The Rugby supports AT&T's Cellular Video service, which offers tons of streaming-video content, and AT&T Mobile Music, which brings wireless song downloads through a variety of partners. The experience on the two applications is similar to that on other AT&T phones; both are minimalist in their designs, but the music player supports a wide variety of file formats and it offers useful features, such as album art, playlists, and shuffle and repeat modes. The Rugby also has a solid selection of music-related features, such as support for XM Radio Mobile, music videos, a Music ID application, a Billboard Mobile channel, and a community section with access to fan sites and downloads.
The Rugby's 1.3-megapixel camera takes 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; a 4x digital zoom (unusable at the highest resolution); and three shutter sounds. Photo quality was quite good. Colors were sharp and there was little-to-no image noise.
The camcorder records clips in a 176x144 resolution with sound and a limited set of editing options. Clips meant for multimedia messages are capped at about one minute, 15 seconds; or you can shoot for as long as the available memory will permit. The Rugby offers about 130MB 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.
You can personalize the Rugby with a variety of background colors, greetings, wallpapers, and alert tones. If you want more options, or additional ringtones, you can download them via the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. Other applications include a My Cast 5 Weather, Mobile banking, Yellowpages, MobiTV, and demo versions of Midnight Pool 3D, Ms Pac-Man and Tetris.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) Samsung Rugby in San Francisco using AT&T service. Call quality was good for the most part, though it was not without its faults. The volume was loud, but the audio was rather harsh. The earpiece had a slight echoed effect, so our callers' voices were slightly distorted. As such, many of our friends sounded like robots. Similarly, while there was no static interference, there was a minor background hum that is characteristic of the "GSM buzz."
On their end, callers said we sounded fine. They could tell we were using a cell phone, but by and large they didn't report any problems. One caller also mentioned the background hum, but he said it wasn't distracting. Speakerphone calls on the SGH-A837 were very loud and remarkably clear on both ends. The vibrating effect that we mentioned earlier was present here, too, but on the whole we were quite pleased. We also had few issues when using a Bluetooth headset or when calling automated systems.
Multimedia on the Rugby was just OK. Streaming videos took a few seconds to load and the picture quality was mediocre. Our clips never froze, but they were choppy and pixilated. Also, the 3G connection wavered in buildings. We were surprised that, given the phone's loud call volume, the volume for streaming clips was rather low. Music quality was a tad better, but here the volume was low, as well. Headphones will provide the best experience. The Web browser was slower than we'd like, even when using the 3G connection.
The Samsung Rugby SGH-A837 has a rated battery life of 5 hours talk time and 10.4 days standby time. The Rugby has a tested talk time of 5 hours 15 minutes. The promised talk time is a tad low for a GSM phone. According to FCC radiation tests, the Rugby has a digital SAR rating of 0.46 watts per kilogram.