When something claims to be tough our first reaction tends to be "we’ll see about that."
Samsung’s Solid makes much of its strong points – that is, that it’s capable of withstanding a bit of bashing and splashing that would floor less macho mobiles.
But while it’s tempting to test a tough-guy phone to destruction, Samsung’s Solid is pitched more as a mobile built for outdoors enthusiasts and trades people rather than as a phone built for post-Armageddon texting.
A few other manufacturers have introduced ruggedised phones before, but this is Samsung’s first effort. It’s dust- and water-resistant to the IEC IP54 standard, and is encased in shock-resistant thick rubber bodywork. That means it can take splashing, but not total immersion, and will bear dropping but not crushing.
Its design is quite a conventional-looking candybar, and the feature rundown isn’t something to get tech-heads drooling. It has a basic VGA camera panelled into the back, with a photo light that doubles as a flashlight.
There’s no music player or swappable memory, although there is an FM radio inside. And it’s a dual-band GPRS handset rather than one delivering multimedia goodies at 3G connection speeds.
The Samsung Solid is being sold at an equally un-premium price - £59.99 on O2 Pay As You Go deals, or free on any contract.
You’re unlikely to buy a basic-but-tough handset for the great outdoors or building site environment for its great gaming facilities or video download playback quality. Which is just as well. This is designed for those who require a simple to use, robust and reliable mobile with no frills.
It measures a not excessively chunky 109(h) x 48(w) x 17.9(d) mm and weighs a surprisingly light-in-the-hand 95g. The hard rubber back panel has a screw-up lock to seal the phone, which is reassuring.
The keyboard design is functional, with large number keys that are curved enough to stand out to the touch and which have good backlighting. A central round navigational D-pad control is easy to thumb too, as are a couple of softkeys below the display and the pair of call and end keys.
As well as its menu negotiating duties, the D-pad is set up in conventional style for five shortcut options: camera, Bluetooth, calendar, text messaging and WAP browser access.
A silver coloured key on either side add a couple of extra quick function options; the left one can switch the speakerphone on or off during calls, while the right one doubles up as the delete key and the flashlight on/off button.
Some larger fingered customers my find this control uncomfortably adjacent to the call end/off button, but you quickly get used to careful pressing. Despite its outdoors and workman aspirations, realistically this is a phone that prefers gloves-off handling.
The screen is disappointing– it’s a 65,536-colour CSTN screen, measuring 128x128 pixels, very basic by 2008 mobile standards, and small against the phone’s bulked up body. Menus look somewhat cramped, graphics are quite basic, and the space available for looking at mobile internet sites or lining up camera shots is very limited.
Not that the camera is likely to be a major concern for users; the VGA (640x480 pixels) snapper is on of the lowest resolution cameras you can currently get on a phone, offering 0.3-megapixels maximum resolution.
If imaging quality is a buying factor for you, you’d be best to cross this phone off your list straight away, as picture performance is limited; it’s mainly for snap’n’sending rather than to capture pics for the family album. Samsung still gamely adds colour effects options, should you wish to apply them.
The simple menu system – a grid of nine menu icons, with a further layer of numbered sub-menu options – is easy to work through, and very straightforward to operate.
In fact, there’s little to confuse in a no-nonsense feature set. There’s a voice recorder, FM radio – usable with the supplied stereo headphones plugged in, and capable of storing 30 stations – and Bluetooth support for headsets, file transfer and handsfree kits. An Openwave Wap 2.0 browser provides mobile internet access too.
Samsung has also included a selection of organiser and possibly useful sports functions in a Planner folder, including a calendar, memo, to-do lists, clock, alarm, calculator, convertor, timer and stopwatch. There’s one Java game – Bubble Smile – pre-loaded too.
Apart from its pure robustness, another feature we’ve seen before that might appeal to outdoors-sports enthusiasts, lone tradesmen or other people in vulnerable situations, is Samsung’s useful SOS Messages dialling feature.
You can set up one or more phonebook numbers to be SOS message recipients, so that in an emergency you can send a text message saying you need help with four quick presses of a volume button when the keypad’s locked. If a recipient calls you back, the call is automatically connected without you pressing anything else.
There are plenty of phones we’ve wanted to chuck around the room, but the Samsung Solid gave us the opportunity to have a bit of a go for legitimate reasons. We can confirm the bouncebackability of the Samsung Solid when it’s dropped on a hard surface from a metre or so.
The solid rubber appears to offer suitable protection for the odd knock, although we wouldn’t expect it to survive a hammering. The screen and camera also aren’t as protected (though we wouldn’t worry about the camera too much).
The phone also survived a brief dunking in water without any fuss, so phoning in the shower might be a goer too. Certainly, a bit of inclement weather or puddles are unlikely to harm the Solid.
If you’re out and about or on a work site, staying in touch depends on a reliable battery performance as well as decent quality signal performance. Samsung says the Solid will run for up to 400 hours in standby or the battery will last for 8 hours of talktime.
With little multimedia distractions to drain power on the road, we’d say that’s a more than acceptable battery performance. Audio performance was acceptable too, but not exceptional.
Essentially, the Samsung Solid is a rather basic handset packed into a casing that is designed to take a bit more punishment than the average mobile.
It’s not an indestructible phone by any means, but its strengths may find it a market among those who want a simple but hard-wearing handset.
Its feature set appears rudimentary amongst the current crop of new mobiles, even budget priced phones, so the fundamental decider will be whether the Solid is tough enough for your needs and whether you’re willing to accept its austere function rundown for this level of durability. It may not be that tough a call.
Ease of use: 3.5/5
Call quality: 3.5/5