The Samsung SGH-P735 for T-Mobile is the latest handset to sport the now popular swivel design. Similar to Samsung's earlier SCH-A610 for Verizon, the P735 expands on the trend with an unusual, if a bit complicated, form factor. While there are some improvements over the A610--the P735 offers an external screen and a memory card slot--the mobile has a confusing navigation key design and is slightly bulkier than its predecessor. Features were mixed as well. You now get extensive multimedia capabilities and world phone support, but you're still left without a speakerphone or Bluetooth. The handset is also overpriced at $499, but you should be able to find it for less with a service contract. The Samsung SGH-P735 is rather bulky (3.6 by 1.7 by 0.9 inches; 4.5 ounces), so size-conscious callers may want to give it a test run before buying. On the front flap, you'll find a small LED light and a postage-stamp-size external screen. Though it's monochrome when in standby mode, it shows 65,000-color photo caller ID (where available) in addition to the date, time, battery life, and signal strength. You can't change the backlighting, however, and the display goes completely dark when it is off. As a result, you must open the phone just to check the time--a bit of an annoyance.
The P735's attention-grabbing design is a cross between those of the Samsung SCH-A610 and the . Not only does the front flap flip up in a normal manner for talking, but like the Koi, it also rotates counterclockwise 180 degrees to reveal the keypad. The swivel mechanism is a welcome feature when using the phone as a camera, as you can let the main screen (which now faces backward) serve as a viewfinder for taking a self-portrait with the rear-facing camera lens. Or to take a traditional photo, you can flip the screen down (as with the A610) so that the internal screen is on the opposite side of the phone from the camera lens. In either case, the screen's orientation also rotates accordingly, so you don't have to turn the handset upside down. For more variation, you can rotate the flap 90 degrees for a picture in Landscape mode. But wait--there's more. A final maneuver is to rotate the flap 180 degrees clockwise from its original starting point to expose the keypad and the navigation controls. While we weren't certain of the exact purpose of this arrangement--which is similar to the normal talking position--you can make calls, take pictures, and browse through the menus, nevertheless. Take care, however, as you must repeat the three-step process to get back to the starting point.
While the multiform design may look cool, it has its disadvantages and may be too fancy for its own good. The primary flip-up mechanism is rather loose, so the mobile does not snap open and shut with a satisfying click. Moreover, when moving through the various stages of flipping and rotating, it's easy to lose your way, and we were concerned about the mechanism's long-term durability. And since you can rotate the flip in only certain directions that aren't clearly spelled out, you'll need some practice to master all the movements and to understand their functions.
Set in a mirrored frame, the P735's internal display measures 1.75 inches diagonally and supports 262,000 colors. In the usual Samsung fashion, the screen is difficult to see in direct sunlight, but it's great for viewing photos, games, and the animated menus (available in three styles). Though the menus themselves are easy to understand, we were mostly disappointed with the layout of the navigation keys. First, the good news: Immediately below the display is a large disc that serves as the flip hinge and holds a four-way navigation toggle. You can program it to launch four user-defined functions, and the blue illuminated ring adds a bit of light. Though the button in the center toggle appears to be only a shortcut to T-Mobile's T-zones, it actually doubles as a useful OK key when you're in the menus. And now, the bad news: The other navigation, consisting of two soft keys, a Clear button, and the traditional Talk and End keys, are set almost 2 inches below the screen and the navigation toggle. As a result, our thumbs had to do a lot of traveling when in the menus. The soft keys also are rather small, and while we like the dedicated camera button, its location just above the right soft key had us pressing it inadvertently. If you're thinking of buying the P735, be sure to give it a try first.