When it comes to clamshell-based phones, Samsung probably takes the cake for having the most of these handsets in the GSM market. And in most cases, their conspicuously common design means you will almost immediately recognise one even if it didn’t say “Samsung” on the front of it!
The SGH-A800 is possibly one of those models from the Korean manufacturer that actually takes on a slightly different shaping than most of its clamshell-based predecessors. Its smaller footprint will appeal to individuals who are after compactness from their phones, but doesn’t mean that its list of offerings has been shrunk also.
I certainly welcome the new A800 with open arms (it’s about time that Samsung has brought out a smaller version of their phones for the masses!) Read on to find out what this phone has to offer…
Apart from being smaller, the A800 comes with several improvements that will certainly bring a more positive experience to its user. On the inside, the phone’s user interface has been given a remake from what has been traditionally available in black and white. Also, the high resolution LCD screens (on both the inside and out) provide a greater level of detail, which becomes especially apparent when graphics are displayed on-screen.
Note that the A800 does not come with a colour screen for its main display. Although we have moved into the era of colour displays, not everyone really needs them. People who simply want the “Samsung” touch will find this phone to be what they have been looking for.
On the physical level, everything about the A800 is all good. From the shaping and weight of the A800 clamshell right down to its keypad layout, there is certainly nothing that I found to be out of place or poorly designed. Whether it’s having the phone against your face during a phone conversation or just keeping a good hold of it, the A800 will not cause discomfort.
The first time that I opened the A800 clamshell, I realised that the keypad design was very similar to that of the larger T100 model. Virtually every button on the keypad had the same shaping, angle and blue backlight emittance. Also, each of the buttons also seemed to have a bulge at its centre, which I found helped my fingers identify the buttons more clearly.
As for the service light (how can I forget about that), it is located below the external LCD screen taking up a sleek, curvature shape. Alike other service lights on other Samsung models they can get quite blinding when it flashes repeatedly in a very dark environment. A choice of up to seven colours is at the user’s disposal, and you can turn it off if you don’t like to use it.
User Interface & display
A combination of white backlighting and greyscale display has been chosen for the primary display on the inside of the A800 clamshell, being the first Samsung phone to actually uptake this scheme. The white backlight is emitted evenly throughout the screen area, and does make a slight difference in readability. Traditionally, with the aqua-coloured backlight on the SGH-N500 and -N620 models, its user may find its brightness to be slightly uncomfortable to the eyes in very dark environments.
The A800 gets a new user interface design, differing very much from the traditional menu screens and fonts used to display text. For certain menus, dialogs are displayed to show alert or warning messages, followed with a built-in sound.
Having a greyscale screen also means that graphics displayed can have up to 4 levels of greys, instead of just being restricted to traditional black and white colours. Therefore, the wallpaper capability of the A800 becomes that much more practical.
Making and receiving calls
Samsung has always been good with their clamshell models, and the miniaturised A800 model is no exception when using it to make and receive calls. No matter what position it takes, the phone will always rest comfortably upon your face. Call quality never seems to be a problem with any of the Samsung GSM models I’ve come across so far.
A headset socket is located on the top side of the A800, along with a strap or lanyard hole to attach the traditional wearable ear-microphone. However, this was not included in the A800 sales package that I received - meaning users would have to purchase it as a separate accessory.
Along with the changes in the user interface is the A800’s messaging system. I would expect a mixed bag of comments and opinions from different Samsung users regarding this, since it can depend on whether T9 predictive text input is used and the particular model in question. To simply put it, all Samsung GSM models seem to provide different T9 and other input capabilities - even though they maintain a similar keypad layout for input.
For the A800, the usability of its messaging functionality is very much improved when compared to previous models. Why I say this is because its messaging interface is one of the easiest to use.
At the top of the screen, it displays the number of characters remaining in the message. It also tells its users how many standard SMS messages have been used (a concatenated message on the A800 can be as long as 12 standard SMS message lengths). On the bottom, you have your soft key indicators - left is for the options, while on the right allows you to change the input mode or allows you to add a new word to the custom T9 dictionary if the word is not recognised (the “spell” function will appear when you have browsed through the entire list of possibilities).
The A800 is also one of the very few Samsung models that allow the addition of new words. I find the ability to add words become quite useful when you have everyday slang that you want to be able to use with T9 enabled. Believe it or not, they are still releasing models that don’t come with this ability in their T9 up until today.
Solid as a rock, the A800 has been put together extremely well alike other Samsung phone models. You won’t find any evidence of creaking and flimsiness here. However, you may find that after prolonged use, the clamshell hinge will become slightly looser than when it first came out of the box. After having used many Samsung clamshell models in the past, I found this to be a normal occurrence and consider it to be normal wear and tear.
The A800 churns out good numbers in this department, considering the batteries only have to power two monochrome LCDs. On average use, I was able to obtain approximately 2-3 hours worth of talk time and 2-4 days standby - depending on whether you make great use of the phone or not (since the main display is turned off when the clamshell is closed, which helps greatly in increasing standby time).