Samsung's latest attempt at the basic silver phone for Sprint PCS service is the smart-looking VI660 (a.k.a. SPH-A660). With an easy-to-use menu interface, a versatile keypad, and an expanded voice-command menu, this flip phone gives us plenty to like. Similar in size to the , the Samsung VI660, however, lacks some of the features found on the previous models. It's also a bit overpriced at $199, but you should be able to find it for less. When holding the sleek handset, we immediately noticed the abundance of rounded edges, which give the Samsung VI660 a smooth, streamlined feel. The phone's black-and-silver cover combined with its lack of harsh extremities adds to the effect; the handset wouldn't look out of place at NASA Mission Control Center. With its small and lightweight form factor (3.3 by 1.8 by .8 inches; 3.5 ounces), the model feels comfortable when held against your face while you're talking. Contributing to the handset's sense of style, a single red LED on the phone's top blinks when it's ringing, when a call is made, or when a message is waiting.
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Slim and simple: The VI660 fits easily in a pocket.
However, we have some complaints. The rubber cover for the accessory port was not secure and could easily be lost, and the extendable antenna was rather fragile. Also, there's no external display, an anomaly among today's flip phones.
Open the phone, though, and things get better. The 65,000-color, six-line screen is crisp and vivid, and it's easy to read in darkness. But if you need more visibility, you can adjust its contrast and backlight time. As with the A500, the blue-backlit keys (except for the Talk and End buttons, which are green and red, respectively) on the VI660 are well spaced and nicely designed. A four-way navigation key gives one-touch access to a choice of user-definable features, and holding down the Talk button opens the voice-command section (see for more detail). The OK/messages button sits to the side of the four-way key, though it would've been better placed in the middle, where the dedicated browser button lives. Another handy feature, a volume rocker on the side of the phone, can also be used to scroll through the menus.
We especially liked the handset's menu interface, which comes with two options: Nature and Camera mode. Below alternating pictures of natural scenes, Nature has a standard list of numbered bars for each menu selection, while Camera displays icons for each menu inside what is designed to look like a camera lens--sort of an odd feature on a phone with no camera. The VI660 has a useful 300-name phone book, and you can associate each entry with a birthday, a Web site, an e-mail address, and five numbers. You can also assign a contact to one of three calling groups and designate a picture, a ring tone, or a label for use with caller ID. Entering new numbers was easy, both when making and receiving a new call. We had one small gripe: While the mobile assigns each contact a number for use with speed dial, it does not do so in alphabetical order.
Other features include a calendar, a to-do list, a world clock, an alarm, a memo pad, a countdown timer, customizable function tones, e-mail, 29 (16-chord polyphonic) ring tones, vibrate mode, and TTY capability for the hearing impaired. Like the A500, the VI660 has an Airplane mode, in which the handset is unable to make or receive calls, but games and applications still can be used.
In addition to the normal set of goodies, the VI660 uses Voice Signal's highly functional voice recognition. Opening the primary voice-command menu gives you access to six different options. Say "status" and the phone will respond with the signal and battery life, "name dial" will place a call to a contact from your phone book, "digit dial" will dial a new contact by its phone number, "voice memo" and "phone book" open those respective features, and "my phone number" will prompt the handset to say your phone number. Even without first testing your voice sample, the feature works well; the program had only occasional difficulties in understanding us.
The handset's WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser using the 1xRTT network allows you to access Sprint PCS Vision for news, weather, sports, and other information. You can also personalize the phone via the browser by downloading wallpapers, ring tones, screensavers, and Java (J2ME) games and applications, though fees per each item vary. We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900; AMPS 800) phone in San Francisco using Sprint's network. Audio quality was good but not great. We could hear callers on our end, but their voices sounded a bit flat. Callers said the same for us and could tell we were using a cell phone. We encountered fuzzy spots at times, but little ambient noise came through.
Battery life was better. We managed 3.5 hours of talk time compared with the promised 3.4 hours. On standby time, we matched Samsung's rating of seven days.