Two weeks ago, after working many long days without a day off, I misplaced my 3-month-old HP iPAQ h1910 Pocket PC. I looked everywhere, all the while dreading the thought of having to spend another $400 to replace it (not to mention the cost of the 256MB Secure Digital card that disappeared along with it). No luck.
After a few days I resigned myself to life without a PDA. That is, until I happened to call our corporate Verizon representative about a problem I was having with my bill. Well, one thing led to another and before I knew it a shiny, new Samsung SCH-i700 Pocket PC Phone was on its way. And once again, life was good.
It’s a Phone, it’s a PDA, it’s a…Camera?
The i700 packs a lot of functionality and value into a small, attractive package. Here’s how it measures up:
Speed. The i700 is certainly no slouch when it comes to performance. While its Intel PXA250 XScale processor runs at only 300MHz, it still feels more than adequate. There’s no noticeable lag when using any of the menus or opening and running programs.
In addition, you can control the processor speed using a rudimentary applet found in the system settings. The choices for CPU speed are Turbo, Normal, and Slow, with Normal being the default. Normal provides a good balance between performance and battery life, and seemed more than adequate for every day use.
Memory. The i700 comes with 64MB of RAM, all of it user-available. In addition, there’s 64MB of flash ROM, with nearly 6MB set aside as a non-volatile, user-accessible flash disk for storing critical files into flash memory.
Given that Samsung had the forethought to include 64MB of ROM, users can rest assured that their hardware will be ready for Pocket PC 2003 Phone Edition should Verizon or Samsung release an upgrade. At least we hope.
Screen. The i700 has a beautiful 3.5″ transflective TFT LCD capable of displaying 65,000 colors — comparable to the excellent display found on the HP iPAQ h1910 Pocket PC.
Communications. The i700 truly hits the mark when it comes to balancing PDA functionality with cell phone usability. On the PDA side, it does everything as well as you’d expect from a Pocket PC. And on the phone side, the integrated CDMA 1xRTT phone works well, with outstanding call quality, decent reception (though not as good as my trusty old Motorola v60 cell phone running on the Verizon network), and no lag between dialing a number and when it is displayed on the screen. (And there is a mini-jack located on the back of the device for connecting an external antenna, if you think that’ll help with the reception issue.)
But it’s the level of integration within Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition that’s most impressive. For example, you can tap on a phone number in the contacts app to launch the phone dialer application and automatically dial the number.
The Samsung i700 Pocket PC Phone provides three ways in which to carry on a conversation: handset mode, as a speakerphone, or using a headset. In handset mode, the i700 is held up to the head much like a normal phone, but with the screen facing towards you. For those worried about facial oil on the screen, you’ll be happy to know that the included leather case has holes cut in it so that you can use the i700 in handset mode even when the case is closed.
There is a larger speaker on the rear of the device that is used for system sounds, alerts, and the speakerphone. The speakerphone works well; I was able to carry on a conversation while driving down the highway in my pickup truck without any problems being heard on the other end.
Finally, there’s the included stereo earbuds, which features a separate volume control, microphone, and send/end button. These aren’t your ordinary earbuds. While they’re clearly designed for phone use, they work very well with music too.
With ring tones fast becoming a way to express your personality, the i700 delivers, offering a choice of 16 ring tones. If that isn’t enough, a free ring tone pack is available for download from Microsoft. Also, there are 7 ringer types; Ring, Increasing Ring, Ring Once, Vibrate, Vibrate and Ring, Vibrate then Ring, and None. The built-in vibrator is strong enough to be felt even when the i700 is secured in the case and stuffed in a jacket pocket.
As I mentioned, the phone functions are nicely integrated, and the included voice-activated dialing software from Voice Signal Technologies is perhaps the “killer app” that integrated Pocket PC phones have been waiting for. Voice Signal allows you to dial any name in your contacts simply by speaking their name, or you can choose to dictate a phone number and the software will dial it. The real strength of this software over others is that Voice Signal is speaker independent and no training is required.
Speaking to the recognition engine is done at a natural pace, making it not only a productive and natural, but also enjoyable way to make your calls. You are guaranteed to amaze your friends when you show off this feature. If you have a lot of contacts with hard to pronounce names, the software will let you train individual contacts as required, although during my testing I found that to be unnecessary.
Of course, one of the benefits of having a Pocket PC Phone is its integrated data capability. On the i700, this is handled in one of two ways, either through Verizon Wireless’s Express Network for an additional monthly charge, or through the Quick2Net circuit-switched network, which is billed at normal airtime rates.
I tried the slower Quick2Net and found that it was more than sufficient for e-mail and instant messaging, but web browsing was painfully slow. I highly recommend the higher speed Express Network if you’re going to be using data connections frequently. You can get a special price of $45 for Unlimited Express Network by calling Customer Care and asking them to add it. This is the PDA version as opposed to the PC version you might see on their website. Those who still carry a laptop when traveling will be happy to know that the i700 can also serve as a wireless modem.
Multimedia. As with all Pocket PCs, the i700 takes multimedia very seriously. Like some of the more recent Pocket PCs, the i700 comes with a 2.5mm (3/32″) earphone connector, which means you’ll need an adapter if you plan to use a standard set of headphones to listen to music. However, Samsung does include a set of earbuds with a special connector that fits.
And Samsung also includes a 0.3 megapixel digital camera. The camera works well and will come in handy for taking a quick snapshot at the job site, or while on the road.
Expansion. The i700 has a Secure Digital (SD) slot that will stave off most people’s Storage needs. And while the slot does support SDIO, drivers may be needed for the SDIO peripherals that are currently available.
Power. Power is one area where the i700 leaps ahead of the competition. It does this by including not one but two lithium ion rechargeable batteries. First, there’s the slim standard battery (1200 mAh), which provided an impressive three hours of PDA usage with the backlight on, an addition hour of talk time, and about 20 hours of phone standby. Then there’s the extended battery (2000 mAh), which gave 5 hours of Pocket PC usage, more than 2 hours of talk time, and more than 50 hours of standby.
Assigning a real assessment of value to the i700 really depends on what your needs and desires are. At a cost as low as $599 with a two-year contract (or $629 with a one year agreement), it is a clear value over some of the higher end Pocket PCs on the market, even before taking into account that it’s also a cellular phone.
And Samsung smartly included a cradle, which contains a spare battery charging port, a travel charger, an extra stylus, and a handsome leather case (see picture below). Nice extras at no cost.
The Samsung SCH-i700 Pocket PC Phone is a sleek, attractive, and functional communications tool. It’s also a top-notch PDA, and a cell phone capable of replacing your trusty old Motorola or Nokia. Being able to access your e-mail, and surf the net without wires, or troublesome IrDA connections is a pleasant and rewarding experience, if you’re willing to pay the price for it. The i700 isn’t for everyone, only those willing to rethink the way they use a cell phone will find this type of integrated device truly useful.
Finally, for those willing to make the change, I see no reason to wait any longer; the Samsung i700 is a device that is ready, willing, and able to meet even the most demanding applications. The future of communications is here!