Samsung Tocco Lite £140
9th Sep 2009 | 16:00
Samsung's S5230 delivers an affordable taste of touchscreen control
Samsung Tocco Lite: Overview
Aimed at mobile buyers who want a hit of touchscreen action at a budget price, the Samsung Tocco Lite S5230 brings Samsung's TouchWiz user interface and typical minimalist touchphone style into a low cost package.
It has a stripped down set of features compared to its Tocco brethren, reflecting its Lite moniker and light-on-the-pocket price tag – initially selling for £80-£130 on pay as you go or free on contract deals.
It works using a familiar Samsung Tocco TouchWiz touchscreen user interface, bringing with it on-screen widgets and finger tap-and-swipe control.
But the Tocco Lite doesn't have high-speed 3G mobile connectivity, relying instead on quad-band GPRS/EDGE mobile data.
Nor is there Wi-Fi – something we've seen on higher-end touchscreen phones. Its camera, too, is a routine 3.2-megapixel, fixed focus, flashless snapper, rather than the 5- and 8-megapixel shooters of the Tocco and Tocco Ultra Edition.
Although light on higher-end features, it has some decent functionality for a down-range touchscreen phone.
It has a good-sized 3-inch screen for its touch-operated user interface, with a few dozen widget mini-applications to choose from, music and video player functions, and FM radio, plus a selection of online-based apps and social-networking options to work with.
Of course, Samsung isn't the first mobile maker to slip a low-ender touchscreen into its line-up. One knock-on effect from the iPhone's blazing success has been folk looking for a taste of touchscreen further down-range.
The LG Cookie – which is the Tocco Lite's obvious rival – and the modestly-equipped own-brand Orange Vegas have previously taken full touchscreen tech into sub-£100 territory. Samsung is no doubt hoping the Tocco branding will grab buyers' attention in this segment as it has done elsewhere.
Samsung Tocco Lite: Design
Samsung hasn't strayed anywhere too radical with the Tocco Lite's basic design. It has clean, minimalist lines, as have most touchscreens post-iPhone.
It's black, with some shiny graphite trim along the edges and chrome detailing. Should you wish to do so, you can go off-piste from the black slab look – Samsung is also offering the Tocco Lite in stand-out pink or white options from certain retailers in the UK.
It has neatly rounded edges, and a little bit of subtle texturing on the back adds a small amount of grip, so you don't feel you're about to lose the phone mid-finger tap. It feels light in-hand, weighing just 92g, but its compact bodywork, at 106(h) x 53.5(w) x 11.9(d) mm, fits snugly in hand and slips without fuss into a pocket or handbag.
On the front, the 3-inch display – a 262K-colour WQVGA (240x400 pixels) full touchscreen – takes centre stage, with just three buttons underneath (Call, End and Back), a chrome earpiece grille and a Samsung logo breaking up the fascia.
The display isn't quite as eye-catchingly zingy as the Samsung Tocco Ultra's AMOLED display, but it's fine for clarity and brightness. As is usually the way, it's difficult to view in direct sunlight, but otherwise puts on a good show.
Around the sides, it's relatively uncluttered too. Below a volume/zoom rocker control, a standard issue Samsung multi-connector socket for USB cable, charger and earphones sits under a small cover (there's no 3.5mm headphone socket on this handset).
On the opposite side are a camera button and a key for locking and unlocking the display.
The display lock can be activated or deactivated by pressing this lock/unlock button, or alternatively by holding a virtual button on the screen. Occasionally we found that the lock managed to unlock itself in-pocket and accidentally activate widgets, though we didn't have major problems, and the phone didn't make random calls.
Samsung Tocco Lite: Interface
The touchscreen user interface of the Tocco Lite is based on the TouchWiz UI that's been implemented before in the Tocco portfolio and other Samsung touchscreen handsets such as the Samsung Jet.
Although the features may be lighter, Samsung hasn't stripped down the UI, so it's a neat and highly manageable finger prod- and swipe-controlled interface. Widgets for operating functions and applications are available for the standby screen too.
The screen is a resistive rather than capacitive display, so it's not capable of the clever Multi-Touch smoothness of the iPhone; this phone has more modest aspirations than iPhone worrying.
Nonetheless, it feels comfortable to use; the layout of the menus and control button is generally spacious enough for fingers without requiring stylus or pen-top intervention. Samsung hasn't gone for tricksy-for-its-own-sake touch gadgetry – it's kept it simple and straightforward.
The menu system structure is broadly similar to that used on conventional Samsung mobiles, so newcomers to touchscreen devices shouldn't have problems getting their heads around what to do.
