headset. If you're a Nokia fan with nothing but loose change to spare, we'd definitely pick this over the 1661, but don't go expecting a dazzling range of options.
Edited by Emma Bayly