I've been using a Nokia E61 for a few months and am generally quite happy with everything about the device. It is a bit heavy though with the alloy casing and it is also wide for a phone so it isn't really a shirt pocketable type of device. Microsoft gave each Mobius attendee in Boston a Samsung SGH-i320 Windows Mobile 5.0 Smartphone and I quickly fell in love with the incredibly small size (only 11.5mm thick) and yet fully functional QWERTY keyboard on the device and spent two full weeks using it as my only mobile device. I haven't found any other QWERTY smartphone that I can place in my shirt pocket and hardly even tell it is there and think the device is almost perfect. If you enjoy all the photos in my image gallery and think to yourself "I would love to have this Smartphone" then read my whole review and find out how you can enter to win this device that I will be giving away to one lucky ZDNet Mobile Gadgeteer reader.
As you can see in the comparison shot with the Nokia E61 and Motorola Q the Samsung i320 is quite small and thin. When we were at Mobius we had a chance to play with most of the current QWERTY phones on the market, including the Treo 750v, HTC Excalibur, HTC TyTN, and more and my favorite keyboard was the one on the Samsung i320. It has angled keys and while they are quite small I am able to enter text at a very quick speed. I have medium sized hands and find no difficulty at all in hitting all the right buttons. There is a number lock button that only requires a single press to switch into number mode. Pressing and holding the # key to the right of the space bar toggles between silent and general profiles. A cool feature on this phone is that each number can actually be entered by pressing one or two adjacent buttons so it makes it much easier to dial single-handedly. As you can see in the close-up photo there is an outline around each two center keys for each number. For example, pressing E or R enters a 1. The keyboard also has a bright white backlight that shows the alternative keys as well.
In addition to the very functional keyboard, I was also quite surprised when I went and installed my first 3rd party application and saw how much available storage memory there was on the device. I looked through the specs and saw that it came with 128MB ROM and saw that there was something around a whopping 96MB of available storage memory on the device itself, along with a microSD expansion card slot. This is a LOT of available storage for a Smartphone device so you should never be concerned with lack of memory. The processor is also one of the fastest on any Windows Mobile Smartphone, Intel ARM920T PXA272 416 MHz, and I never experienced any delays or lagging in the device. Samsung did it right with the memory and processor on this baby which alone make it a compelling device.
The 2.2 inch display is a landscape QVGA display and is very bright and clear. The colors and resolution are awesome and watching videos is a joy on the device. The device is a very dark purple/black color and feels rock solid in your hands. There are volume buttons on the left side and a phone control and side activation button on the top right. Pressing the phone control button once brings up a Quick List so you can switch profiles or manage wireless connections. Press and holding this top button lock the keyboard. You can program the activation button to launch any application you desire to one (single press) or two applications (press and hold). On the middle of the right side you will find the non-standard headset jack with the proprietary sync/charge connection port below this. The headset jack and sync/charge connector are both covered by small doors that flip open easily and stay attached quite well to keep the ports clean when you throw the phone in your pocket.
There are stereo speakers on the back and the phone comes with SRS WOW TXT technology so you can get great sound out of the stereo speakers. The downside to having these speakers on the back is that your conference call or speakerphone call may seem a bit muffled if you set your phone down on something soft. There is also a 1.3 megapixel camera on the back with a small flash light above the lens. I have been used to very poor HTC cameras on Windows Mobile Smartphones and was pleasantly surprised by the decent quality photos taken by the Samsung device. The camera can also be used to take video and there are lots of options and settings in the camera application to help you take some good mobile photos.
The device has a
quad tri-band (900/1800/1900 MHz) radio so it won't work for US Cingular customers, but as a T-Mobile customer it works very well and has decent signal strength. EDGE data is supported and with the fast processor, web browsing was a pleasure on the device. A Bluetooth 1.2 radio, with stereo A2DP profile support, rounds out the wireless abilities of the device. There is no 3G radio or WiFi functionality.
The last part of the hardware, that is actually the Archilles heel of the device IMHO, is the battery capacity. The battery looks to be an 880 mAh (printed on the device) or 1000 mAh (stated on the Samsung site) battery and I personally can only go about 4-5 hours before having to swap out batteries or recharge the device. Granted, this is with Direct Push email running and regular surfing with a few phone calls, but all my other devices at least get me through the day with these same usage patterns. Samsung does include an extra battery and it even comes with an external charger so I think they know the battery life stinks on the device. Also, if you charge via USB I never have seen the device reach 100% charge and the indicator light on the USB cable remains red. If I plug it into an external a/c adapter then I can charge it to 100%. If battery life was better, then I may not be giving away the device, but I am not willing to make this much effort to keep my device running all day long.
Samsung also tricks out the device with some good software like the Picsel Viewer (allows you to view native Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and PDF documents as well as image files), World Clock, Smart Converter, SIM Manager, Stop Watch, Task Manager, File Manager, and the Program Launcher. Samsung gives you the ability to customize the right soft key of the Home screen and I set it to launch the Program Launcher. With the Program Launcher you can setup different categories shown on screen that you scroll through with left and right directional pad presses. You can launch applications, go to URLs you enter, jump to a folder, view documents, and play or view multimedia content quickly. I found the Program Launcher to be an excellent addition and would like to see great software like this added to all WM Smartphones.
When you start up the device you'll see a splash screen for the Samsung Fun Club and Samsung does include some fun features in the 320. You'll see the indicator lights between the soft keys light up in red, blue, or white at different times. When you start entering a phone number each number will appear in Google-esque color different than the number before it. The standard Bubble Breaker game included on other Windows Mobile devices has been replaced with FunBox. Samsung also has a very functional Home screen layout with the ability to control media, view the number of messages and jump to your inbox, see what missed calls you have, check upcoming appointments, and launch applications just by moving the directional pad and pressing in on the action button. This is much like a Today screen on a Pocket PC Phone device and helps with single-handed operation.
While the device is a rock solid messaging and surfing device, it is also a decent phone. I did notice a slight delay between dialing the number and the call actually being connected and even when I placed the phone in silent mode a beep still occurred when I initiated a call. This should hopefully be fixed with a software update from Samsung. I used the speakerphone 80% of the time and found it to be quite loud and very clear. People I called were very impressed with the call quality when using this Smartphone. I love the way the WM Smartphone OS uses a quick dial functionality so that as you are typing a person's name your contact list is filtered to make calling people in your database quick and easy.
The Samsung SGH-i320 is a remarkable Smartphone and the size will blow you away when you get it in your hands. If I wasn't such a power user that required a longer battery life I may have kept the device. Cingular US customers may see the similar Samsung 607 coming to their carrier that I understand includes a HSDPA radio for faster data access. I have seen the i320 selling for about US$450 on ebay and think that is a decent price for an unlocked high powered and very capable smartphone. It will be tough giving up
Free Samsung SGH-i320 Giveaway
In order to get an entry into the random drawing for my Samsung SGH-i320, check out this image gallery photo and email me at palmsoloATgmailDOTcom, with CONTEST in the Subject line, the name of the landmark on the Home screen of the 320, the name of the player on the game cover, and the team that the player plays for. If you get all 3 correct then I will enter your name into the contest and conduct a random drawing after my review has been posted for one week. Include your name and the email address you want to communicate with in your contest entry. I am willing to ship the device anywhere in the world too so anyone please feel free to enter the giveaway. I'll pick the winner on October 30th and ship the Samsung i320 out after I get the winner's shipping information.