- ✓Unique swivelling camera lens
- ✓thumbnail images aid picture management
- ✓16-bit colour screen
- ✓light and compact
- ✓external caller ID.
- ✕Clumsy menu navigation in places
- ✕moderate battery life
- ✕no Bluetooth.
Following the colour clamshell dual-band SGH-T100 from Samsung comes the high-end SGH-V200, a tri-band GPRS phone with a built-in 'wow factor': a digital camera with a 180-degree rotating lens.
The SGH-V200's swivelling camera is built into the left-hand side of the clamshell hinge, and works well. The idea of a rotating camera lens isn't new -- Sony's ultraportable VAIO C1 notebooks and high-end CLIE handhelds have had this feature for some time; but this is the first time a swivelling camera has been incorporated into a mobile phone. Despite this addition, the V200 manages to remain a compact and usable phone. Weighing only 96g with the slimline battery fitted, the V200 compares well to the competition: certainly, it makes the 156g Nokia 7650 appear dated and brick-like. Located beneath the side scroll button is an ultra-thin infrared port, while the outer cover, beneath the external monochrome display, is adorned by a service light designed as an elongated, multicolour flash. This service light even has nine different levels of personalisation. Inside, the bevelled text number buttons and soft keys are backlit in blue, lighting up when you open the phone and during use. When you dial a number, huge digits appear on the internal screen going onto the second line after the sixth number. Swirly screen animations and whizzing noises kick in while connecting calls -- these may either get on your nerves or be a positive feature, depending on your frame of mind.
The V200 is a tri-band 900/1800/1900MHz and Class 8 GPRS phone, and comes with a WAP 1.2.1 browser. It has a 16-bit colour TFT screen with a resolution of 128 by 160 pixels. There's also an external LCD screen that displays caller ID, date and time, signal strength and battery level. Don't get too excited by the 40-bit polyphonic ring tones, as no sane person would willingly choose one of the 45 bundled ring tones. More can be downloaded via the Samsung Fun Club. The Easy GPRS software package connects your PC to the V200 either via a serial cable or infrared. To use Easy GPRS you need to attach the phone to your PC when both are turned off, which is tiresome for busy people yet has some benefits. It enables you to manage your phonebook, SMS, schedule and call records from your PC. You can also download photos from the phone to the PC and upload ring tones and wallpaper. If you want to use the V200 to connect a notebook or PC to the Internet, you can also do this via the GPRS Wizard in a few simple steps.
When taking self-portraits with friends, you click the camera button and navigate to Take Photo, swivel the side-mounted dial to move the lens 180 degrees to face you. Then you have to click the thin 'up-down' scroll button on the edge to invert the image so you appear the right way up on-screen. The 10-stage digital zoom and exposure levels are controlled by the navigation keys. There's no flash, so you'll have to take care when in low-light situations (such as the average pub). The photo management system allows up to 100 images to be stored, and a useful touch is the use of thumbnail images instead of a list of file names that you get on Sharp's GX-10 for example. When dialling from SIM or internal memory you're likely to get irritated having to go through several steps to get to your contacts. Even accessing the speed-dial numbers takes a minimum of six clicks. Another gripe is that the central button inside the four-way navigation key is only used to launch the WAP browser, not as an enter key. Battery life from the standard 900mAh Li-ion unit is a claimed 3 hours' talk time and up to 120 hours standby. Using the device moderately for over a few days, you get the impression that the standard battery tends to drop to the low level mark quickly, but the recharge speed is fast. You are also supplied with a slimline battery with lower 720mAh performance. Samsung's promotional tie in with the Matrix Reloaded movie will not hurt sales of what is generally a very desirable and well-designed compact camera phone.