The Soul's 5-megapixel camera takes pictures in five resolutions and three quality settings. The Soul also comes with a wide range of editing features that rival a standalone camera. You'll find a self-timer, adjustable brightness and white balance settings, panorama and mosaic shot modes, five color effects, a 4x zoom, a macro setting, a multishot mode, exposure metering, adjustable ISO, wide dynamic range, and three shutter sounds (plus a silent option). You'll even find autofocus, face detection, and antishake. Each feature performed relatively well, though the camera has a long shatter lag. Camera ergonomics were a mixed bag. On the upside, the menus were intuitive and we had no issues using the touchpad and soft keys. But on the downside, we don't like having to hold the phone in the open position to take shots. It just feels a bit unwieldy. We also didn't love the harsh flash.
Photo quality was very good. Colors popped and objects were defined and in focus. What's more, our shots didn't suffer from excessive noise. When finished with your shots you can transfer them off the phone using Bluetooth, a memory card, or a USB cable. You also can edit your images with basic tools such as contrast, sharpness, and saturation. It's no Photoshop, but it works in a pinch.
The Soul's camcorder records clips in two resolutions with sound. Editing options are similar to the still camera, if a bit more limited. But, you also get an image editor. Clips meant for multimedia messages are capped at about 1 minute; otherwise you can shoot according to the available memory. The Soul offers a healthy 100MB of memory for safekeeping, but you can add storage using the memory card slot.
The music player is fairly generic but it also offers a fair set of features including an equalizer, track rating, repeat and shuffle modes, and playlists. The interface is basic, but you can choose from a variety of visualizations and you can send the player to the background while you use other features. Getting music on the phone is easy and we like that you can set MP3 files as ringtones. The music player supports a long list of file types including MP3, WMA, and AAC+. And as an added bonus, the Soul has an FM radio.
You can personalize the Soul with a variety of alert tones, background colors, clock styles, and wallpaper. You can get more options and more ringtones with the wireless Web browser. The Soul comes with demo versions of three games--Asphalt2, Minigolf Las Vegas, and Paris Hilton's Dream (we're not kidding)--you'll have to buy the full versions for extended play.
We tested the tri-band GSM (900/1800/1900) Samsung Soul in San Francisco using T-Mobile service. Call quality was good, but it wasn't consistently so. Most of the time voices were clear and the signal was strong, but there were more than a few moments where the audio clarity wavered and we noticed some interference. Similarly, while the volume was loud during the majority of our tests calls, we also noticed moments when the sound faded out for second. On their end, callers said we sounded fine. They could tell we were using a cell phone, which isn't unusual, but they had some trouble hearing us when we were in a noisy environment. On the whole, it wasn't a bad experience, but it wasn't top-notch, either.
Speakerphone calls were variable as well. The volume was quite loud and we didn't hear any static, but voices on our end were quite harsh. It wasn't unbearably so, but it was noticeable at all volume levels. We also didn't like that it took more than one click to activate the speakerphone.
As an HSDPA phone, the Soul will support 3.5G networks. Access, however, will depend on your carrier's network and its coverage area. Unfortunately, we weren't able to test the Web browser on our review model. Likewise, we couldn't test video calling, either.
The Soul has a rated battery life of 4 hours talk time and up to 16.6 days standby time. According to our tests, we had a talk time of 9 hours and 7 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests the Soul has a digital SAR rating of 0.24 watt per kilogram.