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Samsung Armani review: Samsung Armani

Samsung Armani

Nicole Lee Former Editor
Nicole Lee is a senior associate editor for CNET, covering cell phones, Bluetooth headsets, and all things mobile. She's also a fan of comic books, video games, and of course, shiny gadgets.
Nicole Lee
7 min read


Samsung Armani

The Good

The Samsung Armani is a compact touch-screen phone with tons of style, plus it comes with a megapixel camera and a nice music player. There's also haptic feedback, which provides tactile confirmation in the form of tiny vibrations.

The Bad

The Armani's touch screen doesn't always respond appropriately, and photo quality was not as good as we thought it would be.

The Bottom Line

The Samsung Armani is one supersexy phone but it falls short of perfection due to lackluster features and a tricky user interface.

When the LG Prada hit the scene more than a year ago, touch-screen phones were still a novelty. It stood out from the rest of the crowd with its sleek, minimalist look and designer house backing. Since then, the Apple iPhone has taken the touch-screen crown and has become the phone to beat, with many manufacturers coming out with touch-screen handsets as well. Samsung is no exception and has followed the LG Prada route by partnering with a major designer fashion house--Giorgio Armani--to produce the appropriately named Samsung Armani. The look and feel of the Armani is certainly deserving of such a brand, from its slim and compact body right down to the flashy menu interface. Sadly, its features are rather staid and do not match up to its looks. The Armani will certainly fulfill your desire for an attractive and glamorous phone, but we suggest looking elsewhere for something with a few more features. Also, since you can't buy it with a U.S. carrier, you'll have to cough up around $579 to get your hands on the unlocked version.

The Samsung Armani absolutely epitomizes its namesake. Decked out in a glossy black steel case, the Armani has a very sleek and attractive design that earns its fashion phone branding. It comes in a very fancy black box showcasing it like a piece of jewelry, with a soft microfiber cloth case. Measuring 3.44 inches tall by 2.14 inches wide by 0.41 inch thick, the Armani is one of the more compact touch-screen handsets we've seen and can be easily slipped into a jeans pocket. It's a good thing it comes with a microfiber cloth case, since the glossy black surface does make it prone to fingerprint smudges.

The Samsung Armani has an onscreen dialpad.

As with most touch-screen handsets, the Armani doesn't have any keypad buttons--all navigation is done via the 2.6-inch diagonal touch-screen display. Though not as wide as the one on the Prada, the display is still a showstopper with 256,000 color support and 240x320 pixel resolution. Images look great, and it really shows off the Armani's glowing menu interface--each menu icon has a subtle gold hue, which fits in with the Armani brand. You can adjust the brightness and font size, but not the backlight time.

The Samsung Armani has a 3-megapixel camera

Navigating the Armani is actually fairly intuitive as far as touch-screen phones go. You use your fingers to navigate the phone since the phone doesn't come with a stylus. From the home screen, there are two onscreen buttons along the top that lead to the main menu, plus the onscreen dialpad. In the middle, a square button leads to five shortcuts, which correspond to the music player, the contacts list, the messaging menu, the call log, and the main menu. If you have the calendar display toggled on the home screen, you can actually swipe the screen to switch between the calendar and clock display, similar to the Cover Flow technique used to flip through album covers on the iPhone.

Another thing we liked about the touch-screen interface is that it has haptic feedback, meaning the phone provides tiny vibrations when you select something on the screen. The vibrations are especially useful when dialing or texting, as we're able to get some kind of tactile feedback. However, we still wouldn't recommend dialing by feel because of the flat surface of the screen. Texting was also a bit tricky as the Armani doesn't have a virtual QWERTY keyboard, and you have to tap out text messages using the normal T9 or ABC method with the virtual dialpad. This wasn't too bad, since the Armani also provides smart word selection (it guesses the words as you type the letters in), but we would've liked to have seen some kind of QWERTY option at least, even for a phone this size. Our final gripe with the touch screen has to do with the scrolling--it is very touchy and doesn't always respond to us swiping down the side of the screen. Sometimes we were able to scroll, and sometimes we activated something by mistake. This is especially frustrating when scrolling down a long list, for instance in the phone book.

