At a technical level, Telstra's Next G network is marvellous. It works pretty much , and quickly, to boot. The one label you couldn't apply to it with much gusto, however, is "cheap". While there have been budget Next G phone models available previously, they've largely been very unappealing fare, such as the .
Samsung's A411 does represent something of a shift in the Next G pricing model; it's a phone that we wouldn't be embarrassed to bring out in public. Well... almost. The biggest strike against the A411's design is the stubby retro-style antennae that sits on top of the phone. We're not sure if someone at Samsung is trying to be ironically hip, or if the external antennae was a practical design consideration. Either way, it doesn't look very good, and has the tendency to jab into your personal parts if you stuff it in a pants pocket. Because it can catch on jeans (as we discovered), you then look like you're fiddling with yourself when you try to remove it.
The A411 measures in at 94 x 48.5 x 19.5mm and a svelte 88g carrying weight. The internal display screen is a 2-inch, 65K-colour display, while the smaller external screen is one inch and monochrome only. The A411 comes with a moderate level of available storage, with 54MB of internal memory. Mind you, you'll have to squeeze all your desired photos, MP3s and videos into that 54MB; there's no external storage capability. Given that the A411 only ships with a VGA camera, it could be some time before you fill it up with photos.
In network terms, the A411 sits a level below the recently reviewed; both share the same basic menu style, and as Next G phones, both share the same basic feature set in terms of streaming Foxtel and BigPond Web access. Where the A411 differs is in the speed at which you'll be able to experience these mobile-based thrills. It's a 1.8Mbps-only phone, unlike the A711's swift 3.6Mbps access speed.
Samsung rates the A411 as being good for up to 150 minutes of 3G talk time, and up to 200 hours standby time. Our tests mostly agreed with that; we lasted a week between charges, on a very light usage pattern.
With variance in network quality -- even when you're standing still -- it's tough to accurately assess what difference the lower speed Next G connectivity has on how well a given phone will work. Certainly, we noticed a longer pause when requesting streaming Foxtel channels with the A411 than we had with the A711, but your location and the congestion on the network could make that a moot point.
Any budget phone is always going to be a mixture of compromises. The A411's compromises are pretty striking, especially with the rather clunky styling, limited inbuilt memory and VGA camera. That being said -- and with an eye to Telstra's plans to kill off CDMA early next year -- the A411 does represent a fair balance for the asking price.