Affordability is the order of the day with the reasonably priced T-Mobile Zest E110. For a phone that costs less than the price of your average DVD, it packs an impressive feature list: microSD support, a 3.5mm audio output and even a torch to help you locate your keys on those dark nights. Serious mobile fiends will miss Internet access and Bluetooth, however.
The Zest is exclusive to the T-Mobile network. It's available for £10 on a pay as you go deal.
Built on compromise
Low-cost mobiles are usually an exercise in compromise, offering bare-bones functionality with perhaps one or two neat extras to justify your interest. The Zest, which is manufactured by ZTE, is no exception. It brings some welcome features to the table but is ultimately aimed at undemanding users, rather than experienced iPhone- or Android-loving mobile veterans.
Like the equally cheap Samsung E2121, the Zest has a predominately plastic exterior that feels solid enough but doesn't exactly exude sophistication. Everything fits together properly, and there's no movement or unwanted creakiness in the casing, but it's not what you'd call sexy. Thankfully, the Zest is perfectly capable of withstanding a few bumps and drops, a fact which makes it a good choice for butter-fingered users.
Texting on the Zest is as easy as falling off a log, thanks to the large and welcoming alphanumeric keypad. Positioned above the keys is an equally spacious four-way navigation pad that allows you to zoom around the phone's primitive menu system without breaking a sweat.
No other physical buttons exist anywhere on the phone's shell. There's no volume or camera control, and the end-call key doubles as the power button. Simplistic it may be, but the streamlined nature of this interface will endear the Zest to people who want the basics and no more.
Surprisingly, the Zest has a 3.5mm audio jack and comes bundled with a reasonably decent pair of earphones. The device also comes pre-loaded with a dedicated audio player, although you'll need to invest in a microSD card to transform the phone into a fully-functioning MP3 player, as the internal storage is smaller than the trophy cabinet at Scunthorpe United FC. Should you not fancy the additional outlay, you can still put the headphones to good use, courtesy of the Zest's built-in FM radio.
The Zest is also blessed with a VGA camera for snapping rudimentary shots. They look pretty terrible when viewed on a large monitor, but they're perfectly serviceable if you only intend to share them with friends via MMS messaging.
Another welcome inclusion is the LED torch on the top of the phone. This isn't a ground-breaking advancement -- Nokia's 1616 comes packed with a similar flashlight. But to find it on a budget phone that already has a microSD card slot, camera and 3.5mm headphone jack under its belt is pleasantly surprising.
Despite its impressive number of bonus features, the Zest is lacking in other areas. There's no Bluetooth, so wireless file transfer isn't possible. There's also no data cable included in the box, which means getting music and photos onto your phone is harder than it should be.
The Zest uses the now-standard micro-USB connection for charging, but we tried using a micro-USB data cable from another handset and were unable to get the phone to connect to either Windows or Mac OS. If you're planning on moving images and songs around, you're going to have to rely on a microSD card and the appropriate reader, although thankfully neither of these items is especially expensive these days.
Finally, there's no way to access the Web using the Zest, and the cellular connectivity is confined to good old-fashioned 2G. It could be argued that browsing the Net wouldn't be much fun on the tiny 128x160-pixel screen anyway, but it's a shame that very basic access hasn't been included.
Simpler than Paris Hilton
The Zest's software interface holds few shocks, with a fairly basic, grid-based menu structure. It's not a million miles away from the user interfaces we've witnessed on other pocket-money phones, such as the Samsung E1170 and Nokia 2220 Slide. You don't have to dig too deeply to find the option you're looking for, which makes this handset perfect for younger users.
In terms of applications, the usual mod cons are all present and correct, including an alarm system, calendar, calculator and stopwatch. You also have the ability to set pre-determined 'power' times, so you can tell your phone to automatically switch off at night and back on again in the morning. It's a very simple feature, but useful nonetheless.
The T-Mobile Zest E110 packs a striking number of features into its unassuming frame. Its lack of Bluetooth and Web access is unfortunate, but few phones in this price range boast expandable memory, a flashlight, a 3.5mm output and a VGA camera. Add to this a rugged construction and straightforward interface, and you've got a budget blower that's perfect for casual users.
Edited by Charles Kloet