Not a month seems to pass without Samsung pushing another cut-price phone onto the market, and the E1080 is the latest addition to the rapidly overcrowding stable. Boasting a surprisingly sturdy exterior with very basic features, it's hardly going to steal any of Windows Phone 7's thunder, but it could be the ideal solution for adventurous outdoor types who want strong battery life, core functionality and brawny design.
The E1080 is available from around £10 on pay as you go and £20 SIM-free.
Few companies are as staunchly committed to the budget mobile market as Samsung. While the Korean manufacturer is happy to support the cutting edge of the market with the likes of Android and Microsoft's recently launched Windows Phone 7, it's just as keen to help out those financially challenged consumers out there. Over the past few months, we've seen a handful of bargain-basement blowers from Samsung, such as the E1150 and E1170. Now, it's time for the E1080 -- also known as the Keystone -- to take centre stage.
The E1080 bears more than a passing resemblance to its
candybar cousin, the E1170. The button layout is nearly identical, although it
has to be said, the E1080 is less visually appealing. The direction key lacks the silver accent of the E1170, replaced by a less eye-catching shade of blue.
There's also a ring of blue plastic that runs around the edge of the handset, giving it a rather cheap and nasty appearance. To top it all off, the alphanumeric keypad is a one-piece rubberised mat and, although it will undoubtedly withstand a good punishing, it's unpleasant to use.
The E1170 wasn't exactly the Rolls Royce of mobile phones, but it did, at least, give the impression it was punching above its weight in aesthetic terms. The E1080, on the other hand, boasts an overall appearance that is more in line with its incredibly modest price tag. This is a phone built to last, rather than to dazzle. Its functional design motives are reinforced by the presence of a handy sliding cover to protect the phone's charging port, which prevents dust and fluff from getting inside the phone.
Internally, the E1080 is practically the same as its cheap and cheerful stablemates. The operating system is indistinguishable from that of the E1170, with the same menu layout, customisation options and pre-loaded applications. 'Mobile tracker' makes a welcome return, allowing you to retrieve your handset should it get lost or stolen. Once activated, it will send a message to a pre-selected number should anyone try to insert a different SIM into your phone.
Can't fake it
Curiously, 'fake call' -- an ever-present feature of many of the Samsung phones we've reviewed recently -- wasn't present on the handset we reviewed, despite being listed on the packaging and in the instruction manual. According to the instructions, the application is accessed by holding down the navigation key when the phone is in idle mode, but as much as we tried, we were unable to get it to work.
Elsewhere on the E1080, you'll find Super Jewel Quest, another familiar friend from past Samsung ventures. When playing this enjoyable puzzle game, you'll realise that the phone's spongy control pad actually makes sense -- it's comfortable to use and incredibly responsive.
The rather pokey 128x128-pixel display is exactly what you'd expect from a device in this class -- it's blurry, lacks contrast and has pretty poor colour balance. We've certainly seen worse in our time, but the E1080's outdated screen isn't going to dazzle many mobile phoners.
It would be remiss of us to not point out the lack of a camera on the E1080, but to be honest, this is a common characteristic with the vast majority of low-cost devices. There's also no 3G or GPRS data connectivity to speak of, so you can't surf the Internet or send MMS messages. As long as you're not looking to do anything other than making calls and sending standard text messages, this shouldn't present an issue.
The obvious upshot of this humble technological configuration is absurdly impressive battery life. This fits perfectly with the E1080's status as a rugged device that can be taken away on camping trips, where the last thing you need to worry about is charging it up or being overly concerned should you happen to drop it.
The Samsung E1080 is essentially a more robust and less visually alluring partner to the surprisingly lush E1170. It has practically the same internal specifications, but there are some rather unwelcome differences in the software -- namely the omission of the 'fake call' facility, something we admit we find more useful than expected.
Bearing this in mind, the E1080's natural competitors are its closest relations -- the E1170 (which has the same candybar form factor) and the E1150 (which is a flip phone). If you're shopping on a budget, or crave a spare handset with more stamina and resilience than your beloved iPhone or HTC Desire HD, the E1080 represents an inexpensive solution.
Edited by Emma Bayly