The A701 is based on one of Samsung's many mobile phone designs which are modified to suit whichever carrier is holding the cheque. In this case, Telstra got a stylishly cut phone decked out in "cafÃƒÂ© black" (it sounds so much better than "Darth Vader black", doesn't it?).
As what's these days a mid-sized mobile, the A701 shares roughly the same footprint as phones like the, although it's noticeably thicker and heavier -- not bad things if you like a little heft in your handset, and certainly nothing that will prevent it from slipping easily into a pocket.
Like many of its Samsung siblings, especially in the Asian market, the A701 is a clamshell flip phone on which the screen pivots open on a sturdy door-like hinge. The flat flush-sided panels afford no purchase for flipping the phone open with one hand.
On the left side is a concealed port for the A701's battery charger, which continues Samsung's trend of using a slim proprietary connector rather than the far more common mini USB jack. On the right there's a door for a microSD memory card, making a welcome change from phones which bury the card slot behind the back panel and in some cases under the battery. The A701 generously includes a 512MB card and SD Card adaptor.
Both the external (one-inch) and internal (2.2-inch) displays are exceptionally bright and detailed, and show off the phone's rich icons and vivid graphics to their best possible effect.
The A701's standout feature isn't as much a function of the phone as of Telstra's Next G network, and that's the ability to tap into an exceptional range of streaming video content.
Video has been a part of 3G services since their launch, of course, but Next G's superior reach and substantially higher download speed deliver the kind of video-in-your-hand experience that 3G first promised -- depending on the signal strength to your current location, of course.
However, the A701 boasts several traits which are crucial to this. One is that the handset is rated for HSDPA (High Speed Download Packet Access) 1.8, which delivers a peak download rate of 1.8Mbps -- four times that of standard 3G.
The playback experience is also enhanced by a gloss coating on the A701's inner display, similar to many widescreen laptops, although the more ambient light you have, the less effective this screen becomes.