Review – Samsung i700 Pocket PC Phone

by Reads (12,637)

I’m an early adopter. The makers of any new cool toy love me and my kind. I always pay top dollar and get the first one that comes off the assembly line. I usually help them to work the bugs out of the product by providing them the cash they need to fix the problem that they know they have but had to ship the product anyway because someone high on the corporate ladder needs to see the return on investment for the stockholders. I’m glad to help them.

 

I had a customer that wanted a demonstration of reading a document wirelessly over the internet on a PDA. The best way to do this was to have the right tools. I went to the local Verizon store to check out their wares.

 

When I first saw the Samsung i700 I was struck by its sleek design. The salesman showed me the interchangeable batteries, the ability to send and receive email and the Internet Explorer using the Verizon 1XRTT Wireless Network was almost more than I could bear. This was cool — “I need this,” my mind kept saying to itself. Unfortunately Verizon does not carry it in their stores; they will only ship it to you from their warehouse. For an extra $ 10 you can get it the next day. I figured it was a no brainer, ship it to me already activated at my hotel in Oklahoma . Monday the i700 arrives at my hotel, but because I’m in Oklahoma they cannot send the signal to turn it on until I’m back in Texas . On Tuesday I get back to Texas and call Verizon, within a few minutes they have it authorized and working. Wednesday is my customer meeting. I had it working just under the wire.

 

Samsung i700

 

On a comparison basis the i700 has an incredible PDA. The display is bright and sharp, better even than my trusty iPAQ. As a comparison I usually keep my iPAQ 3750 on its brightest setting, I keep the Samsung on the lowest. I did find a few quirky things with it though, I write it off to early adopter penalty.

 

While its easy to make a call, simply activate the Phone program from either the Start menu or by hitting the Off Hook Button, dial the number and…the display turns off — obviously to save battery. You can hit the display button and turn it back on. On the bottom menu bar there is a note icon that when you and you tap the icon it opens a notepad already filled in with information from the Caller ID or the Contacts Database complete with the date and time of the call. The problem comes in when the display is turned off during the call. Press the display button and the light comes on but you have to work fast to get the note open and write something on it before the light goes off again. I think of it as I game that I have not mastered yet. You would think there would be a setting for this under “Display” or “Phone.”  I have not been able to find it.

 

I also had some trouble answering the phone. I kept trying to hit the balloon that pops up on the display saying there is a call, press here to answer. My fingers aren’t always as nimble as I would like and I would occasionally miss a call. I finally learned to just hit the off-hook button. In the words of the immortal Homer Simpson — Doh! I had the same problem hanging up the phone with the display turned off, then I learned to use the On-Hook button, I guess that’s a double Doh!

 

I have to admit that most of the ringers installed on the phone were not to my taste. I finally settled for the Old Phone sound which is a ringer from an antique phone. It reminds me of the Star Trek episode where Data had a phone in his stomach that kept ringing. Same sound! You can easily download WAV files for ringers that suit you better. I have some Harry Carey sound clips that I like.

 

The Camera works well it takes pretty good quality pictures for being an integrated Camera / PDA / Phone. It has a .33 Mega pixel (or 330,000 pixel) resolution which allows you to take pictures as 640X480. If you send them to someone via email it makes for decent quality. I did find that most people don’t even realize I’m taking their picture as they don’t see the camera.

 

I found email to be the most frustrating experience with the i700. While it can send and receive email, Verizon does not give you access to their SMTP server. While you can go on the internet using the 1XRTT service, you cannot send emails. I called to discuss this and the Tech admitted that it was pretty cheesy. For $80 per month you get unlimited access to the internet using their service but cannot even send an email. They did recommend using hotpop.com and softhome.net both of which offer free SMTP servers. I signed up for accounts with both of them but I still had trouble getting it configured properly to work on the Verizon network. Bad part was you had no one to call for support to help get it configured properly. Neither Verizon nor Hotpop or Softhome know anything about configuring a device like this.

 

The batteries are incredible. It comes with 2. The standard is 1100mAh and an extended which is 2000 mAh. Using the 2000 I can make calls all day as well as use the PDA without draining the battery.

 

The case…what’s the word … sucks. It holds the unit but is pretty unusable for the phone features. The plastic molded clip holds it so securely in the case that if you want to pick up the phone and talk on it, you can’t remove it quickly so you have a leather PDA case in your face while you talk on the phone. You can press the off hook button to turn on the speakerphone, which is a totally undocumented feature, but then the sound from the speaker is against the back of the case. Even taking it out of the case the volume is not very loud; hopefully they will fix this in a future release. Also I’m a belt clip kind of guy; keep the wrist strap.

 

The speaker is rather unusual. It seems to be center mounted with sound coming from both sides of the case. I had read reports that when you talk on the phone you hold it with the screen away from your face. Fact is you can do this, but it’s more difficult to hear. If you turn it over with the screen facing you the sound quality is much better. When using the speakerphone lay it face down as it will amplify the sound through the speaker on the rear. When talking on the phone it’s easy to press the off hook button to change to the speakerphone. When you use a headphone you cannot turn on the speakerphone without first unplugging the headphone.

 

Synching it with my Outlook was a breeze. It took roughly about 15 minutes to Synch my 10,000 contacts. You have to love a fast processor along with USB. The specs say it is an Intel PXA250. I have read some reports that it is 300 MHz and some say 400 MHz. Nowhere can I find a definitive answer.

 

Conclusions:

I would have liked to have seen a tighter integration of the Camera with the Contacts. The idea of saving a picture with the contact record would be pretty handy for someone that has 10,000 contacts in their PDA. I’m great at remembering names and faces, but not that good. Samsung certainly made an incredible PDA for their first time out. It certainly is a contender just on that. Add in a phone and a camera and my hats off to them. While they certainly can improve it, and hopefully they will it is certainly a great product out of the box.

 

I would really like to have seen better documentation. The instruction manual leaves much to be desired, as does Verizon’s tech support.

 

In the words of the immortal Whammer… “It’s the best there ever was” but there is still room for improvement.

 

The Samsung i-700 is now available from Verizon and will be out on Sprint PCS later in the year.

 

-Steve Kuperman

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