As with previous Samsung touchscreen phones, there are three alternative standby screens you can swipe between, with a swift left or right stroke.
They are essentially the same, apart from the background image. One reason for having them is as a way of tidily organising on-screen widgets – mini applications and functions you can select for display on your standby screen.
Widgets are one of the more immediately eye-catching elements of the TouchWiz user interface. These can activate phone functions, control features or provide access to online services.
You can select exactly which widgets you want to display on your standby screen from a selection pre-stored on the phone, giving you fast access to the functions you want.
Widgets can be selected from a bunch of icons residing in a widgets toolbar; you simply open up the toolbar and drag and drop on the main part of the screen the icons representing the widgets you want to use.
As on previous Tocco models, a vertical widgets toolbar can be pulled up on the display with a quick tap on an arrowed tab towards the bottom of the screen. You can scroll or swipe through the widget icons, choosing which ones you want to drag and drop.
They can be arranged on the screen how you like and, once the toolbar is closed, will stay displayed until such time as you want to remove them – again, by dragging and dropping.
Samsung Tocco Lite: Menus
The standby screen has three buttons at the bottom – one for bringing up the keypad – a virtual numberpad you can use for dialling or texting - another for the phonebook, plus one for taking you into the main menu.
The numberpad is roomy enough to avoid mis-pressing keys, and the screen is quick and responsive enough so you don't double up with extra presses.
A touch of haptic feedback also confirms that you've pressed an on-screen key properly.
In the phonebook, there are three methods of hunting down a number. Firstly you can scroll down with finger swipes downscreen (which isn't nearly as smooth as iPhone scroll spinning). Alternatively you can search by pressing a search bar and then typing in appropriate letters from the numberpad.
Lastly you can use a small arrowed button on the top left of the screen to whizz through sections by letter, pressing the screen and dragging your finger down till you find the right letter.
It doesn't take much practice for this to becomes quick, effective and almost second nature to operate.
The Samsung Tocco Lite's main menu though will be familiar to any phone user. A grid of 12 icons presents a regular way of accessing further sub-menu sections, which are usually listed in standard mobile fashion.
These can be scrolled by finger stroke, with a tap selecting them. It's easy stuff.
When scrolling we occasionally found ourselves selecting listed options by mistake, as our fingers dawdled and pressed when we should have been scrolling, but it doesn't detract that much from a system that's generally straightforward to use.
Another control button among three at the bottom of the main menu screen enables users to pull up a list of Photo Contacts – grouping together your recently used numbers in one carousel-like panel, so you can flick to view and select when you want to make calls or send messages. If contacts have photos assigned, these appear on the carousel.
Samsung Tocco Lite: Messaging
Touchscreen phones aren't yet noted for their excellent text messaging functionality, but Samsung does a decent job with its Tocco Lite software. For starters, it sensibly allows enough room on the virtual numberpad for accurate key pressing.
The buttons range across the full width of the screen, without the keypad being squished up with unnecessary control buttons down the side (like LG's Cookie). That cuts down on errors and frustrating accidental control activation. It helps in awkward lighting situations, such as in direct sunlight, too.
The keypad responds fairly quickly to tapping, though fast texters will no doubt find it's less speedy and intuitive to use than conventional handsets.
Correcting text feels more cumbersome than on a regular phone, and choosing contacts from the phonebook via a touchscreen takes just that bit more time than on a normal mobile.
Using T9 on this handset takes a little getting used to too, as you can either toggle through options with a key press or use a touch scroll panel to find them; you'll soon figure out what suits you best though.
As well as the numberpad, turning the phone sideways automatically activates a Qwerty keyboard option for typing.
There's a T9 option for those who like or need it, though it can be switched off. The letter keys expand as you're pressing, so you can see if you've hit the right one. Most of the time we did get it right, as the keyboard doesn't require miniature fingers for accurate typing.
Alternatively, two handwriting recognition input options are available, which do the job if that's what you prefer.
One improvement we'd like to see on this handset and other Samsung phones is showing while composing a text whether you've reached the one-text limit, as this device only shows once you're ready to send when you've gone over into two texts.
Like with most other touchscreen phones, texting can feel less slick a process than on a non-touch phone, but Samsung does better than most in reducing the unnecessary hassle factor.
As well as text messaging and MMS, the Samsung Tocco Lite supports email using your regular POP3/IMAP4/SMTP email accounts.
Mobile network email settings are preloaded, though you can input your own too; a set-up wizard takes you through the configuration process, although unlike phones from some manufacturers like Nokia and Sony Ericsson, it doesn't automatically configure the server settings.
