Good news for any globe-trotting Sprint customers: You now have a choice when it comes world-roaming smartphones. Joining the RIM BlackBerry 8830 World Edition, the Samsung Ace SPH-i325 offers dual-mode functionality for seamless international roaming with voice coverage in 180 countries and data services in 100 countries. It ships with a SIM card, but the handset is also unlocked so you're free to plug in a SIM card from other countries (note: it won't work with our domestic GSM carriers). The Windows Mobile 6 smartphone does have its share of disappointments. For example, it doesn't work on the GSM 3G networks overseas, and it doesn't have integrated GPS like the BlackBerry 8830. Still, if you're not keen on the BlackBerry, the Samsung Ace is a nice alternative and comes with a fair price of $199.99 with a two-year contract after rebates.
The Samsung Ace is similar in design to the original Samsung BlackJack, yet there are subtle differences. At 4.6 inches tall by 2.3 inches wide by 0.4 inch deep and 3.9 ounces, the Ace is taller and heavier but thinner than the BlackJack. Its slimness makes the smartphone comfortable to hold and use as a phone, and you'll be able to slip it into a pants pocket. Plus, it has a soft-touch finish for better gripping when using it as a messaging device.
On the front, there's a 2.3-inch screen that's slightly smaller than either the BlackJack II's or the BlackBerry 8830's, but it still has a 65,000-color output and 320x240 pixel resolution for a vibrant and sharp display. Below it, you'll find a spacious and nicely laid out navigation array of two soft keys, Talk and End buttons, a shortcut to the Today screen, a back button, and a four-way navigation toggle with center select key.
The full QWERTY keyboard is slightly improved over that of both BlackJacks. The keys have a slight pointed edge to them, making them easier to press than the smooth rounded buttons on the other models. In addition, they're not as stiff as the BlackJack II's, so we didn't make as many mistakes when composing e-mails and text messages.
On the right side, you'll find a microSD expansion slot, a scroll wheel, and an escape key. Some, including me, will be pleased to see the Ace has the more traditional side-mounted dial rather than the jog wheel on the Samsung BlackJack II. We prefer the former because it has better feedback and registers commands without problems, while the latter was a bit temperamental. The left side has a connector for the AC adapter and headset, but it's a proprietary Samsung jack, so that's an annoying restriction. Finally, the backside holds the camera lens, a self-portrait mirror, and a speaker.
The Samsung Ace comes packaged with an AC adapter, European and U.K. power adapters, a SIM card, a wired stereo headset, a USB cable, a software CD, and reference material. For more add-ons, please check our cell phones accessories, ringtones, and help page.
The world roaming capabilities is the arguably the biggest draw of the Samsung Ace. It's dual-mode functionality means that the Ace will use Sprint's CDMA network for all domestic calls (Note: You cannot use it with AT&T or T-Mobile even though there's a SIM slot) but once overseas, you can switch to the GSM network. You can use the included SIM card, but be aware that you'll still incur roaming rates, which range from $0.59 to $4.99 a minute. Alternatively, since the smartphone is unlocked, you can purchase a prepaid SIM card from an international carrier and use their voice and data services. In all, you get voice coverage in 180 countries and data services in 100 countries.
Other phone features of the Samsung Ace include a speakerphone, voice-activated dialing, conference calling, speed dial, and text and multimedia messages. The phone book is only limited by the available memory with room in each entry for multiple phone numbers, e-mail addresses, work and home address, job title, and more. For caller ID purposes, you can assign a photo to a contact, any of 23 polyphonic ring tones, as well as a group category.
The Samsung Ace is also an EV-DO capable handset, so you'll get swift data speeds for Web browsing and can watch video on Sprint TV if you so choose. The add-on service, which starts at $20 per month, gives you access to programming from a variety of channels, including CNN, Comedy Central, E, the NFL Network, and Sprint Exclusive Entertainment. In addition, you can listen to live streaming music and talk radio from Sirius, VH1 Mobile, and MTV Mobile. Sadly, the Ace does not support overseas HSDPA networks.