Did you like the Samsung A701? We certainly did back in late 2006, and it would appear that Samsung did too -- a little under a year later, it's re-emerged from the Samsung equivalent of a mad scientist's laboratory, somewhere near Seoul, with faster Next G capabilities and... a spiffy red cover, at least for our review sample. Samsung do also offer it in the same black as the A701, if you live to confuse people. If you're a secret agent, pressed for time and need to flee this Web page before something unspeakable happens to you, that's pretty much the A711 in a nutshell. Hey, it could happen -- we've got a pretty diverse audience here at CNET.com.au.
In design terms, aside from the carmine colouration, nothing has particularly changed from last year's model. The A711 is a clamshell phone with the same industrial strength hinge as its predecessor. On the one hand, this affords it a measure of durability. On the other, it makes it patently impossible to flip it open with a single hand. Try as we might, with all the digital dexterity we could muster, we couldn't get it to open except with two hands. Perhaps in time, with the hinge softening, it might become possible, but with a new A711, it's not.
The A711 features the standard raft of pure mobile features -- telephony, SMS, MMS, ringtones and so forth, along with a 2-megapixel camera -- alongside Next G specific features such as mobile Foxtel and access to Telstra's mobile-specific Internet services. One minor change from the A701 is that the A711 doesn't come with 32MB of onboard memory; instead you've got 48MB to play with. In practical terms, most users will need to pony up for a microSD card to make full use of the A711.
What makes the A711 stand out is that it supports the 3.6Mbps HSDPA standard, which gives it a lot more headroom for streaming content and Internet data. Admittedly, it will depend on where you are in relation to a Next G transmission point as to whether you'll hit a large difference between this and the A701, but the capability is at least nice to have.
As a basic phone, the A711 works much like the older A701. The inbuilt camera is solid but not terribly exciting, and the display screen has good light and contrast for video playback. Samsung rates the A711 as being capable of up to 220 hours standby time and 170 minutes of talk time, which jibes with our test results. We managed seven and a half days of moderate usage between recharges, although it was predictably much less if we did a lot of streaming video watching.
The A711's display is still good for watching streaming video, and the added speed did help us in avoiding buffering delays. You're still somewhat stymied by the quality of videos on offer; we couldn't help but notice how pixellated some of the Next G video offerings were, no matter how fast they managed to fly onto the phone.
As with the A701, the use of a custom port pretty much ties you into using the supplied (and very ordinary) headphones, and in similar fashion, the inbuilt speakers are quite loud if annoying people on the train is your thing.
Samsung refers to the A711 as using the A701's "reliable design". We can't help but think that that's lazy marketing talk; there's nothing wrong with a phone that's a basic speed evolution of an existing model, but it might be nice if they honestly identified it as such. The A711 is a good Next G phone, especially if you've got nearby access to a Next G tower, as you'll get the best possible speeds. A701 owners who don't live in such locales probably don't need to upgrade, however.