The Samsung Tocco Lite 2 offers a very basic smart phone experience for a teeny price. It runs not on Android, or even Windows Phone, but Samsung's own operating system, bada. This gives you access to a basic app store and some smart phone features such as social networking and web browsing.
With a diddy, low-resolution 3-inch touchscreen, a 3.2-megapixel camera and a single-core processor, the Tocco Lite 2 offers nothing in the way of exciting new technology -- it's aimed squarely at a budget-strained buyer looking for rudimentary smart phone features.
The Tocco Lite 2 is available SIM-free for around £70 or on pay as you go from £55.
Should I buy the Samsung Tocco Lite 2?
The Tocco Lite 2 has been a long time coming, and now it's here, it's hard to tell what we've been waiting for. It might give you some idea of just how behind the times this handset is to know that while its predecessor, the Tocco Lite, came out in 2009, there's little significant difference between the two. A three-year gap and a light year's worth of technological innovation has gone unnoticed.
Don't be fooled by the Tocco Lite 2's price tag -- there's no bargain to be snapped up here. For around the same price, you could bag an Android phone with 3G functionality, more power and access to the Google Play store, with its hundreds of thousands of apps. Take a look at the T-Mobile Vivacity, or even the Huawei Ascend G300, which offer you significantly more machine for your moolah.
Obviously, not everyone wants an Android phone, so perhaps also keep an eye on some of the cheaper Windows Phone handsets, which are likely to drop steeply in price following the imminent release of the updated operating system.
It's hard to work out who, if anyone, this phone would be perfect for. If you're not bothered about web browsing and social networking, but want a phone that gets the job done, grab yourself a competent feature phone. If you've got any kind of interest in either of the above activities, even if you're a first-time smart phone buyer, the Tocco Lite 2 is likely to confuse and frustrate you. It may even put you off using a smart phone altogether.
Design and build
With its tiny 3-inch screen and rounded corners and back, the Samsung Galaxy Tocco Lite 2 is charming enough and wins a few points for cuteness, even if it is a little dull. It's borrowed from that black and silver minimalist rectangular look that was first sported by the iPhone, then the Samsung Galaxy S2, and then by swathes of Android copyists since.
In all fairness, this does -- from a distance -- make the phone look more expensive than it is. The shiny silver plastic rim around the front edge does cheapen the effect somewhat close up though.
The Tocco Lite 2 has been taking serious design tips from the more recent Galaxy models, even sporting the distinctive rectangular Samsung home button -- although, it not being an Android phone, it does not operate as such. Frustratingly for anyone who is familiar with any of Samsung's Android phones, this important-looking, prominently positioned key is nothing but a back button. The touch key to the right performs the job of the home button -- as well as being one of two call buttons, with the end-call button taking pride of place on the left.
The rear is clad in the same grey plastic textured finish as the Samsung Galaxy S Advance and features a 3.2-megapixel camera in the top left-hand corner. On the bottom of the backplate is a small chin that does a good job of making holding onto this tiny blower more comfortable.
At 11.5mm thick, the Tocco Lite 2 is not the skinniest of minnies, but seeing as it's only slightly bigger than a credit card, it needs the extra pounds around the waist, or you'll constantly be patting down your pocket wondering where the heck it's gone.
Despite being a featherweight 95g, the phone feels solid enough and I had no worries about losing the securely fastened backplate during a bumpy car ride, as is often the case with cheaper phones. In fact, it seemed fairly robust all round, attracting neither fingerprints, scratches, nor general muck and dust.
Dig your fingernails in hard enough and prise away the plastic and you'll discover one of very few pleasing features on the Tocco Lite 2 -- a microSD card slot. You'll certainly need to make use of it as the internal memory is a measly 20MB of storage. That's pathetic by anyone's standards.
On the top of the phone is a 3.5mm headphone jack, which while nothing to shout about, is a blessed relief after the proprietary headphone jack on its predecessor. This will allow you to plug in superior headphones of your choice, casting the cheap boxed buds to the back of the cable drawer, where they belong.
A clicky volume rocker can be found on the left-hand side of the phone, and a standard micro-USB port is stationed on the bottom for charging and transferring files. There's a lock/unlock button on the starboard side of this little vessel, but you may find yourself using the on-screen touch lock key more frequently.
Software and TouchWiz
TouchWiz is the branded skin that Samsung usually layers over the top of other software, but it doesn't have the greatest reputation as an interface, even on the most advanced Android phones it haunts. This is especially true when it's compared to the likes of HTC's Sense. But the version that comes installed on the Tocco Lite 2 is mind-numbingly dreadful.
There are seven home screens, over which you may organise your widgets. If you have a fiddle around at the top of the screen, you might be able to find the pull-down bar giving you quick access to basic Wi-Fi, sound and Bluetooth settings, and at the bottom are shortcuts to your contacts, as well as the phone's main menu and keypad.
The main menu is a dull affair, but some of the deeper menus -- the widget organising tools, in particular -- are so ugly and pixelated they're practically retina scarring. Aside from various social networking and messaging options, the Tocco Lite 2 is hardly pre-loaded with apps -- a Stereo FM radio is about the extent of it.
The touch keyboard on this phone is the most fiddly I've happened upon since the advent of the touchscreen. Even after time, you'll constantly find yourself making mistakes, and if your fingers are any bigger or clumsier than my own, slenderish digits, I dread to think how painstaking the typing experience would be.
You may also find yourself regularly changing languages as you go along -- an absurdly large language changing button takes pride of place on the keyboard screen, making it easier to start accidentally writing in German than inserting a full-stop.
The Tocco Lite 2 comes packed to the gunwales with all the social networks and messaging services that have emerged from the early noughties onwards, but it takes more than having Myspace pre-installed to be a true social networking phone. There's no functionality for photos or videos to be uploaded directly to the web from the gallery -- the only native sharing tools are emailing, texting or transferring files via Bluetooth.
