As an EV-DO phone, the SPH-M520 offers full support for Sprint's 3G services. You can connect to Sprint's Power Vision, which includes Sprint TV, movie previews, and programming from channels such as ABC News, MTV Mobile, ESPN, Logo Mobile, Comedy Central, and Nickelodeon. You also can stream tunes from Sirius Radio and access Sprint's On Demand service for a range of information that includes news headlines, sports scores, and weather updates personalized for your ZIP code.
The SPH-M520's music player is similar to that on Sprint's other music phones. You can access the Sprint Music Store for simultaneous downloads both to your PC and wirelessly to your phone. The music player interface is nothing too fancy. Though you get album art, the features are limited to repeat and shuffle modes, and you can't use MP3s as ringtones. The airplane mode turns off the phone's calling functions for listening to music while in flight. Unfortunately, the SPH-M20 uses a proprietary connection for headsets. Though you can use your own headset with the included adapter, it only accommodates a 2.5mm jack (we would prefer a 3.5mm jack). On the upside, you can send the music player to the background while you're using other phone functions. When a call comes in the music will pause automatically and will resume again after you hang up.
You can personalize the SPH-M520 with several of clock styles, themes, and screen savers. If you want additional options beyond what comes on the phone, you can download them from Sprint using the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. Gamers get demo versions of Madden NFL 08, Midnight Pool, Pac-Man/Ms. Pac-Man, Tetris and World Series of Poker; you'll have to buy the full versions of extended play. The phone also comes with a free trial for The Weather Channel 4.0.
We tested the dualband, dualmode (CDMA 800/1900; EV-DO) Samsung SPH-M520 in San Francisco using Sprint service. Call quality was decent on the whole with good clarity and volume. We encountered no static or interference, and we had no problems making a connection. However, the phone did seem to pick up a fair amount of background noise. When we were speaking in noisy environments we had to ask our friends to repeat themselves on a few occasions. The same was true for automated calling systems. If we were in a quiet place, it was fine, but otherwise we had to repeat ourselves.
On their end callers were satisfied, though they reported the same background noise problem. It didn't distract from our overall experience, but it was there just the same. Speakerphone quality was pretty nice. The clarity on our end was satisfying, and callers could understand is as long as we were inside.
Streaming TV quality was pleasing as well. There was minimal distortion or choppiness, and it handled swift movements cleanly. The sound wasn't bad, either, and voices matched the speaker's mouth. However, the sole speaker doesn't have a lot of output, so don't expect a lot of power when you're using the music player. Even when you turn the volume to the highest level, the sound becomes rather distorted. Using a headset will provide the best experience.
The EV-DO connection was pretty strong throughout our testing, even when we were in the interior of large buildings. Web browsing was zippy, and we downloaded a song from the Sprint Music Store in just a few seconds.