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Samsung Showcase 2005

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Nov 11, 2005, 10:00 AM   by Rich Brome

Hands-on report from the Samsung launch event in New York City for their late-2005 / early-2006 lineup.

Intro 

Samsung introduced a handful of major new phones this week at a low-key event in New York City. They included the company's first WCDMA phone for the U.S., first GSMM Push-To-Talk phone, a RAZR-like phone, and a new music phone.

Also on deck was the i830, a spinoff of the i730 Windows Mobile PDA-phone currently offered by Verizon. The i830 is exactly like the i730 spec-for-spec, except it adds GSM for world roaming, while removing Wi-Fi. The i830 is Samsung's 2nd CDMA+GSM hybrid world phone for the U.S., following the A790 currently offered by both Verizon and Sprint.

Actually, it could technically be their 3rd such phone, depending on release dates, since Samsung was also showing off the A795, which is simply an A790 without a camera.

There wasn't really any point in taking photos of the i830, since it looks identical to the i730.

There was another phone that wasn't announced or shown at the event, but was in the press kit they handed out.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The T709 is a new slide-style GSM phone for T-Mobile with Wi-Fi. It also has EDGE high-speed data, a 1.3 megapixel camera, and speakerphone. It will join several other GSM / Wi-Fi phones coming to the U.S. in the first quarter of next year, including Motorola's A910.

It's important not to confuse the T709 with the T809, which is a different Samsung slider coming to T-Mobile soon.

A900 

The MM-A900 is Samsung's answer to Motorola's RAZR. Normally a company like Samsung would vehemently deny "copying" or "following" a major competitor, but the RAZR has been such a resounding success that Samsung executives were quick to compare the A900 to the RAZR. And really, it's hard to deny the influence; there's simply no question what inspired the A900.

Samsung executives also tried to point out that Motorola didn't yet have a CDMA EVDO RAZR, and Samsung would be first with such a product. In fact, the CDMA EVDO RAZR had just been announced that very morning. The CDMA RAZR should hit the market with Verizon in a few weeks, about the same time the A900 will launch with Sprint, making this an interesting head-to-head battle.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

Like the RAZR, the A900 employs a special ultra-flat keypad to achieve its thin profile. Like the RAZR, it does have tactile feedback - you can feel the keys "click" down when you press them - but like the RAZR, that feedback is not as good as on an average phone.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The flatness of the keypad doesn't allow for raised or contoured keys that would make them easier to feel apart from each other. On the RAZR, this is dealt with by adding raised rubber ridges between the keys. Unfortunately, the A900 has no equivalent feature, making it difficult to feel out each key without looking at the keypad. In fact, there is no physical separation at all between many of the keys, and the white horizontal lines between the number keys only help divide the keys visually, not ergonomically.

Samsung has another ultra-thin phone coming out soon: the T809 for T-Mobile. While the A900 is a clamshell, the T809 adopts the increasingly popular slider form factor. Both phones have a similar profile when closed.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The A900 has a slight size advantage, which is impressive given its extra display, although the T809 has the major advantage of a memory card slot, which the A900 unfortunately lacks.

more A900 

Both the T809 and A900 have great QVGA displays. The A900's is slightly larger, which is to be expected given the clamshell form factor. As a Korean Samsung executive recently pointed out, large display size is one of the major advantages of the "thin and wide" form factor of a phone like the A900 or RAZR. And the QVGA resolution is a major advantage of the A900 over the CDMA RAZR, which only has a 176 x 220 pixel display.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The A900 has an interesting feature that will display the U.S. state you're calling once you enter the phone number. I'm not quite sure how it works. It's not a simple zip-code lookup as you might expect, because I tried entering a Pennsylvania zip code with a Virgina exchange (the next three digits) and it said "Virginia"...

As an EVDO "Power Vision" phone for Sprint, the A900 includes "On Demand", an application that provides quick access to simple online information such as news, sports, weather, and maps. The blue hand logo on the screenshot above indicates that this application is, in fact, Pocket Express from Handmark. It might seem redundant since all of the same information is already available via WAP, but it's actually much faster than WAP, because, well - frankly - anything is faster than WAP.

As you can see from the other screenshots above, the A900 also sports Bluetooth, speaker-independent voice control, a megapixel camera, PictBridge direct photo printing, and two choices for the main menu style: list or grid.

You can also see that the A900 has less than 30 MB of memory for content. The A900 is supposed to be a music phone, as indicated by the external media controls and the "Music" option in the main menu. But 30 MB is only enough for less than 10 songs, and given the lack of a memory card slot, it's not clear how useful the A900 will actually be for playing music.