You'll need to know your POP3/IMAP4/SMTP details as well as your standard password details.
Once set up, it's structured in a similar way to conventional Samsung mid-tier phones. A document reader function enables you to view attachment files sent with emails. It also allows viewing of documents, such as Word files, jpegs, PDFs and Excel documents transferred over to the phone from other sources.
Samsung Tocco Lite: Calls and internet
We were very pleased with the voice calling performance of the Samsung Tocco Lite. We tried it out on Vodafone and O2 networks and had absolutely no issues with call quality or network handling.
It produced lovely clear audio with plenty of volume and we had consistently high quality both with marathon calls and quick chats during our testing.
The touchscreen user interface wasn't detrimental to making or taking calls, and the virtual numberpad and phonebook are good to operate, and you can easily switch on the touchscreen or bring up the numberpad for number-pressing options.
One of the frustrations of this handset is having plenty of screen space for browsing but not having high-speed 3G or Wi-Fi data connectivity to make the browser run faster. It is capable of full web browsing, but the GPRS or EDGE speeds it chugs on means many sites take ages to load up
Dedicated mobile internet sites, such as the BBC, load up smartly enough, but TechRadar.com's home page, for instance can take three to four minutes to fully render.
The Samsung browser used here has quite a user-friendly interface for this category of handset. Sure, it's not as effortless as the iPhone's browser, but it's better set up than most mid-tier mobiles. There are touchscreen icon-labelled buttons for selecting the home page, back and forwards, reloading and for calling up bookmarks.
You can get a full screen view at a button-tap, and view either in landscape or portrait mode, depending how you hold the phone.
The volume/zoom keys enable you to quickly zoom in or out of pages, which can be useful for selecting and pressing links.
Alternatively, you can zoom in or out by touching and holding the screen, and then moving your finger up or down. As you browse new pages, they appear again in standard default size rather than zoomed in. Scrolling around the page is done by finger dragging too, and is suitably responsive.
Occasionally, though, when scrolling we found a lingering finger could activate the zoom unexpectedly instead of dragging, but it's not a major annoyance on what is generally a well laid out browser. If only there was a bit more speed to make the browsing experience zippier…
To complement the browser, an RSS reader function is built into the phone, so you can get regular updates from your favourite web services.
Samsung has also set up a Communities folder within the main menu options, into which users can bring together and manage options for accessing social networking, blogging and other content sharing services. Links currently available are for Facebook, Picasa, Flickr, Photobucket, Friendster and MySpace.
Users can store ID and password details for their accounts and upload content from the device to the relevant services. Naturally, it's going to be much slower to upload than on a 3G HSPA or Wi-Fi-enabled device, though you can set the phone to automatically re-size images so that file sizes are smaller and quicker to send.
Samsung Tocco Lite: Camera
Compared with the original Tocco, Samsung has gone light with the camera capabilities of the Tocco Lite. Its 3.2-megapixel camera is a fixed focus shooter, with no autofocus system built in, and lacks even a basic LED flash. Clearly imaging isn't a priority on this model
JAG:The Samsung Tocco Lite can take reasonable snaps with its 3.2-megapixel fixed lens camera in decent lighting conditions – though shots lack finesse
The fixed focus lens limits the precision you can get when composing images, offering point-and-shoot snapping rather than anything more refined. Close-range shots are particularly limited, but generally the quality you can achieve with this type of camera is compromised.
FIXED LENS: The fixed lens camera limits the crisp, sharply focused shots you can get with some top end cameraphones. Images appear a touch soft
As it happens, the camera user interface is rather good, reprising a similar look and feel to other higher-end Samsung touchscreen models like the Tocco Ultra Edition.
With a press of the side button the camera is ready to go in a couple of seconds. It has a very intuitive touchscreen interface, with plenty of clear settings icons flanking the main portion of the viewfinder. It's uncluttered, and pressing one of the icons pulls up further options, with most showing large, clearly labelled symbols to represent the settings available.
SATURATION:These colourful flowers, under bright natural light, appear oversaturated with some colour bleed apparent
The Scene Mode even offers a line about what type of shot each setting is for.
There are plenty of shooting options available if you want to override the auto metering system. As well as exposure control and a variety of white balance settings, users have six Scene settings to choose from, and a selection of Shooting Modes.
CLOSE-UP:With no macro close up focusing, you can't get crisply focused close range images
These include continuous multiple shots, a neat panorama mode that uses a movement sensor to help frame a stitched together shot (albeit in low res), a mosaic mode, a 'fun' frames mode, plus a Smile Shot option – which delays the shutter until the camera detects the subject you're shooting is smiling. The latter works surprisingly well over a few metres.
