As an EV-DO phone, the Highnote can connect to Sprint's Power Vision for Sprint TV, which includes live and on-demand programming from a variety of sports, entertainment, and news channels. You also get Sprint Movies, a selection of premium channels, and more than 150 channels from Sprint Radio. The TV interface is similar to that on other Sprint TV phones, which is to say that it is intuitive.
When you open the Highnote to expose the speaker, shortcuts for games, the music player, and the TV application appear on the display. It's a convenient way to access the player which otherwise resembles that on other Sprint music phones. You can access the Sprint Music Store for wireless download to your phone, or you can transfer music from a PC using a USB cable. Features are limited to playlists, repeat, and shuffle modes, and you can't use MP3s as ringtones. There is an airplane mode, however, and you can send the music player to the background while you're using other phone functions. When a call comes in, the music will pause automatically and will resume again after you hang up.
The 2-megapixel camera takes pictures in four resolutions and three quality settings. Other options include brightness and white balance controls, spot metering, a night mode, five color tones, a self-timer, multishot and divided shot options, 10 fun frames, a 4x zoom and four shutter sounds, and a silent option. Unfortunately, there's no flash or self-portrait mirror. The camcorder records video clips with sound in three quality settings. Other editing options are similar to the still camera if a bit slimmed down. Clips meant for multimedia messages are capped at 30 seconds; otherwise, you can shoot for as long as the available memory permits. The Highnote offers just 24MB of user-accessible memory. That's a rather small amount for a multimedia, phone so we suggest that you use a memory card for more space.
Photo quality is pretty good--colors were bright and there was little image noise. Our test image was bright, but keep in mind that you'll need adequate light since there's no flash. Videos were fine, but nothing spectacular. Most clips were grainy with jerky movement, but that's about what we'd expect from a cell phone camcorder. When finished taking photos you can transfer them a computer or printer via Sprint's PictBridge service, send them in a multimedia message, or store them in an online album. Sprint also offers the capability to send your photos to participating FujiFilm retailers to be printed.
You can personalize the Highnote with a selection of wallpaper and alert tones. You can download more options, and additional ringtones, with the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. The Highnote doesn't offer much in the way of games--just demo versions of Puzzle Quest, Warlords and Street Fighter II--but you get the full versions form Sprint. You also get trial versions of three applications: Pandora, Sprint Social Zone, and Nascar Sprint Cup Mobile.
We tested the dual-band, dual-mode (CDMA 800/1900; EV-DO) Samsung Highnote in San Francisco using Sprint service. Call quality was enjoyable overall. Voices sounded natural, and we had enough volume. Also, the signal was strong and free of static or interference. Our only complaint was that the audio sounded a bit hollow at times. It wasn't a big deal, though.
On their end, callers said we sounded fine. They could tell we were using a cell phone, but that's a typical experience. On the upside, they said the volume was loud, and they had no trouble hearing us. But on the downside, a few of our friends mentioned a slight echo. Automated calling systems had no trouble understanding us if we were in a quiet room.
Speakerphone calls were fine, and we like that you can start the speakerphone during a call by sliding the phone down. The volume was loud, and the audio was mostly clear. Occasionally we heard a bit of interference, but it wasn't a big problem. Bluetooth headset calls were satisfactory.
The Samsung Highnote has a mixed record as a multimedia phone. Streaming video clips showed some pixelation at times and small details were a little blurry. The display size also is a little smaller than we'd prefer, but that can't be helped. Audio was quite good--the audio was loud and the voices matched the action on the screen.
Music quality was better then we've encountered on many Sprint music phones. The speaker has great output and the audio, while lacking range, was clear. Music tracks downloaded quickly in just less than a minute, and the EV-DO connection was strong overall.
The Highnote has a rated battery life of 5.6 hours talk time. It has a tested talk time of 4 hours and 50 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the Highnote has a digital SAR of 1.45 watts per kilogram.