OK, you regular readers of this blog are just going to have to live with the fact that I am a huge thumb keyboard fan and like to talk about devices using this form factor. While thumb keyboards may not be perfect, I think for text messaging and email composition they serve a vital purpose as you can see with the success of the RIM BlackBerry platform. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post the HTC Excalibur is one new device that I was considering as a GSM model Windows Mobile Smartphone since I couldn't pick up a Motorola Q that is a CDMA/EVDO device. As you can read in that post I pass quickly by the Samsung SGH-i320 device because I didn't hear too much about it and it never looked like there would be a U.S. release. Well, as far as I know there still isn't a U.S. release planned, but I did receive one from Microsoft yesterday as part of the Mobius 2006 Boston event. I prefer the Symbian or Windows Mobile OS over the BlackBerry since I am not focused on only email functionality, but want a complete mobile experience.
The Nokia E61 replaced my Treo 650 back in the May/June timeframe and I have been very happy with the device form factor and functionality. The only aspects that bug me at times are the lack of a camera and the width of the device since it doesn't feel too much like a phone with the rather wide form factor. I'll post a full image gallery and review of the Samsung i320 soon, but I do have a couple of first impressions.
I had the pleasure of getting some hands-on time with the HTC Excalibur, Motorola Q, Samsung SGH-i320, Treo 700w, and Treo 750v all on the same table and preferred the size and keyboard of the i320 over all these other QWERTY devices. After charging my own unit and putting in my SIM I switched the operating band to 1900 MHz (sorry Cingular folks this is a tri-band phone with no 850 MHz support) and picked up a full T-Mobile signal. Unfortunately this device does not have integrated WiFi like the upcoming HTC Excalibur that is rumored to be launched in the U.S. as the T-Mobile Dash in mid-October. I was thinking about this a bit more now that I am trying out a device that doesn't have WiFi and in reality I rarely use WiFi on my Nokia E61 because if I am at home then I am using something other than my phone to surf, check email, etc. and there just isn't that many public free hotspots I access.
The most impressive aspect of the Samsung SGH-i320 when you first pick it up is how amazingly thin it is. It is thinner than my Nokia E61 (14 mm at the thin end) at 11.5 mm (less than half an inch) and also thinner, 70 mm compared to 59 mm. It is very pocketable and light, yet the construction also feels quite durable. The display is very crisp and bright, the camera seems to work well for 1.3 megapixels and is much better than I have seen on HTC Smartphones in the past, the keyboard has a great white backlight and good tactile feel with buttons that are easily manipulated, the stereo speakers are quite loud, but unfortunately are located on the back, and the device seems quite snappy and responsive so far. I am going to try using the Samsung i320 exclusively for several days and see how it compares to my Nokia E61.