With so much emphasis on fancy cell phones these days, you can never have enough basic handsets that are just for making calls. AT&T's new Samsung SGH-A117 is one such model. Created for the carrier's prepaid Go service, the SGH-A117 is devoid of complicated offerings. Rather, it's for calling, sending messages, and accessing basic organizer functions. A speakerphone and Web browser are onboard as well, but ultimately this phone is all about simplicity. Call quality is decent too. The SGH-A117 is $59.
Not surprisingly, the SGH-A117 has a functional, user-friendly design. The phone's compact size (3.39 by 1.67 by 0.76 inches; 2.86 ounces) lends itself to easy portability and the basic black color scheme is inconspicuous. The SGH-A117 feels comfortable when held in the hand, though we couldn't help but notice that the plastic casing feels a tad cheap. That's to be expected on such a simple phone, but we'd appreciate a sturdier build.
The handset's main display supports 65,000 colors and measures 1.75 inches. Though it's not the most vivid display we've seen, it is perfectly fine for this type of phone. You can change the contrast, the backlighting time, and the font color. You can change the brightness as well, though the display was rather dim on the whole. On the upside, the menus are simple and easy to use.
The navigation array shows a standard Samsung design. There's a square navigation toggle, two soft keys, a clear button, and Talk and End keys. The control in the middle of the toggle activates the Web browser when the phone is in standby mode; otherwise it acts as an OK button when navigating the menus. The keypad buttons are large and well-defined. They also have a bright backlighting, so we didn't have any misdials. On the downside, the keys had a cheap plastic feel.
As previously mentioned, the SGH-A117 has a functional feature set designed for communication. The phone book holds just 300 contacts with room in each entry for three phone numbers and an e-mail address (the SIM card holds an additional 250 names). You can pair callers with one of 10 polyphonic ringtones, but there are no caller groups. Other essentials include a vibrate mode, text messaging, an alarm clock, a calculator, a unit converter, and a world clock. There's a speakerphone too, though you can't turn it on until after you make a call.
You can personalize the SGH-A117 with a variety of wallpapers, a greeting, and alert sounds. You can download more ringtones from the AT&T Mall via the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. Unfortunately, there are no included games.
We tested the dualband (GSM 850/19000) in San Francisco. Call quality was acceptable on the whole with decent volume and clarity. Voices sounded natural for the most part, but we noticed that some callers sounded a bit breathy. It wasn't a big distraction by any means, but it occurred in numerous conversations. However, outside of the usual AT&T dead spots the signal remained strong and we didn't encounter any static or interference. On their end, callers said we sounded fine, but they had a bit more trouble hearing us when we were in noisy environments. Speakerphone calls weren't so great. The quality was pretty scratchy and we had trouble hearing our callers. Likewise, they reported the same conditions on their end.
The Samsung SGH-A117 has a rated battery life of five hours talk time and 10 days standby time. We managed to get an impressive seven hours and 38 minutes of talk time in our tests. According to FCC radiation tests, the SGH-A117 has a digital SAR rating of 0.96 watts per kilogram.