SOFT:This longer range shot on a bright day appears soft, and the colour of the sky is artificial and soft
You can add colourisation effects too, and there's a timer option too.
Pressing the volume/zoom keys – oddly on the bottom in camera mode – can activate the 2x digital zoom, and if you choose to view the photo gallery in camera mode, it can be used to zoom in or out, or pull up at a selection of pics in your gallery (like on some digital cameras).
MIXED-BAG:Mid to close up shots can look OK – but with a fixed focus lens, it's a bit shoot and hope
Although the interface works intuitively, image quality is pretty average for this grade of cameraphone. Shots don't have the level of detail you can get with a higher quality cameraphone, and with a fixed focus lens it's always going to be shoot-and-hope.
Mostly, images were acceptable, though some appeared a bit soft and we weren't impressed by close up shots. Although colour is generally acceptable, we did find colour in some brightly lit images were sometimes over cooked, with some colour bleed present – not the best we've seen from a Samsung mobile.
MORRIS:Using the Sports shooting mode you can avoid blur from moving images, though in practice this does little to improve results
Without a flash, low light shooting performance indoors in dark conditions was feeble, with shots murky.
From the main camera interface, you can nip quickly into the image gallery by pressing one of the on-screen buttons.
Samsung combines finger and accelerometer based scroll-through, which can be irritating when images flow past as you tilt the phone, though you can stop them with a quick finger press. It's easy then to zoom in or out, or even edit pics.
OUTDOORS:Outdoors at night, shots are also limited
Touch editing is relatively easy, and you can add effects, crop and even draw or scrawl over the images. It's simple too to select and send images, whether by email, Bluetooth, MMS or to upload online.
You can also select the camcorder option from the main camera viewfinder. The Tocco Lite shoots at maximum QVGA quality at up to 15 frames per second, so you get typically mediocre quality, low resolution mobile phone footage that's a bit jittery.
Samsung Tocco Lite: Media
Watching video clips on the phone, you get a good-sized display for a mobile phone. The slow data rates means you're unlikely to spend much time streaming content, as video clips from services such as YouTube can be blocky and disjointed.
Video transferred to the phone via memory card or copied over look much better on the display, running smoothly and utilising the landscape full screen mode.
On-screen controls can be used to forward or rewind video, or the timeline can dragged by finger; these controls fade after a couple of seconds but can be brought up by brushing the screen.
The Tocco Lite supports H.263, H.264 and MP4 files, and files copied are automatically processed into the appropriate video folder.
Similarly effective is the onboard music player. With around 100MB of onboard storage to play with, you'll need a MicroSD card if you want to make full use of it. Cards up to 8GB are supported, and slot in next to the battery pack
The music player interface is functional rather than flashy, so don't expect any iPhone touch coverflow gadgetry. Still it's attractive enough, and the on-screen controls are intuitive and effective for working the tune player (including a draggable timeline).
Songs loaded up on to the phone or memory card are automatically sorted into the relevant music player categories. These are familiar MP3 player stuff (all tracks, playlists, recently played, most played, artists, albums, genres and podcasts), and the Samsung Tocco Lite can be synced with Windows Media Player 11 on a PC using the supplied USB cable.
Songs can also be dragged and dropped, Bluetoothed to the the phone or loaded up straight on to a memory card. No Samsung PC Studio software is supplied in box, though it can be downloaded if you prefer that syncing option.
As well as controlling the player, the music UI allows for a selection of equaliser effects to be added during playback - though they don't appear to make a huge difference to the sound. Perhaps that's partly due to the average sort of earphones supplied, an in-ear headset that delivers reasonable but not outstanding audio quality.
The performance is adequate, though it does sound a bit compressed. Bass is subdued and there's a bit too much high-end for our liking, particularly noticeable at loud volume – which this phone can do well.
It's a shame that there's no 3.5mm headphone socket or adapter supplied to upgrade earwear, as the sound quality could otherwise be improved by swapping headsets. As it is, we were also unimpressed by the side location of the multi-connector earphone sockets, which means easier in-pocket tangling of earphones
The Tocco Lite's loudspeaker playback is loud but average phone-style quality. It's OK though for FM radio playback; the headset does need to be plugged in as an antenna, but you can listen through the speaker.
The FM radio is a doddle to use; it's simple to tune and switch stations. Like the music player, a separate widget panel can be used on the standby screen to control tune playing.
