Brighthand Reviews the Samsung SCH-i600

by Ed Hardy Reads (176,672)

Samsung SCH-i600 The Samsung SCH-i600 offers much more than your typical mobile phone. Not only can it keep track of your schedule and address book, you can check your email and even do a bit of web surfing, no matter where you are.

A Difference in Perspective

As a long-term handheld user, using the i600 was a big adjustment for me. The handhelds I’m accustomed to are focused on both data input and data retrieval. This smartphone, while a very good data retrieval device, has limited data input capabilities.

First off, there’s the display. Like a lot of smartphones, the i600 doesn’t use a touch screen. Instead, you select things on the screen with a D-pad and a series of buttons.

The advantage of this is you can do everything on this device with one hand. You can hold it in your left hand and, by pushing the various buttons with your thumb, launch applications, check your email, look up an address, whatever you want.

The downside is it frequently takes longer to do things this way than it would if you could just touch the icons or menu items on the screen to select them. As it is, you have to scroll through the various options to get to the one you want. Sometimes the i600 speeds this up by numbering the options, which means you can select one by hitting the appropriate number on the keypad, but this is still much less easy than a stylus.

In addition, the lack of a Touchscreen means you can’t enter text by writing on the screen or tapping on a virtual QWERTY keyboard. Instead, you have to use the number pad to enter text, which is hardly ideal. This is really what I missed most on this device, and why I say its text input capabilities are limited.

If you’ve never entered text through a numberpad, let me describe the process. I’m sure you’ve noticed that each key on a number pad also has some of the letters of the alphabet on it. On the 3 button, these are D, E, and F. In order to enter the letter D, you push the 3 button just once. In order to enter an E, you must press the 3 button two times. For the letter F, you must quickly push the 3 button three times. It takes a lot of practice to become anything besides excruciatingly slow entering text this way.

The i600 allows you to check your email when you are away from your PC, which is very convenient. You can be walking down the street, pull out your smartphone, push a couple of buttons, and be reading your email. But responding to messages is another matter. Whenever I got an email that required an immediate response, I almost always just called the person, rather than go through the process of slowing writing an email reply. Of course, if the email called for a response to multiple people, I had to make multiple phone calls.

I believe the limited entry capabilities is one of the reasons why Microsoft’s operating system for smartphones doesn’t come with versions of Pocket Word and Pocket Excel, like its handheld OS does. Very few people are going to have any interest in doing word processing on a device where you have to enter text with the number pad.

While this is somewhat understandable, this means you won’t be able to open any Microsoft Office documents sent to you as email attachments.

Personal Information Management

The earliest handhelds were so successful because they were outstanding Personal Information Managers (PIM). This is a fancy way of saying that they were a better way of keeping track of their users’ address book and calendar information than using pencil and paper.

The i600 is also a good PIM device. You can automatically transfer all the contacts and appointments you keep in Microsoft Outlook into this smartphone. This means you always have them with you, and you can update the entries whenever you need to.

As you can tell, I’m not fond of entering text through the keypad, but this method is adequate for entering a new name into your address book or adding a new appointment. Still, I wouldn’t suggest you try to manually enter your entire address book into the i600. Instead, put the entries into Outlook with your PC’s nice, big, comfortable keyboard and then transfer them onto the smartphone.

By the way, if you are an Apple Macintosh user and you are thinking about an i600, you should check out PocketMac Smartphone.

Wireless Networking

The i600 runs on Verizon’s CDMA network. Data transfer speeds are perfectly adequate for exchanging email and a little light web browsing.

This isn’t surprising, as I’ve found that CDMA networks generally do a better job of handling Wireless Data than GSM/GPRS ones do.

But keep in mind, if you are looking for a device to let you do a lot of web browsing while on the go, this isn’t it. Verizon Wireless’ network is up to the job, but this smartphone’s small screen doesn’t deal well with web pages that have been designed for the large screens on desktop computers. The i600 will do its best to display these, but what you get can be very difficult to use.

Still, there are lots of web sites designed for handhelds and smartphones with small screens, and the i600 handles these with ease.

Bluetooth Unfortunately, this model doesn’t include Bluetooth short-range wireless networking, so you can’t use wireless headsets with it.

Hardware

The Samsung i600 uses a clamshell design, with the screen on one side and all the buttons on the other.

Samsung SCH-i600 It is 3.5 by 2.1 by .9 inches when closed and weighs just 5 ounces. It is a relatively small device but its thickness makes a noticeable bulge in whatever pocket you put it in.

Fortunately, it comes with a case that has a clip so you can attach the i600 to your belt, where it rides pretty well.

I know one of the reasons some people don’t like cellular-wireless handhelds is they don’t like to have to hold a large device up to the side of their head while they are talking. The i600 is significantly smaller than most handhelds, so I doubt many people will have this complaint with it. Or, if you do, the i600 comes with a headset, so you can always just talk on it that way.

Still, if you are the sort of person who likes to carry around the smallest phone you can find, the i600 isn’t for you. I’d suggest you go for a two-piece solution: a regular handheld that connects to a small mobile phone via Bluetooth. This way you can leave the handheld at home when you just want the phone.

Screen The display on this smartphone has a resolution of 220 by 176 pixels. When I first learned this, I thought the screen would be impossibly cramped. I was wrong. It is perfectly fine for the limited jobs this smartphone was designed to perform, like reading email or showing those web sites intended for small screens that I mentioned earlier.

For comparison’s sake, its screen resolution is one third greater than that of the Treo 600, a very popular smartphone.

Still, its screen is noticeably smaller than the ones on most handhelds. If you are a long-time Pocket PC user, the reduced size of the screen takes a bit of getting used to.

Another reason you might want to use the headset is the screen is right up against your cheek when you are using the i600 as a phone. Because of this, you are probably going to need to wipe the screen off every couple of days.

The i600 has a small external screen that can display CallerID information, a clock, battery level, network signal strength, and more. This saves you from having to open the device every time the phone rings.

On the Inside

When the i600 was originally released, it came with Microsoft’s Smartphone 2002 operating system. Not too long ago, Verizon and Samsung released a free upgrade to Windows Mobile 2003 for Smartphones.

Its 200 MHz Intel XScale processor gives it a speedy response time. The applications I tried loaded quickly and ran just fine.

The i600 come with 32 MB of RAM, which isn’t a huge amount. Fortunately, it has an SD/MMC slot that allows you to store additional files and applications on removable memory cards.

However, be ready for the fact that Microsoft’s smartphone operating system is a relatively new platform. There aren’t a huge number of applications available for it, especially when compared with the Palm OS or Pocket PC, Still, more are coming on the market every day.

Battery Life

The i600 comes with a pair of batteries: a 900 mAh one and a bulkier 1700 mAh one.

Of course, the length of time this smartphone will last on a single charge depends heavily on how much you use it. With light use, even the smaller battery lasted me a couple of days. The larger one lasted most of a week. However, if you need to check your email a couple of times an hour, you’ll go through the batteries a lot faster.

Happily, the i600’s cradle has slots for charging the device and its spare battery at the same time.

Conclusion

The Samsung i600 is a good device for people who want access to their schedule and address book while on the go, especially for dedicated Outlook users. It can easily take the place of low-end handhelds, which are often used for mostly for storing PIM information.

In addition, the i600 can do something that low-end handheld can’t: allow you to check you email while on the go.

However, its weak text entry capabilities limits this device’s usefulness for some jobs, most noticeably the ability to write return emails.

The Samsung i600 is available from Verizon Wireless for $550 with a one-year service contract.


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