When you're after something elegant that comes in a mobile phone form factor, there are only a handful of choices out there - and they are not cheap either! Although elegance comes at a cost, it is also the list of flashy features available on such a mobile phone handset that can steepen the final selling price.
Samsung, the Korean manufacturer of consumer goods that also does mobile phones, are quite concentric on making their products look good on both the inside and out. The new SGH-A500 clamshell phone is their latest look-and-feel good phone that's aimed at the lower end of the market. Who says one has to pay top dollar to have elegance?
The A500 doesn't really boast any great technological advances. Using a similar platform found on older models (like the SGH-A300), you may be slightly put off by the traditional black-and-white menus and graphics if you have been exposed to colour-screen phones. However, be glad to know that polyphonic ringtones are actually included onto this model.
But what really needs your appreciation is the A500's external casing design, which uses a soft, metallic paint finishing that is both comfortable to hold, eye and admire. If you simply have the clamshell kept closed, the beauty is really all you need to know about.
The exterior design of the A500 can be considered as "almost perfect" if you are someone that's after a clamshell-based handset. From the use of sleek lines right down to the choice of button shapes and their spaced-out placements, the A500 never fails to disappoint me visually.
On the outside, a soft finishing to the paintwork provides its user with a comfortable hold that never goes away. Both sides of the clamshell, including the actual battery itself, maintains this same finishing. The unit being reviewed had a pearl white colour, and two other exterior colours (red and blue) are also available.
Whether it's talking on the phone or simply having it in your hands ready to show off to curious individuals, the A500 is always a pleasure to hold. Complementing the soft paintwork is its rectangular design that fits comfortably in most hands and faces (when talking on the phone).
Inside the clamshell, a pure silver colour base is common throughout all A500 colour variants, where it attempts to contrast with the colours used externally.
Although it was kind of a shame not to find an external sub-LCD screen on the outside of the clamshell, I believe that having one would ruin the design genre of this phone - where it could just take away its elegance.
User Interface & display
Although it may have a greyscale screen, the A500 uses a similar user interface and software found previously on both the A300 and A400 models. It may not be as exciting as Samsung's colour models, but it still maintains a good level of usability throughout its menus and phone functions.
Making and receiving calls
Maximum comfort throughout telephone conversations is provided through the A500's elongated clamshell design. Spending long periods talking on the phone will cause virtually no pain to your neck or shoulders - on the condition, of course, that you have a good posture :)
Given that the A500 does not come with an external LCD display, an option to disable the active folder is available in the phone's menus. This means a user is able to choose whether an incoming call is taken immediately after the clamshell is opened. Some users may want to see the calling party's phone number or name before answering (or possibly rejecting) the call.
The A500 doesn't come with many bells and whistles when it comes to messaging features. Only basic text (SMS) messages are supported by this particular Samsung model. The T9 predictive text input feature allows quick and easy compositions, but limits its user to the words found only on the built-in dictionary.
There's certainly no knocking the build quality of Samsung mobile phones. The A500 is similarly as good as other models when it comes to reliability and durability. It simply feels solid in the hands and will have no problems taking slight bumps and drops should such mishaps occur (no, I am not encouraging people to go and try - don't get me wrong! :)
Two differently sized batteries are included in the A500 sales package - one slim, one standard. The included battery charger makes it all that practical to have two batteries where you can interchange between these when one runs empty. You can, however, still plug the AC adaptor into the phone should you want to charge the battery while it's being used.
On average use, I was able to get approximately 2-3 hours use and 2-3 days standby on the standard battery, and around 40% less time with the slim battery.