CNET First Look
Samsung SGH-A197 GoPhone (AT&T)The simple Samsung SGH-A197 offers minimal features, but call quality was somewhat variable.
-I'm Kent German, senior editor at cnet.com. Today, we're gonna take first look at the Samsung SGH-A197. This is a new phone for AT&T's GoPhone service. So that's AT&T's prepaid or pay as you go service. The prepaid service does tend to offer different selection of phones, the full AT&T lineup, and they tend to be a little lower end like this. This is a phone pretty much about making calls. Doesn't do a lot more beyond that. It does have a VGA camera, so it's not megapixels. So photo quality is not gonna be great at all, but can take photos. It does have a speakerphone of course, personal organizers, so really basic options. The design of course, also is very simple. It does have a flip phone form factor, all black; pretty tiny external display. It is monochrome. It does show all the information, you know, like the date, time, the battery life though. Text is just small so you wanna keep that in mind if you wanna see big text on the phone. You really wanna test this out first. On the one side, we have a volume rocker. It's pretty big. It's pretty easy to use when you are on a call. And over on this side, we have a combined headset jack and volume rocker. It does use the micro-USB standard, so it is becoming the standard for chargers and not necessarily for headset. So we don't really like combined ports like this even on a basic phone. It means you can only use one peripheral at a time. The phone is plastic. It's very light in the hand. Certainly, it doesn't feel sturdy. I wouldn't say it feels cheap necessarily but it is a phone you wanna be careful using. You wouldn't wanna drop it a lot. You wanna make sure it's in your pocket and not bang it around. So just keep that in mind. The hinge does feel sturdy enough. It open and close. Didn't feel loose or anything. Inside, you have a very simple internal display, not the greatest resolution. It is full color, but it isn't gonna show great graphics or colors. Also, I found it just maybe a tiny bit-- I also found it a tiny bit small for the phone's overall size. Moving down to the navigation controls and keypad, it have an okay design. The navigation toggle is circular. It's raised slightly above the surface of the phone. Inside, there's an okay button. But when the phone is in standby mode, pressing that button will take you directly to the web browser instead of the menu. We like it better when it takes us to the menu because it's something I've certainly access more than a web browser particularly in a phone like this. So, one complain I have about the navigation controls. There are two soft keys. There's a dedicated camera shutter. There's also a button that will take you to AT&T mobile care, the talk and end power buttons, and a clear key. Keypad buttons, they are mostly flat with the surface of the phone. Big enough though and I thought the number on the buttons were sort of big. But again, if you are looking for a phone that feels nice and big in the hand and has big text and big numbers, you're gonna wanna avoid this. Well, very least, check it out first and make sure it's okay. The keys are flat. We don't have-- I don't have any problems dialing though. I felt like it's pretty easy to use. Just of course, the keypads, it does have a bit of a cheap feel. If you're gonna be a real frequent texter, I would probably avoid this phone as well 'cause I can imagine that if you're gonna be sending a bunch of messages each day, day in and day out for several months, it's probably gonna wear out I would think. The features are very simple as I mentioned. You can make calls. You can send messages. You can take photos with that VGA camera. It does have Bluetooth and a personal organizer and a speakerphone. Beyond that though, you're not gonna find a lot. This is really a phone for making calls and that is a phone for making calls very infrequently. If you're a GoPhone user that's gonna be using the phone a lot, I would probably recommend passing on this phone. But if you just need something to make calls once in a while and emergencies, then it's not a bad option. I'm Kent German and this is a first look at the Samsung SGH-A197.