Samsung's E730 proves that MP3 capability and a 1.3 megapixel camera can be squeezed into a good-looking, compact flip phone.
Samsung, well known for designing cute yet practical phones, has again created a compact handset that comes in a glossy black finish reminisant of the D500. But instead of the D500's slider form factor, the E730 is a clamshell model, which touts its MP3 capabilities through dedicated music controls (play, rewind and fast forward) on the front of the flip. Above the three buttons is a 96 x 96-pixel screen that uses organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology to conserve power.
As you flip open the phone, the E730 plays your choice of one of four sounds, such as a cricket chirp or a harp glissando. We don't really know the purpose of this other than to draw attention to your shiny new handset, but it does add a quirky element of fun to the phone.
The internal screen is bright and colourful (up to 262K) but it's a little on the small side. The menu consists of nine cartoon-like icons laid out in a grid, while the home screen shows the time, date, battery and antenna strength on top of wallpaper of your choosing. We wish Samsung would increase the number of indicator bars on the battery meter to give us a more accurate representation of remaining power. On full capacity it shows three bars, which seem to last for ages, but the remaining two go down so quickly we barely knew the battery was draining before it cut out on us.
The even layout of the keypad makes it easy to text with, but the dictionary mode decided to sporadically change back to multi-tap on our test model for some reason. Navigating the menu is effortless with a four-way navigation key with a large OK button in the middle. On the side of the phone are shortcut keys for volume and to activate the camera, and a tiny sliding cover reveals a port to attach the supplied stereo headphones.
The E730's overall dimensions are a petite 87 x 44 x 23mm, so the phone fits neatly in the palm of your hand and doesn't create too much of bulge in your pocket. Samsung has managed to fit a lot of features into the 88 gram device, including an internal antenna, in keeping with the handset's smooth finish.
1.3-megapixel cameras, as found on the E730, are quickly becoming the standard for new camera phones. Although Sony Ericsson's 2-megapixel K750i is our current Editors' Choice for taking mobile snaps, Samsung's offering is compelling for fans of flip phones. Self shots are possible when the folder is closed with the OLED acting as the viewfinder. When in camera mode, the keypad performs various functions, letting you change size, add special effects, frame your subject, or swap to video recording on the fly. 176 x 144-pixel video clips in 3GP format can also be recorded.
Holding down the play button on the front of the phone can launch either the MP3 player or the FM radio (the headset needs to be attached for the latter). Music options can be found in the E730's menu, which allow you to set the player to shuffle or repeat, and customise visualisation options, such as an on-screen graphic equaliser. Headset or loudspeaker volume can be adjusted via controls on the side of the phone.
Although advertised as having 96MB of internal memory, we found only 85MB of shared memory available to the user. With an average MP3 song size of 4MB, you'll be able to store about 20 tracks at any one time. Unfortunately there are no memory expansion options with the E730.
Samsung didn't supply us with a USB cable for the E730, but using a Bluetooth adapter on our PC, we were able to easily, although relatively slowly, transfer songs wirelessly to the device. Once on there, you can listen to MP3s through the loudspeaker, headphones or set them as ringtones.
We found playing MP3s through the E730 speaker sounds tinny and, as the loudspeaker is on the earpiece, when the phone is closed, music comes through muffled. On the other hand, attaching the supplied white and silver headphones lets you listen to your MP3s in all their intended glory. The three multimedia navigation buttons on the front of the phone are slightly raised and give a tactile click to signify a button has been pressed. Holding down the camera shortcut key puts a "lock" on these buttons so you won't accidentally change songs when the phone is in your bag or pocket. The E730 also allows you to resume playback where you left off by pressing the OK button after taking a call.
Battery life is a mixed bag with the E730. When Bluetooth is left on we were lucky to get past the two day mark. However, when it is switched off and the phone is only used for the odd text message or phone call, we got around four days usage. Samsung rates the E730's battery good for up to five hours of talk or 260 hours of standby.
Hitting the market now with the E730 might be a tough sell for Samsung with upcoming competition from Sony Ericsson's Walkman phone, the W800i, and the Nokia N91, which has a 4GB hard disk onboard. However, flip phones certainly have their appeal and Samsung's E730 has a more compact design than either of the above handsets.
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