iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






Samsung SHG-A800 GSM Phone Review

November 5, 2002

It seems that the first clamshell phone rolled out onto the market quite recently. If I'm right it was Samsung SGH T100. The company went further and released two new models with the design similar to the successful T100. They were S100 and A800. The former has a relatively rich feature set for folder-type phones (IR port and GPRS). The other model, which we are going to speak about today, has more modest characteristics, though it's not crucial for such a showy phone, especially because its weight and dimensions are the main trump. 

First impressions and appearance 

The first thing that catches your eye is its dimensions. Less than a year ago the LG 510w was considered the slimmest model, and today the Samsung A800 looks like a diminutive toy compared to the LG. Though I think it's a bit too thick, or rather, too narrow :-). I think that it reaches its optimal thickness when goes without the battery, but unfortunately, it can't work without it :-). But in a couple of hours later its thickness won't irritate you any more. 

The exterior of the phone reminds me the T100, its black-and-white copy. Compared to the A800, the T100 looks like a dinasaur :-). Almost all its controls are typical of any other such phone. For example, all new folder-type models have two displays. The outer screen can display up to three text lines or pictures (say, a witch with a broom or a fairy with a wand on turning on/off the phone). As usual, it shows network status, battery status, alarm clock's icon (if you have set it), clock (which can be digital or with handles), and if the clock is digital you can also check the day of the week and date. Everything is simple and comprehensible. Under the screen there is a LED winking at you with 7 colors. 

There is only one swing button on the side panel. You can use it to adjust a volume level while you are talking, a ring strength in the standby mode and, when the phone is folded, you can switch on/off the backlight of the outer display. It can be useful if you need to know the time or estimate how long the battery can last. 

The upper view is standard: there is a headset connector, a strap hole and a hole of an external antenna. By the way, the phone's native antenna has a bit different color than the phone itself. I hope it will be corrected in the production samples as it doesn't look attractive at all. The antenna is very easy to demount: it can be unscrewed. The battery serves also as a back panel; there is only a clip on the back and the word Samsung extruded. Its lower panel houses only an interface connector. 


The keys are arranged the same way as in the T100. You can navigate the menu with a 4-way oval joy-stick and two soft keys. Press on the center of the joy-stick where letter "I" is written and you will get into the WAP browser. However, I think that using a separate button for it is not rational as the phone doesn't support GPRS, and one would hardly browse the Internet at about 9600 bit/s. I wish this key had another handy function. For example, setting of voice marks (to activate the dictaphone one has to select a respective item in the menu). 

There is one more oval around the joystick. It's made of the soft keys, cancel and call and "C" keys. The latter key deletes the last typed symbol in an SMS or you can instantly get into a new note, when holding it down. All keys are plastic. The numeric keys, even despite of the phone being tiny, are handy, in contrast to the soft keys, which are too small. 

By the way, the joystick with its four positions serves also as hot keys and WAP button. Press the left side and you will get into the Inbox folder where SMS messages are stored. Press "down" to get a list of gamers (there are three shooters there). Press "right" to compose a short message. And "up" will let you change the ringtone (the A800 is mainly a showy model and its owner will probably like changing them from time to time, which wasn't easy to do on other phones). If you think that you will hardly play games here, you can set another function for the hot keys. 

The ringtones are very loud. Only the LG W3000 could outcry it, though in the real life the ring is not always well heard. Well, the handset has only one speaker which both delivers an interlocutor's voice and plays music in case of an incoming call. When the phone is folded up, the power of the speaker is not enough. But it's made up for by the vibrator. If it works in time with music (teamed up with the LED), the vibration is not very strong. But when it works alone, you can feel the phone even in the pocket of a winter jacket. 

The display is not color, compared to the Samsung T100. But it supports 4 gray gradations which simplifies operation with the menu where you can get by pressing the left soft key. 8 or 9 items (depending on a SIM card) will come onto the screen. 

In our case the first item was SIM menu. Note that there are some problems with non-Roman letters, which I hope will be eliminated in the production samples. 

The next item is Messages. You can read new incoming and outgoing messages, write a new message and change some settings related with parameters of sending and receiving messages. 

The Call Records item stores information on received calls, dialed numbers and talk time. 

The Voice Functions item allows you to make new voice marks and record something with the dictaphone. 

In the Sound Settings you can select a ringtone for incoming calls and new messages, adjust a volume level and enable/disable a beep to be produced every minute while you are talking. 

You can use the Phone Settings to edit the welcoming message ("Samsung SGH-A800 GSM Dualband" is set by default), adjust display parameters (contrast of both displays, a desktop picture and an image on the external display), LED's color on the flip's outer part. But the most important thing is that you can make settings for the joystick and instant keys. 

Organizer covers nine items: Memo, Calendar, To-do list, Clock, Alarm, Calculator, Conversion, Timer and Stopwatch. 

The last menu item is Fun Box which includes three options: WWW Browser, Games and Media Box. There are three games in all: Fortress, Space War and X-Flighter, and all of them are shooters. It's quite strange taking into account that the most part of potential users of the A800 are women. 

In the Address Book you can set a ringtone and an icon to be displayed on both screens for each person. 


The new-comer from Samsung will definitely find its market, but most of them will probably lie in woman handbags as some keys could be tough, or rather too small, to press for men.  

Andrey Klinaichev (andrey@ixbt.com

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