The Access has a 1.3-megapixel camera, which is a step down from the Vu's 2.0-megapixel shooter. It can take pictures in three resolutions, from 1,280x960 down to 320x240, and it offers a choice of three quality settings. Other options include a self-timer; brightness and white balance controls; mosaic, panorama, multishot, and night modes; 20 fun frames; three color tones; an 8x digital zoom (unusable at the highest resolution); and three shutter sounds. The camcorder records clips in a 176x144 resolution with sound and a number of editing options. Clips meant for multimedia messages are capped about 90 seconds, or you can shoot for as long as the available memory will permit. The Access offers 100MB of shared internal memory, which is pretty generous, but just the same we recommend using a microSD card. An onscreen meter tells you how much storage space is left so you can plan accordingly when taking your shots. Unfortunately, photo quality was dismal; our images were grainy, and the colors were washed out.
You can personalize the Access with variety of wallpaper, greetings, background colors, and alert tones. More customization options are available from AT&T with the WAP 2.0 Web browser. For playtime the Access has demo versions of four Java (J2ME) games: Asphalt 2 Street Rules 3D, Diner Dash, Pac-Man/Ms. Pan-Man, Tetris, and World Poker Tour Hold 'em 2. The full versions and additional gaming titles are available for purchase.
We tested the quadband (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) Samsung Access world phone in San Francisco using AT&T service. Call quality was comparable to the VU, but there was a slight echo effect on the Access that we didn't notice on the LG handset. It didn't mar the experience, but it was there nonetheless. The volume level was loud and we didn't encounter any interference or static.
On their end callers said they were pleased. They could tell we were using a cell phone, but that's a common experience. They could hear us well in most environments, but a few of our friends said the Access picked up some background noise. On the other hand, they didn't encounter the echoed effect that we heard. The speakerphone quality was quite good. Though the speaker faces the rear of the phone, the sound was loud with decent voice clarity. We had to speak close to the phone for our callers to hear us, but that's to be expected.
The satisfying sound quality carried over to the Access's music player. Our tunes were sharp and clear with the powerful output from the speaker. It's not a replacement for your MP3 player, but it's a good distraction. As with most music phones, headphones will provide the next experience. Steaming media performance was erratic. Some clips were choppy with visible pixilation. Also, we were disappointed that the streaming video frame takes up only a portion of the Access's expansive display. Videos loaded relatively quickly, but the Access differs from the Vu in another important way. It supports AT&T's 3G UMTS network but it's not compatible with the carrier's faster HSDPA network. That won't mean a whole lot of difference to the average user, but it's an important point.
Though we don't get AT&T Mobile TV in the San Francisco Bay Area, last month we tested the service briefly at CTIA in Las Vegas. We were quite pleased with what we saw; the picture was excellent with no distortion. What's more, the large display does the service justice.
The Access has a rated battery life of up to four hours talk time and up to 16 days standby time. We were able to get 4.03 hours of talk time out of the Access. According to FCC radiation tests the Access has a digital SAR rating of 0.486 watts per kilogram.