- Stylish design
- Excellent battery life
- Good sound quality on calls and playing music
- Screen hard to see outdoors
- Too many sharp corners
The Samsung Propel Pro from AT&T is a Windows Mobile 6.1 slider phone with a full QWERTY keyboard and a stylish exterior. It’s a quad band world phone with Wi-Fi and some extras.
BUILD AND DESIGN
The first word that comes to mind when I look at the Samsung Propel Pro is “sexy”. The device has an ultra-sleek exterior that looks like polished hematite. It’s really quite striking, and looks much cooler than a lot of the other cookie-cutter phones on the market.
Even though the exterior of the phone is plastic it looks like metal, and the device feels very solid in the hand. At 2.4 inches wide, especially in my relatively small hand, it is so wide that its sharp corners tend to dig into my palm if I’m trying to use it one-handed. The phone is a little on the heavy side, but not too heavy, and the weight is pretty well balanced between the top slider and the main portion of the phone.
The buttons on the front and sides are all nicely placed and easy to manipulate; the five-way navigator feels tight and works very well, offering excellent cursor control.
I like the fact that the microSD slot is handy and accessible on the side of the device, instead of being stuck under the SIM card slot in the battery compartment, which is inconvenient at best. The covers for the charge/sync port and the microSD slot are permanently attached so you can’t lose them, which is nice.
The slider works well, and snaps convincingly into place whether you are opening or closing the device. One thing to note is that you really can’t use the phone for anything when the slider is closed unless you have gone into the Settings application and changed the slider behavior. By default, the device is locked if the slider is closed. That of course prevents any of the buttons from being accidentally pressed, but it also makes it more difficult to look up your next appointment if you’re trying to do it quickly.
Like other recent Samsung phones offered by AT&T, the Propel Pro does not have a standard headphone jack. Fortunately the external speaker is far better than average, so you can easily share music with your friends and associates. The sound is quite good, and there is no distortion at higher volumes, which has been a major problem in the past. Granted, you’ll still want the optional headset for the best listening experience, but the speakers were much better than expected.
The display is a 2.55-inch, 65,000 color TFT LCD that runs at 320 by 320 pixels. It is set just under the exterior covering of the phone, so the front of the device is completely smooth except for the buttons at the bottom of the device.
This screen really nice, and offers bright, vivid colors and clear video with no ghosting or graininess. I generally found it easy to read indoors and in low-light conditions, but it didn’t perform very well outdoors in bright sunlight.
I also had occasional problems where I could see my reflection much better than I could see the screen. That’s great if I want to touch up my lipstick without a mirror, but not really a good thing if I’m trying to check my email or look up an appointment. I was able to get used to it after a while, but I really don’t like having such reflective material all around the screen. A black bezel wouldn’t have been as stylish and attractive, but it would have helped a great deal with this problem.
The keyboard is located on the main body of the phone, and is exposed by pushing the screen up. The keys are relatively tall and narrow; not my favorite style, but usable enough. There is excellent vertical differentiation between each row of keys, so if you have any problems you’re much more likely to hit a key next to the one you want, instead of above or below it. The keys do taper off on each side, but not very much. They do have an acceptable travel distance and the overall feel is solid, not mushy.
The Propel Pro comes with a small, light AC adapter, a USB sync cable, a getting started CD and a printed Getting Started guide.
The Propel Pro is a very snappy device indeed, with a 528 MHz processor, 128 MB of RAM, and 256 MB of ROM. I never once saw the dreaded Windows Mobile “pinwheel” because launching and switching applications was practically instantaneous.
The Propel Pro can keep you connected in a variety of ways, including GPRS, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. I was impressed with the speed of GPRS application downloads compared to some of the other phones I’ve reviewed recently; since they were also on AT&Ts network and I was using the same SIM card, it seems that this phone has exceptional network reception compared to the other devices. Wi-Fi works as expected, and is particularly handy in those situations (inside older buildings, for example) where cellular coverage is spotty at best.
The call quality is very good, but not exceptional. The parties on the other end of my calls were slightly “flat” in tone; the Propel Pro doesn’t seem to have the richest sound, but there was no static or background noise that interfered with the conversation. The folks on the other end didn’t have any problem hearing or understanding me either, so the Propel pro performs well in this area.
