Communication features are text and photo messaging, instant messaging (AOL, Yahoo Messenger, Windows Live Messenger), and e-mail through a dedicated app. The e-mailing client is simple and won't always notify you of incoming messages, like with Gmail, but it is straightforward and easy to use, even if you do have to manually refresh the in-box for some accounts. We were notified routinely of our new Hotmail messages.
AT&T's Media Net browser attends to your surfing needs, though the experience can be pokey on EDGE. It took about 30 seconds to load CNET's mobile-optimized Web site, and expect terribly reduced image resolutions, too--a normal tradeoff in phones of this sort that dramatically speeds up load times. We're glad this phone has Web access, but heavy Internet surfers may want to look elsewhere.
We're used to 1.3-megapixel cameras providing the minimum in camera options, but this one is slimmer by even those standards with just a single shot mode, instead of single, multishot mode, and mosaic. There are the typical five resolutions (1,280x1040; 800x600; 640x480; 320x240), three self-timer settings, five white balance settings, five color effects, and additional settings that contain options such as shutter sound. Producing a mix of blurred and crisp edges, the A187 delivers photos just as we expect for a shooter of this type. You'll be able to get your point across, but images are nothing special. If you skip adding expandable memory, you'll have 32MB of internal memory to work with.
The music player is identical to those we've seen on a variety of other Samsung phones, with basic controls and room for 10 playlists of 50 songs each, which support MP3s. Music quality will always sound best on a cell phone when you use headphones, and we indeed recommend them here. The A187 is also compatible with AT&T's MusicID service, which costs 99 cents per song identification.
We tested the Samsung SGH-A187 (GSM 850/900/1,800/1,900) in San Francisco on Virgin Mobile USA's network. Call quality varied, but was mostly strong. Several calls were quite good with both parties agreeing that volume sounded loud and voices sounded clear. One friend used the word "crisp" to describe the voice audio. If we concentrated, we could sporadically hear a layer of white noise during one of our calls, but it didn't obstruct the conversational flow, and our caller didn't hear it. Another call had some light fuzziness that gave our friends a mechanical lisp. On their end, callers described hearing a whisper of white noise that nevertheless didn't obstruct the flow of conversation.
Speakerphone volume also varied from clear with voices sounding true but distant, to fuzzy on our callers' end, with reports that friends had to listen hard to make out our words. Volume was strong on our end, though voices sounded hollow to our ears and sometimes tinny; this is fairly typical for speakerphone.
Samsung SGH-A187 call quality sample
The Samsung SGH-A187 has a rated battery life of up to 6.0 hours talk time and 12.5 days standby time. According to our tests, it has a talk time of 6 hours and 14 minutes. According to FCC tests, the A187 has a digital SAR of 0.73.