When we first picked it up, Cingular's Samsung SGH-S307 was a phone we wanted to like. Sleek and compact, it sports an exterior color display that flashes brightly for incoming calls. Open the phone, however, and it's another story. The cramped keys make for maddening misdials, menu navigation was harder than it should be, features were lackluster, and battery life was short. And with a price tag of $199 (with a two-year contract), it's a bit overpriced.
There's no denying the S307 is one of the smaller phones around. Measuring 3.9 by 1.7 by 0.8 inches when closed and weighing a mere 2.9 ounces, the phone easily fits into a pocket and barely feels larger than a set of keys. The 1-inch antenna was hardly noticeable, and the lack of sharp edges made for a nice feel. We liked the phone's flip design; it opened and shut with a solid click, and it felt comfortable against our ear while we were talking.
An exterior 256-color, three-line display shows the time, the date, battery life, signal strength, and caller ID (where available) with scrolling graphic. Though the screen turns off after about 15 seconds, a small flashing light (with adjustable color) above it blinks when a signal is present. When the phone is turned off, the screen also pulls double duty as a mirror. The volume button is located on the side of the S307, just below the headset jack.
The S307's size prevents the display from being especially large, but its interior 65,000-color, seven-line LCD screen (1.5 by 1.25 inches) was relatively generous, as well as clear and crisp. Menu navigation, however, took some acclimation, and the process was more difficult when compared to that of similar Nokia, Sony Ericsson, or Motorola phones. Reaching oft-used features, such as past outgoing calls, required undivided attention and as many as six clicks to get to the menu you wanted--not a great feature if you're driving or walking.
A few other gripes: The S307's small, dimly backlit buttons make menu navigation difficult. Misdials were common, especially for someone with larger fingers. The sensitive main four-way keypad is tiny as well and set too close to the menu buttons. While it provides instant access to voicemail, the calendar, messaging, and contacts, the keypad is not labeled as such, and you must remember which direction does what. Moreover, the OK button is set off to the side, instead of in the center where we would have preferred it. Instead, a button giving one-touch access to the browser sits in the middle with a clear key below it.
The S307 offers most of the standard features. Included are a WAP browser, text messaging, T9 predictive-text software, a calendar, a to-do list, an alarm clock, two J2ME games (Go Hamster and Honey Ball, with more available via download), trilingual menus (English, Spanish, and French), call waiting and forwarding, a currency converter, and a calculator.
The calendar could have been more intuitive, as it limits you to a monthly view, and the months are indicated by their number, not by their names. The 500-contact phone book can store three numbers and an e-mail address for each entry. Phone-book navigation is better than average, with two different buttons that give one-touch access to the application's main menu and the list of names. One feature we especially like: When searching for a contact from the phone book's main menu, the full list of contact names is displayed.
The S307 can be customized through 12 different wallpapers, a greeting message, two different menu styles, various function tones, and 40-tone polyphonic ringers (plus vibrate). If you're yearning for even more choices, you can download additional wallpapers, ring tones, and sounds from Cingular's site. The S307 does not offer picture caller ID, a speakerphone, or voice commands.
Overall, we were fairly disappointed by S307's performance. We tested the dual-band (GSM 850/1900) phone in the San Francisco Bay Area, Monterey, San Diego, and Lake Tahoe using Cingular Wireless Service. Call quality was sporadic at best, and the phone dropped calls randomly and frequently, even in areas where our Cingular service was normally good. What's worse, we found around 25 percent of our incoming calls going straight to voicemail for no reason. This happened even when the phone was sitting on the desk in front of us.
Battery life was mixed. In our tests, we managed 4.3 hours of talk time, almost double the rated talk time of 2.3 hours. Standby time was 3 days, much less than Samsung's promise of 4.6 days.