The SPH-A580 supports a basic feature set, but the speakerphone and the voice-dialing features are welcome, and we always appreciate being able to activate the speakerphone before you make a call. The phone holds only 300 contacts, but each entry stores six phone numbers, an e-mail address, a Web address, and a birthday. You can assign callers to groups and pair them with one of 9 monophonic ring tones or 20 polyphonic ring tones. You can also pair contacts with a picture, but you'll have to download them from Sprint since there's no camera or multimedia messaging. In any case, the images don't show up on the external display, so why bother?
Other features include a vibrate mode, text messaging, a WAP 2.0 wireless browser, a scheduler, a task list, a countdown timer, one-minute voice recordings, a memo pad, an alarm clock, a calculator, a world clock, POP3 e-mail, and instant messaging (AOL, MSN, and Yahoo). As previously mentioned, the SPH-A580 is the first phone to support Sprint's new wireless backup service. Each time you edit and save your phone book, your contacts will be saved to Sprint's Web site. If you ever lose your phone, buy a new handset, or erase your phone book by mistake, you can go to Sprint's site and edit your contacts. It will then send them to your new mobile. This is a nifty feature, but irritatingly, Sprint charges $2 a month to use it. Also, it's not clear how many other Sprint phones will support wireless backup.
You can personalize the SPH-A580 with a variety of screensavers, menu styles, alert sounds, and key tones, as well as a greeting. If you want more options or ring tones, you'll have to buy them from Sprint. For entertainment, there a few trial offerings from Sprint's Power Vision service, including MobiTV and a sale alert from Overstock.com. Keep in mind, though, that any Web browsing will be poky on a 1xRTT browser. You also get demo versions of three Java (J2ME) games: Tetris, World Poker, and Midnight Pool. If you want full titles, you'll have to buy them.
The SPH-A580 has a rated talk time battery life of 3.5 hours. In our tests, we fell short of that rating by a half hour. According to FCC radiation tests, the Samsung SPH-A580 has a digital SAR rating of 0.67 watt per kilogram.
Overall, the Samsung APH-A580 is a quality cell phone for those who just want to make calls. The wireless backup is an interesting touch, and though the speakerphone quality isn't the best, we can live with its shortcomings.