Even though touch screen cell phones like the LG Prada, the HTC Touch, and the much-hyped Apple iPhone have gained quite a bit of media attention, a lot of people are still wary about the lack of tactile feedback . Immersion, a company from San Jose, Calif., has come up with a unique solution called VibeTonez, a haptic technology that lets you feel tiny vibrations whenever certain virtual keys are touched. VibeTonez hasn't really caught on in the United States just yet, but it has been implemented in a lot of Asian and European phones. One such phone is the Samsung SGH-i718, which was released exclusively in China late last year and is now available worldwide. Aside from the VibeTonez technology, the SGH-i718 is a decent Windows Mobile 5 Pocket PC smart phone with a 2-megapixel camera, quadband GSM support, a music player, push e-mail support, and Bluetooth 2.0. While we appreciate the unique tactile feedback of the VibeTonez technology, it's only available with certain applications--we still had to enter text (for e-mails and messages) with a stylus and a tiny virtual keyboard, without any of the haptic technology helping us along. We also didn't like the lack of 3G support and its high price tag. There is no U.S. carrier support, so you'll have to cough up around $479 for one.
As far as Pocket PC phones go, the Samsung SGH-i718 is one slim and sexy device. Measuring 4.28-inches long by 2.28-inches wide by 0.53-inch thin, the SGH-i718 is clad in a lovely black soft-touch finish that gives it a nice feel in the hand. It's also quite lightweight at around 3.8 ounces and can be easily slipped into a pocket or purse. The SGH-i718 is topped off with an orange plastic shell as the front face. I was a little put off by the bright orange hue, but that's just personal preference.
As we mentioned, the SGH-i718 is a touch screen-only smart phone. This means that the only way to navigate through the menus, dial, and enter text is with a stylus or your finger. Fortunately, the SGH-i718 incorporates VibeTonez with its dialing application. So when you press any of the virtual numbers on the screen, the phone provides a little vibration, confirming that you did indeed press the number you want. While we still wouldn't recommend dialing by feel, we found it far more satisfying to dial the numbers with tactile feedback rather than without. Unfortunately, the VibeTonez technology is only available with certain applications like phone calls, sample demos, and games. We still had to type up text messages with the stylus and the tiny QWERTY keyboard--though there is also the option of handwriting recognition. We really wish the haptic technology was available for all facets of the device instead of just a select few operations.
Since it runs the Windows Mobile 5 Pocket PC Phone Edition, the Samsung SGH-i718 is a little behind the times when compared to devices like the T-Mobile Wing that run the latest Windows Mobile 6. That said, it still has a pretty good set of features with a great combination of PIM tools, multimedia features, and office applications. We were just a little disappointed by the lack of 3G as well as the lack of Wi-Fi.
The full Microsoft Mobile Office Suite comes with the device, which you can use to create, view, and edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files. Other management tools include the calendar (which can be synced up to your corporate Exchange Server), a calculator, a clock, a voice recorder, and a measurement converter. It also has a really cool business card reader, which can be used to automatically capture business card information. Once you start up the application, you'll be presented with the camera's viewfinder. You then have to align the business card with four markers on the screen. When it's properly aligned, the reader will automatically take a picture of the card and then record the information into your address book. We thought this was a really neat feature that a lot of business users would covet.
The Samsung SGH-i718 has a slew of messaging options, with support for POP3 and IMAP e-mail accounts; of course it will also sync with your Outlook calendar. Since it also has Microsoft's Direct Push technology, you can sync it with your corporate e-mail as well. Though it does not come preloaded with instant messaging clients, you could probably download an application yourself. Of course, it also supports regular SMS text messaging as well as multimedia messaging. The SGH-i718 also comes with a miniature version of Internet Explorer for Web browsing. Again, we were pretty disappointed with the lack of 3G support, but at least the SGH-i718 comes with Bluetooth 2.0.
The Samsung SGH-i718 is a pretty decent phone. It has quadband GSM support, which is a big plus for a world phone, and it has a speakerphone and vibrate mode as well. The address book is limited by the available memory, which is 64MB of RAM, while the SIM card can hold an additional 250 contacts. Each entry can store up to 10 numbers as well as home and work addresses, a few e-mail addresses, an IM screen name, and more. You can also pair a contact with a caller group, a photo for caller ID, or one of 38 polyphonic ringtones.
We tested the quadband (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; EDGE) Samsung SGH-i718 in San Francisco using AT&T's network, and call quality was great. Voices sounded loud and clear, and callers did not report any problems hearing us. Even though they could tell we were on a cell phone due to some slight static interference, it wasn't that bad. The speakerphone quality sounded a little tinny, but we could still hear each other just fine. We managed to pair the Samsung SGH-i718 successfully with the Nokia BH-801 Bluetooth headset.
There was little to no performance lag in switching between applications, which is a good thing. Camera activation took a while, about a couple of seconds, but that isn't that bad. Music playback on the SGH-i718 was acceptable, though we preferred it with earbuds over the phone's built-in speakers. The Samsung SGH-i718's battery life is rated for 8.5 hours of talk time and up to 10 days of standby time. We managed to get a talk time of 8 hours and 20 minutes in our tests.