We've seen a couple of fashionable mobile phones from Samsung this year and the most obvious difference with the E700 is the absence of an external antenna, which were previously found on the female-oreinted T500 and male-marketed T400. Internal antennas (or intennas, as we've seen Samsung amusingly describe them) make clamshell phones much more attractive than mobiles that harbour a protruding stub.
The E700 is small for a clamshell mobile, measuring 90 x 45 x 23 mm. When open, the handset is just the right length to extend between your ear and mouth. It weighs a respectable 85 grams and fits comfortably in your palm or pocket.
A 640 x 480 (VGA) camera is found on the front of the E700 above the 256-colour (OLED) external display. The shortcut button to take a photo is found on the side of the E700 and the folder being open or closed determines which display acts as the viewfinder. Using the external display as the viewfinder assists in self-portrait shots. However, the limitation of 256-colours causes the preview image to appear dull with colours looking very patchy. Thankfully, you can open the folder to view the picture on the inner screen, an exceptional 65,536 TFT LCD that looks bright, reproduces colours intensely and suffers very little degradation in sunlight.
The innovative multi-shot mode allows you to take up to 15 consecutive shots at high speed; about five pictures per second. In our tests we found these photos turned out blurry when moving the handset around while the images are being captured and much more acceptable when the handset was kept still. Night mode can be switched on to brighten up dark surroundings and you can tinker with gray, sepia, negative, emboss and sketch filters through the effects option. There are 15 cute frames to overlay onto your photo, such as love hearts and speech bubbles. These can be previewed via the inner LCD while composing the picture.
While having dual-screens is one of the Samsung E700's most popular features, there is one thing that disappoints us--the external OLED can't display the photo of a contact when they call. However, it does show the time, date, as well as network and phone settings. It also shows any missed calls, notification of a message and caller ID.
Samsung certainly hasn't been stingy with the sounds on the E700. On our review model we counted 30 polyphonic ringtones pre-loaded in the default melody area and an extra nine in My Sounds. The loudspeaker supports 40-chord polyphonic sound, which means the ringtones aren't as bland as mobile phones that play fewer tones at the same time. The polyphonic ringtones are very crisp and the sheer amount of samples that come installed impresses us.
The keypad is flat, black, easy to navigate and features blue backlights. One entertaining factor is that it can emulate a drum kit or a piano, making a different percussive sound or note when a key is pressed. This function received a great response with new acquaintances as they entered their phone number into the mobile.
The phonebook allows up to 1000 contacts to be stored and supports multiple numbers for each entry. A person can be assigned a group, a specific ringtone and a graphical icon. Unfortunately no photo can be attached to entries.
A memory status page can be found which shows the used and available space for MMS messages, the media box (images and sounds) and Java downloads.
200 SMS messages can also be stored on the phone and the T9 dictionary is extendable and can be set to English, Malay or Indonesian. Up to 12 pages of text (each page 160 characters) can be constructed to form a multiple part message and the information box at the top displays the character and page count.
The Samsung E700's interface is practical and responds quickly. There are eight top-level pages such as Messages, Camera and Fun Box which display their own page as you scroll past them. For instance, on the Fun Box page, you can see a graphic of two Rubik's Cubes as the background and the first three options are displayed on the lower half of the screen, in this case, WWW services, Media box and Java world.
The WAP browser can be found either through WWW services or by pressing the WAP access key that is wedged in the middle of the navigation key. It took a little getting used to this key not being associated with selection, as is often found with the key in the middle of a four-way navigation button. Considering how much a flop WAP services have turned out to be, the key seems to be wasting some prime (mobile) real estate.
There is an IrDA port on the side of the E700 through which contacts can be transmitted but unfortunately no Bluetooth.
The E700's organiser features reminders, alarms, timers, a calendar and conversion tools. We're fond of the implementation of the calendar, especially as it can be used as the wallpaper for the internal display. At a glance you can see the time day, month and year with a graphic representing each month (mind you, these were designed for seasons in the northern hemisphere). Of course, the wallpaper can be customised and you can choose from animations such as a polar bear or coral reef to display, or alternatively any photo you've taken.
Travellers should be aware the Samsung E700 is a dual-band mobile phone, which supports only GSM 900/1800MHz networks.
We found the battery on the E700 to last longer than we originally thought it would, as it powers two displays. However, the OLED minimises the power consumption and under normal use the mobile lasted just over 3 days.
Samsung assures us that they market the E700 equally to both males and females (although anyone who has seen the advertising might beg to differ). In our eyes we can see this handset appealing to both sexes and also across a wide range of markets, from youth to executives. We see the Samsung E700 to be a major contender with the Sony Ericsson Z600, which also combines a fashionable flip phone with a great set of features. The absence of Bluetooth may see tech-enthusiasts look elsewhere but most buyers will find the E700 a good all-round mobile phone.