Remember the £600 Samsung Bang & Olufsen Serene handset? So do we, and not because we ponied up the cash to buy one -- it was preposterous. Bangsung, as we like to call the joint entity, now has a slicker, more affordable music phone on the market: the F400.
It's out now with deals from O2 and several other networks, from free on contracts from £25 a month, and around £220 SIM-free.
One of the most important aspects of the F400's design is the native 3.5mm headphone socket -- there's no need to use any bundled cables to connect your favourite 'phones to the handset. This may seem like a given, but even some of the highest-end music phones lack this simple feature.
Playing host to this headphone socket is a generally solid-feeling dual-slider chassis. It's not the most slimline of phones, or the lightest, but it's well-built and pretty rugged. What it isn't is a cute phone designed for life in your skinny jeans' pockets, unless you really want to feel that it's there.
This is partly to do with the integrated Bang & Olufsen mini-speakers, located behind the screen and revealed by sliding the screen downwards. Slide it upwards and there's also a terrific chunky keypad that's dead easy to text on at speed -- we were up to our usual texting pace within a day of getting used to it.
The 56mm (2.2-inch) 240x320-pixel screen is clear and easy to read, but its glossy plastic coating makes it a poor performer outdoors when the sun's out.
Behind this distinctly average screen, aside from the cute speakers, is a microSD slot for expanding the 20MB of internal memory up to 2GB. This helps store pictures and MPEG-4 video captured by the 3-megapixel camera, itself backed up with an LED flash.
The most common audio formats are supported by the F400, including MP3, unprotected AAC and WMA. Purchased content from online stores should be compatible, and we had no problem playing songs purchased from Napster. Built-in stereo Bluetooth (A2DP) will beam these files to wireless headphones.
Videos enjoy less usability, not only because they're less accessible than music within the phone, but because strict file formats, bit rates and resolutions of video files must be obeyed. To make things easier, Samsung includes a fairly usable bit of software that allows novices and advanced users to tweak the video conversion setup, but it's not a particularly friendly process for anyone. To be fair, very few phones make this rigmarole easy.
With 3.2Mbps HSDPA data connectivity, browsing the Web is reasonably speedy. And although the built-in browser is pretty basic, installing the terrific -- and free --browser turns the F400 into an enjoyable device to browse the Web with, even if the average screen quality somewhat hinders the readability of small text.