Since this is a Windows Mobile device, it comes with the standard Microsoft Office Mobile applications: Word Mobile, Excel Mobile, PowerPoint Mobile, and OneNote Mobile. You’ll also find a handy PDF viewer and a Mobile Banking application that can help you manage your finances on the go. If you’re in the mood to spend some money instead, a rudimentary eBay client is included, but you would probably be better off visiting the auction site with Internet Explorer.
AT&T GPS is included as well, so you don’t have to worry about getting lost. A free trial of MyCast Weather is on there too, as well as an RSS Reader application pre-configured with a variety of popular feeds, including CBS Top Stories, CBS Financial, BBC News, Yahoo US News, and the New York Times home page.
The Propel Pro also includes a variety of applications that will help you be on time (Alarms allows you to set as many as ten different reminders), calculate tips (Tip Calculator), figure out what time it is in Beijing (WorldClock), time your athletic exploits (StopWatch), convert to or from the Metric system (Smart Converter), and even count down how many days it is until your wedding or any other major event (D-Day).
I was very pleased to see something new that can be extremely useful for road warriors. This is the first phone I’ve tested that includes DioOCR, a business card reader that actually works pretty well. All you do is aim the phone’s camera at a business card or any other text you want it to recognize, and push in on the five-way navigator to start the process.
Within five seconds a new contact will pop up with the various fields already populated. Like any OCR program, this one does have a few quirks; it only seems to recognize a person’s name, phone and fax numbers, email address, and company, but not the address. I was also surprised to see the “@” symbol in the email address on several cards rendered as a Q instead. If the program puts something in the wrong place, you can use the menu to change it out for another line on the card or edit the field directly.
No worries about missing something important if you decide to toss that stack of business cards from yesterday’s meeting immediately, because the program automatically saves an image of each card in the \My Documents\My BizCards folder, which is viewable on your device or easily transferred to your PC for archival purposes. DioOCR is really useful, and something that I would like to see included with other devices.
Like several of the other phones recently reviewed on Brighthand, the Propel Pro includes Cellular Video and MobiTV, and both of them work very well. Again because this phone seems to have superior network connectivity, I didn’t have any problems with excessive buffering, mismatched sound & video, etc.
Windows Media Player Mobile performs as expected. There is also a MusicID application included to help you identify songs (making it easy for you to purchase them, of course) and there is also a trial of XM Radio. XM Radio was really easy to use, with a simple interface that let me quickly surf through the available channels. Sound quality on the external speaker was very good, and this is certainly a handy way to listen to satellite radio on the go.
The three megapixel camera takes excellent photos, including landscapes and macro shots. The detail is exceptional, with very good quality shots with absolutely no graininess, even on close-up macro shots.
As always, this camera will not replace a specialized high resolution camera, but for every day shots, and considering the convenience of having a good camera in your pocket at all times, this is a great one.
The Propel Pro’s battery life is excellent; I was able to go several days with moderate use and never went below half strength on the 1440 mAh battery. The technical specs say that you should get 6.5 hours of usage and up to 12 days of standby time with this phone. This was one of the more impressive aspects of the Propel Pro, and this device could be a good choice for heavy users and/or road warriors.
Another nice touch is the way the ring around the five way navigator lights up when charging the device — red while the device is charging, and green when charging is complete. That means you can tell if you’re ready to go or not with a quick glance, instead of having to pick up the phone and check a tiny icon on the screen.
I like the Propel Pro, but I don’t love it — in some ways it seems that style was at the top of the list during the design phase, instead of pure functionality. It has some great features, such as fast performance, good voice quality and external speaker, and a great camera, but the reflective screen really bothers me. It’s disconcerting to see myself in my phone so much of the time.
If you’re more concerned about style than about absolute utility, you should give this device a closer look. It has all the functionality of a Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard phone in a pretty fancy package. If on the other hand you’re a workaholic who doesn’t really care what your phone looks like or what other folks may think about it, you should probably look elsewhere.
- Very stylish and sexy design
- Very good sound quality on voice calls and when listening to music on the external speaker
- Excellent battery life
- The screen can be very hard to see outdoors, and often reflects your face because the phone is so reflective
- A little wide, and not very rounded on the corners, so it can be difficult to hold in your hand and somewhat painful to use one-handed