Underneath the display is the famed Giorgio Armani branding, as well as the Talk and End/Power keys. The volume rocker and microSD card slot sits on the left spine, while a dedicated camera key, Hold key (which locks the screen from being accidentally activated), and charger/headset jack are on the right.

Even though the Armani wowed us with its design, it doesn't really impress us in the features department. Sure, it has a megapixel camera and a neat music player, but these can be found in most other handsets. So, let's start with the basics. The Armani has a generous 1,000-entry address book, with room in each entry for five numbers, an e-mail address, a birth date, and notes. Each contact can be added to a caller group, or paired with a picture for caller ID or one of 14 polyphonic ringtones (it also supports MP3 ringtones). Other basic features include a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, text and multimedia messaging, an alarm clock (with five alarm settings), a calendar, a calculator, a world clock, a unit converter, a timer, and a stopwatch. More advanced users will like the voice memo recorder, the Web browser, stereo Bluetooth, e-mail support, as well as a document viewer that can handle Office documents and PDFs. There's no 3G support though, which is a bit of a downer for such a pricey phone.

The Samsung Armani took decent but overcast photos.

One of the Armani's more impressive features is its music player. We like the clean and minimalist music player interface. You can adjust the volume and the tracks simply by swiping across the surface, which we thought was a pretty smart idea. The available options are almost iPod-like--you can play all the songs, recently played songs, and most played songs, and the songs are organized via albums, artists, genres, and composers. You can also create your own playlists. Music player settings include repeat and shuffle mode, five preset equalizer modes, and a 3D sound setting. You can also select to play the music in the background while you're surfing around other parts of the phone. You will see the currently playing track on the home screen when the music player is activated, complete with the album cover. Another nice feature is that you can transfer unprotected songs via e-mail or Bluetooth. The player supports MP3, AAC, and AAC+ file formats. The Armani has about 60MB of internal memory, but you can always add more storage via a microSD card.

The Armani has a decent 3.15-megapixel camera with quite a few settings. You can take photos in six resolutions (2,048x1,536; 1,600x1,200; 1,280x960; 800x600; 640x480; 320x240), three quality settings, four ISO settings, three exposure metering settings, eight scene modes, three shooting modes (single shot, multi shot, mosaic shot), and eight fun frames. Other camera options include shutter, zoom, and exposure sounds. It also has a built-in camcorder that can record up to four resolutions (352x288, 320x240, 176x44, 128x96), three color effects, five white balance settings, and many of the same options as the still camera. You can limit the recording time for multimedia messages, or for whatever amount the available memory can hold. Photo quality was rather disappointing for such a high megapixel camera. Even though details were sharp, we were eventually let down by the inaccurate color tone and somewhat overcast look to the images. Video quality was predictably grainy and jerky, but that's to be expected from a camera this small.

Personalization options are a tad limited with the Armani. It does come with a variety of included wallpaper and sounds, but there's not much you can do to download more via a carrier as with most U.S.-based phones. You can try to get them via third-party sources, though. The phone comes with only one game, a photo puzzle.

We tested the triband (GSM 900/1800/900) Samsung Armani in San Francisco using T-Mobile. Call quality was surprisingly good. Callers could hear us loud and clear and we heard them just fine as well. It was almost landline quality, as the voices came through very naturally. Speakerphone quality did not fare as well though, as callers had to ask us to speak up, and we thought they sounded slightly tinny. We managed to pair the Armani with the Nokia BH-902 Bluetooth headset successfully, but have yet to test it with a stereo headset.

Audio quality from the music player was fairly decent. Of course, the built-in speakers offered subpar sound, but we expect most people to use either the included headset or a stereo Bluetooth headset anyway. The Samsung Armani has a rated battery life of six hours of talk time and nine days of standby time. We were able to get 9.03 hours of talk time from the Armani.


Samsung Armani

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 8