The only full-flip, folding phones that I ever got the chance to use and try out were the Motorola ones. There was the StarTAC (can we ever forget!), and then followed the V’s (better). I can honestly say that there is a bigger chance of me getting a Motorola flip phone today than a few years ago. But if there was an alternative, then I would consider that too!
It has been worth the wait. The SGH-A300 from Samsung is one of the first few full-flip phones to become available in the Australia market that is not “Motorola”. Apart from previously seeing the TV advertisements for the phone, the thing I was most impressed with this phone was the LCD display on the front side of the flip - allowing information to be shown when the phone’s flip is shut.
"Closing the phone's
flip didn't make a huge bang!"
After opening up the A300’s sales package, I found the phone sat very comfortably in my palm in any position (whether I was holding it tight or just letting it sit in my hand), and on opening/closing the flip and inserting/removing the battery I found the build quality to be quite good. Closing the phone’s flip didn’t make a huge bang - thanks to the two small cushioning devices located at the base of the phone. The weight of the phone was just right - not too heavy and not too light. The package came with two batteries - a standard-sized and a slim one. I found both battery sizes quite acceptable - which didn’t make the phone too thick for it to be considered uncomfortable.
The phone looked great when the flip was closed. But on opening it up, I found the main display being “too square” - which immediately took away the curvature effect of the phone’s design. A sufficiently-bright, green backlight illuminated the keypad and main greyscale display, while a blue backlight was used for the outside display instead.
Talking about the outside display, this will be one of the main factors that will make people think about buying this phone over anything else available. What we have all hated about full-flip phones is that you cannot see the display when you need to (for example, knowing who is calling, the signal strength, etc). Take this example, for instance: one would want the convenience of having an active flip when they don’t need to disable this to be able to see who’s calling before answering the phone (for those StarTAC and ‘V’ users, does this sound familiar?).
Some of the information that is presented in the outside display include the current time and date, signal strength and battery level, notification of received messages, missed calls and (of course) the telephone number or the name of the person - if in the phone book - of a person calling in. When you want to see what’s on this display, simply hold down on one of the volume buttons (on the left side of the phone) until the blue backlight comes on.
Navigating the phone’s menu wasn’t an issue - thanks mainly to a system assisted by icons. The phone displays configurable options and information on one line (which scrolls if the whole line of text does not fit on the screen) - requiring the user to actually pressing either choosing “select” or by pressing the right side of the navigational key and then choosing the preferred option. But a person would want to know what the current setting or option is before going in there to change it. Samsung has solved this problem by showing you what the current selected option is after highlighting the option in the menu for more than 1-2 seconds. Very convenient indeed!
The 4-way navigational key, located above the main numeric keypad, allowed for complete control when it came to configuring the phone for use, and without the need for me to take my finger off it to go into another option or menu tree. When used outside any menus, they act as shortcuts (for example, pressing up would start the WAP browser). A long press of the ‘C’ (or clear) key below the navigational key, for example, is set by default to activate the phone’s silent mode.
tactility in the keypad gives a user the confident feeling"
Unfortunately, I sometimes found this difficult to use - especially at times when I pressed “up” where my finger was too close to the top casing of the phone. If the key was slightly lower, then it would have been perfect. But at the end of the day, I suppose it depends on how one presses buttons… :)
Making calls was no harder. The tactility in the keypad gives a user the confident feeling that their number entry would definitely be correct - whether it be pressing one key or several digits at the same time. Subsequently, typing SMS messages would be a breeze as well - in conjunction with T9 predictive input and the phone being able to buffer keypresses if you type faster than the phone can display the words or letters. Although not a major issue, the T9 indicator (at the top of the main screen) showing whether you are in caps (or capitals) lock mode or not is very hard to differentiate!
One of the things that I didn’t like about this phone was the calendar function. When the full-month calendar is brought up on the screen, the letters and numbers are so small that you have to squint to see what day of the week you have selected. Some people may not mind, but at least provide an option to choose whether a full-month or a weekly/fortnightly display should be used instead - so that at least it can be seen without discomfort.
Other features of the phone I found to be useful include an infrared port, minute minder and connect tones (notify you when a call has been connected), a WAP browser, organiser functions (alarm, calculator, calendar, to-do list), setting of shortcut keys, SIM locking (preventing a foreign SIM from being used on the phone), and 7 games.
As for battery life, I was able to get around 2-3 days out of the standard battery with average usage. As for the slim one, treat it only as a backup battery when your other one is flat. Although very slim and compact, the slim battery will not last just over a day’s average use.