Complementing the tune players, the Samsung Tocco Lite has a Music Search function for identifying tunes. You can record a piece of music you hear playing and automatically via a remote database, the service names that tune and provides cover art. It worked well in our tests, managing a high level of accuracy for nearby sounds.
Samsung Tocco Lite: Battery life and more
The more power-hungry gadgetry that's onboard, the higher the potential to eat up battery life, so the lack of 3G, Wi-Fi and GPS may be a good thing as far as extending battery performance. Samsung estimates battery life for the Tocco Lite at around 10 hours talktime or 600 hours in standby mode.
Although it's a touchscreen phone, we managed to run the Tocco Lite for comfortably more than three days on a full charge, with our normal amount of calling and texting. Using the music player regularly will reduce battery life, but overall the Tocco Lite gets good marks for power handling.
Samsung has provided a fairly standard set of organiser tools for the Tocco Lite. It features calendar, memo and task, functions and offers world clock, timer and stopwatch apps, a calculator and convertor. A voice recorder is also included.
The touch user interface does make some of these features more visually appealing on the large screen; being able to swipe through a world map in the World Clock feature, or pressing virtual calculator buttons, for instance, feel quite intuitive.
Having a bit more room space to view the calendar may be good for some, but essentially it does the same job as a mid-tier Samsung. Similarly, most text-based functions offer pretty much the same functionality as on a conventional handset, with the input method the main difference.
Samsung doesn't include its new PC Studio software in the box, though this can be downloaded from Samsung's website. The phone does support PC syncing, with a USB cable supplied and Bluetooth connectivity supported, plus SyncML remote syncing.
Although there's no GPS functionality onboard the Tocco Lite, Google Maps is a welcome addition. It utilises the full size of the display, with zoom buttons to zone in or out of maps and satellite images.
Without satellite positioning, Google Maps uses cell site triangulation to approximate the handset's location to within several hundred metres radius, shown on the map by a shaded circle.
While that doesn't mean pin-point accuracy it can be very useful if you're somewhere unfamiliar and need to find your way around – you can get a rough idea of where you are and zoom in to your position with one or two button presses and finger scrolling.
The full assembly of Google Maps options for searching for places of interest and addresses and getting directions information are all provided. You can plan routes for driving, walking or using public transport.
Google Street View
You can also get Street View shown on the maps, which works with finger control. It all looks good on the display, though some options (such as selecting journey end points by pressing on maps) didn't work too well, and maps and Street View images are slower to load than on 3G.
A handful of games are pre-loaded onto the phone, including a motion-operated dice roller plus some trial-before-you-buy software.
Samsung Tocco Lite: Verdict
The Samsung Tocco Lite offers a budget touchscreen alternative to the variety of high-powered, high-spec models hitting the high street. It has plenty of appeal for mobile users looking for a bit of touchscreen glamour at a bargain price.
It looks the part, with a neat and tidy minimalist touch phone design, with a large screen and Samsung's TouchWiz UI underpinning the phone's control system.
Sure, it doesn't boast the heavy hitting top-end features, but what it does have onboard is nicely done. The screen is responsive, and Samsung's UI is consistent with higher budget models rather than being a cheapskate version.
Doing the basics right, it puts in a good call performance too and has fine battery life. It's not the iPhone, but it feels pleasant enough and intuitive to use. And with a wallet-soothing price tag it provides a decent entry level way to experience touch-controlled mobile technology.
The lack of high-speed 3G and Wi-Fi data connectivity was a real shame, considering the large screen and a reasonably handy browser onboard. You can get higher-range Samsung models that do have better connectivity, but a bit of fast downloading or video streaming would've been welcome on a nice big screen like this.
Of course, there's no smartphone functionality, or GPS to add to the phone's versatility (though at least there is Google Maps).
The camera on this handset is a run-of-the-mill shooter, with no flash or autofocus, so results are limited. The rather ordinary earphones supplied with the music player, and lack of a standard 3.5mm headphone socket to upgrade them, is unfortunate, too, as otherwise the music player operates well.
Like with most touchphones, speedy texters will find text input slower than on a conventional handset, though it's better than many touchscreen devices.
Despite going light on the big-ticket features, the Samsung Tocco Lite offers a decent way to get into touch control on a limited budget.
It has its limitations, with its data connectivity hampered by a lack of high speed 3G and Wi-Fi, and there are compromises on other features. If you want a phone that offers bargain-priced touch operation and don't mind these limitations, this is a decent handset that's pleasant to handle.
Other users with more demanding requirements in the functionality department are likely to head further up range.