CNET editors pick the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.
The battle of the budget phones is certainly heating up, with more and more cut-price handsets hitting the market. Samsung's modest E1170 is just one of the myriad offerings, and contains a surprisingly high number of features for such a bargain-basement RRP.
The E1170 can be obtained online or in store at Tesco for as little as £15. You can also get it for around £15 a month on a contract, with the handset naturally being offered free of charge.
If you're old enough to recall the days before the emergence of cheap and cheerful pay as you go phones, the notion of purchasing a mobile for under £20 will probably strike you as absurd. We've seen a proliferation of these budget blowers in the past year or so, however. Recent devices, such as the 3330 Classic and 1661 -- both from Nokia, have driven down the cost of portable telephony, and there's an increasing number of equally inexpensive alternatives out there, as well.
Like Nokia, Samsung has been especially keen to hop on the budget bandwagon in recent months. The E1170 can be snagged for as little as £15, making it one of the cheapest phones currently available on the market. As you might expect, selling a mobile for such a low price cannot be achieved without cutting corners, and the E1170 takes more shortcuts than Dick Dastardly.
The most obvious omission is the lack of a camera. Not that having one would boost the phone's appeal to budding photographers -- the E1170 is incapable of sending (and receiving) multimedia messages, thanks to its lack of GPRS and 3G. There's no Bluetooth, either, so file transfers of any kind are off the menu. It's probably for the best, because, with a paltry 16MB of on-board memory, you don't have much room for your own personal art gallery anyway.
Elsewhere, the E1170's minuscule 128x128-pixel display feels painfully outdated. Colours are washed out and moving through menus causes unsightly motion blur.
With no media-playback capabilities of any kind, entertainment certainly isn't high on the priority list with the E1170. Despite this, it still manages to offer some gratification and comes equipped with a couple of interesting applications. You get one game -- the surprisingly agreeable Super Jewel Quest -- and a handful of features such as a calculator, converter, stopwatch and flashlight. It should be noted, however, that the latter merely uses the phone's display to create illumination.
You may consider irritating polyphonic ringtones to be a relic of the past, but in the case of the E1170 they are all you have to play with. The phone doesn't possess the ability to play MP3 or WMA files.
In spite of its humble specifications, the E1170 manages
to cook up some pleasant surprises. Take the 'Fake Call' feature as an example
-- it allows you to set up a bogus call in order to cunningly extract yourself
from unwanted conversations or boring business meetings.
There's also the security-conscious 'Mobile Tracker' feature. If your phone is stolen and someone else attempts to insert their own SIM card, the E1170 automatically sends the offender's contact number to selected recipients of your choosing in an effort to trace the handset. Whether or not a prospective thief would view the bare-bones E1170 as a potential target is up for debate, but it's still a handy service to have -- providing you remember to disable it whenever you happen to switch SIMs yourself.
It also has to be said that the E1170 is particularly easy on the eye and doesn't betray its budget roots too readily. The sleek black casing feels sturdy, and the keypad is responsive and solid. Although we haven't tried hurling it at a wall, we're willing to bet that this is a phone capable of withstanding sizeable knocks and bashes -- something which cannot be said for many leading devices.
Battery life is another impressive component of the E1170's humble arsenal. With no 3G, Bluetooth or camera to drain its 1000mAh battery, this device is capable of lasting for days without a charge. When it does eventually run low on juice, the recharge time of the E1170 is just a shade over 2 hours, meaning you can get up and running again in double-quick time.
The lack of cutting-edge features obviously places the Samsung E1170 at the back of the grid when it comes to desirability, but its robust design and surprising suite of other cool elements help raise it up a little. If you're shopping on a shoestring, you could certainly do a lot worse. It's also worth investigating rival cheapies like the Nokia 1616, which comes with an FM radio and bundled hands-free headset, before handing over your admittedly modest wad of cash.
Edited by Emma Bayly