ZX10 

The SGH-ZX10 will be Samsung's first WCDMA phone for the U.S. Since Cingular is the only U.S. carrier launching WCDMA any time soon, they are quite obviously the intended carrier. That's why the ZX10 was one of the few phones in the room where Samsung didn't try to cover up the carrier logo.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

With no advanced features like Bluetooth, only a 1 megapixel camera, a stub antenna, and a monochrome external display, it hardly looks like the gee-whiz technology marvel most people might expect from a 3G phone. It's not even HSDPA - just plain old WCDMA. We also couldn't find any support for video calling, although the Samsung reps on hand couldn't confirm it wouldn't have it.

Most of the ergonomics are good, but the two shortcut keys right above the d-pad are in a very unfortunate location. Because they are immediately below the display, it is natural to mistake them for softkeys. I found myself making that mistake repeatedly while using the ZX10, and I imagine others will, as well.

But it does have a few things going for it, such as the microSD memory card slot and music player, and the size:

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

For a WCDMA phone, the ZX10 is impressively small and light. It's no larger than a typical GSM-only phone, and in fact, smaller than many.

Below are some screenshots from the ZX10:

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The ZX10 has a fairly typical user interface (UI), but it does have one unique feature. It's one of the shortcut keys mentioned earlier, which brings up a small shortcut menu from anywhere in the interface. It seems like it was designed to be some kind of multi-tasking control, but in actuality all it seems to do is provide a few shortcuts to make certain features easier to access.

Samsung is already planning a ZX20, which several reps mentioned briefly, although of course they wouldn't go into detail. Bluetooth and HSDPA were two key features of the ZX20 that they mentioned, however.

A920 

The A920 is pretty simple to describe: it's basically Sprint's version of the A950, which is already out for Verizon. Although the A950 is clearly designed to be a music phone, Verizon has yet to launch a real music service. Even though A920 will come out well after the A950, it will support Sprint's already-launched Music Store from day one, making a bit more useful as a music phone.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

Unfortunately, the A920 on display wasn't activated. That meant we couldn't try the music features since they are all handled by a Java application that - for some reason - requires active service.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

Other than the color and the software, the main difference between the A950 and A920 is the external controls. When I first heard about the A950 and A920, I was disappointed that the A920 wouldn't have the nifty scroll wheel like the A950. But after trying the A950's scroll wheel in person, I have to say I much prefer the controls on the A920. The A950's scroll wheel has terrible ergonomics that make its a pain to use. Mostly at fault is the strange raised plastic around the wheel. I imagine it's designed to prevent accidental presses, but actually it just makes it very difficult to use.

It would have been neat if the A920 had a touch-scrolling feature instead, like an iPod. The surface does look like it does that, but unfortunately I was told it's simply a group of five buttons. Since I couldn't start the music application, I couldn't test it out.

The rest of the A920 is just like the A950, including stereo speakers, a microSD memory card slot, Bluetooth, a megapixel camera, dual color displays, speakerphone, and PictBridge. It's also a Sprint Power Vision phone with EVDO like the A900, so you can expect high-quality streaming video as well. The A920 also has full voice recognition technology like the A800, so you can actually dictate text messages with your voice.

One final note on the A920: on the one I tried, the hinge was very "soft"; it didn't open all the way when I tried opening it with one hand, and pushing it open further, I wasn't quite sure where it was supposed to stop. It didn't feel weak like it would break, I just prefer when a phone "clicks" open in a solid way.

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Subject Author Date
SPH-A920 KJS4 Nov 29, 2005, 9:58 AM
services on Sprint handsets cesar1001 Nov 18, 2005, 11:56 PM
A929 release jnavarro3pe Nov 28, 2005, 1:43 PM
SPH-A920 KJS4 Nov 17, 2005, 11:19 AM
Internal Memory Allocation (A900) tuolumne Nov 15, 2005, 10:18 PM
voice to text sequoia Nov 11, 2005, 4:27 PM
In a good spot.. where from here??? cesar1001 Nov 16, 2005, 6:47 PM
Wow windex Nov 11, 2005, 1:19 PM
  • Re: Wow by rytiffany   Nov 15, 2005, 6:30 PM
    • Re: Wow by simple3   Nov 17, 2005, 2:01 PM
Sprint / Samsung MM - A940 ? lorna Nov 13, 2005, 2:28 PM
709 vs 809 Nikoletta Nov 16, 2005, 12:09 PM
Samsung T709 features? TAN7000 Nov 12, 2005, 12:50 AM
Specs of Samsung T709? TAN7000 Nov 11, 2005, 1:37 PM
 
 
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