Samsung lists ChatON, its own instant messaging app, as one of the key features of the Tocco Lite, but given that its popularity pales in comparison to the likes of iMessage, BBM and WhatsApp, you might find you're the only person you know using it.
The Samsung app store you have access to leaves a lot to be desired. When I finally managed to access the store, after hours of staring at a loading screen, only to be repeatedly informed my "Request has timed out", I really wondered why I'd bothered. The variety of apps available for download is severely limited, with the categories from which you can choose as follows: Game, Ringtones, Image, Video, Music.
That means there will be no downloading an alternative browser or keyboard app to make typing more intuitive. Even worse, I couldn't find anything that was available for free. The mere thought of going through the process of purchasing and then downloading a Java game or ringtone with this snail of a device meant I had to spend the rest of the day lying down in a dark room.
The 3-inch touchscreen on the Tocco Lite 2 is about as far from the startlingly bright, clear, colourful AMOLED screens we're used to on Samsung phones as you can imagine. A startlingly low-resolution 240x330-pixel TFT display, equating to a paltry 133 pixels per inch, is poor form, even on a phone as cheap as this.
The screen makes text tiny and blurry and the resolution is far too low to effectively ogle photos and videos. Colours are washed out and icons have a blocky, pixelated appearance. I felt like I was gazing into a murky pond through a thin layer of fog.
The touchscreen experience on the Tocco Lite 2 is about as frustrating as it's possible to be. There were long periods when I stroked its screen almost in tears, begging it to respond as if it were a beloved pet that had met its demise -- and... nothing.
With no ability to pinch to zoom, browsing is even worse than on non-touchscreen devices such as the BlackBerry Curve 9320. Saying that, if any phone is likely to have you reaching for the comforting sensation of physical keys under your thumbs, it's the Tocco Lite 2.
Power and performance
The Tocco Lite 2 is supposed to be optimised for social networking, but the key to successfully doing this on the move is speed and simplicity -- after all, who wants to spend half an hour uploading a single photo to Facebook? With only GSM and EDGE and no 3G connectivity, every action online is laborious.
There were moments when I picked up the phone to try to do something, only to put it straight back down after the sinking realisation that it would be too long and fiddly a process. Perhaps the Tocco Lite 2 would be a good device for those who are attempting to wean themselves off social networking addictions, by encouraging them to reassess every time they go to post on Facebook.
In the world of phones, cheaper used to mean simpler. A device would offer fewer functions the less you paid for it but they would be less complex and well within the phone's capabilities. These days though, the opposite is true. Manufacturers cram more complex features onto sub-par phones that really only have the stamina to handle basic tasks. Instead of enjoying a smooth experience on a more basic device, the user is left with a useless block of tech that can't even perform the simple tasks it was purchased for.
Samsung has been suspiciously quiet about the size of the processor hidden inside the Tocco Lite 2, but the terrible performance leads me to believe it must be minuscule. Web browsing was painful and scrolling, when the touchscreen was responding at all, was juddery and inconsistent.
The most frustrating thing about the Opera mini browser that comes
pre-installed on the Tocco Lite 2 is the loading bar at the top, which
gradually fills up with the blue block of hope, leaving you
thinking that your prize is imminent, only to turn white again. And then
repeat, repeat, repeat.
There's no knowing how long you'll be there waiting for that page to load. Could be days, could be weeks. Make sure your larder is well stocked and you have plenty of spare firewood in case the end of the world comes around and the Google home page still hasn't rendered properly.
A complaint with the first Tocco Lite was the poor YouTube quality. It's hard for me to say whether or not this has improved as -- try as I might -- I wasn't able to coax the Tocco Lite 2 into playing a video over either Wi-Fi or the mobile network. That is in itself symptomatic of many of the phone's Internet-reliant functions -- the success rate of attempting to perform certain tasks is so low, it's easiest to presume the Tocco Lite 2 won't be able to accomplish what you ask of it.
Call quality was passable but there were times when voices sounded distant and a tad muffled. Battery life was one area where the Tocco Lite 2 did excel though. It's possible to natter throughout the day, without having to pause for a juice top-up.
Samsung claims the Tocco Lite 2 offers over 14 hours of talk time and can stretch to a whole 625 hours on standby. In the eyes of many, a smart phone with a great battery life is the holy grail of technology. For the Tocco Lite 2, it is the main -- maybe the only -- selling point.
Strapped to the rear of the Tocco Lite 2 is a 3.2-megapixel camera that lacks a flash. Unfortunately, it's exactly the same as the camera we saw on the previous Lite -- three whole years ago.
Considering how disappointing everything else about this phone has turned out to be, the snaps it takes are pleasingly average -- by no means the worst I've seen taken by a phone camera. That said, they still aren't brilliant. In outdoor conditions, the camera fails to expose shots properly and indoor close-up shots lack detail.
The camera also shoots video -- in an elementary kind of way. The microphone picks up a disturbing amount of background noise and an ear-splitting crackle can be heard at all times. The quality of the footage is extremely poor and stabilisation is almost non-existent.
The Samsung Tocco Lite 2 purports to be a smart phone, but frankly, by using that label, it's making promises it can't keep. Despite a low price and long battery life, anyone who buys this phone looking to make use of Internet-reliant features such as social networking, browsing or email will feel cheated.
Likewise, if you want simplicity and great basic functionality, think again. The Tocco Lite 2 asks you to make too many compromises in the name of affordability, and with excellent Android phones such as the Huawei G300 playing a superior game for not many extra pennies, I can hardly see the Tocco Lite 2 Tic-Tac-Tocco-ing its way to success.