We've only seen a handful of slider phones since the introduction of the Siemens SL55 last year. While we await the arrival of Siemens' updated slider phone, the Siemens S65, Samsung has launched the E800, a sliding handset with a strong feature set backed by an intense advertising campaign that should see sales skyrocket for the Christmas period and well into 2005.
Putting the Samsung E800 beside the Siemens SL55, there is no doubt in our mind the E800 reigns as queen of the sliders, with the more masculine-looking Samsung's D410 as King at its side.
Unlike its counterpart, the E800 has an ultra-compact design with an internal antenna. The implementation of the sliding open feature is one of the best we've seen. Samsung calls it soft-touch slide and we found it sturdy and simple to open up with one hand by pushing upwards on the lower half of the phone with your thumb. It feels almost spring-loaded to open -- once you pass a certain threshold the rest of the job is done for you.
The semi-automatic opening of the E800 is accompanied by a brief slider tone imitating your choice of bubbling water, birds chirping, crickets buzzing or a sci-fi sound effect. Alternatively, you can switch the slider tone off altogether. Once open, the 65K colour TFT screen comes to life and displays crisp animated wallpaper or your choice of pictures.
One of the gripes we had with the Siemens SL55 was that the keypad buttons were far too small and cramped together. Samsung has spread out the buttons on the E800, leaving adequate space so your fingers don't accidently hit the wrong key. When shut, you have access to the E800's two soft keys, four-way navigation key, WAP key, cancel and answer/reject buttons. Opening the slider reveals the full numerical keypad.
The VGA camera on the rear of the phone is only accessible with the handset in the open position. There is a circular mirror beside the camera to assist in taking self-photos and a flash to assist at night. The flash is relatively weak compared to a regular camera. Other photo features include the ability to add frames to your shot and effects to like B&W, sepia, emboss and sketch. There is a choice of seven electronic noises to choose from to indicate when a photo is being taken. Apparently, due to privacy laws in Korea, this cannot be switched off as mobile phones manufactured in the country are required to play a sound when capturing photos.
There are no shortage of organiser features on the E800. Included is a memo pad, calendar, to do list, alarm clock, calculator, unit converter, timer and stopwatch. Under the handset's Fun Box menu option you'll find a couple of entertaining games called SnowBallFight and BubbleSmile as well as the media box, which stores photos, images and sounds.
Not only is the E800 easy on the eyes but with its 64-chord polyphonic ring tones it's easy on the ears too. We found around 40 ring tones that played crystal clear on the E800 and 10 separate message alert tones. Unfortunately you can't interchange these to use ring tones as SMS alerts.
During our test period we had staff around the CNET.com.au office and many others in awe of our pristine E800 -- the tones played sliding the phone open always draws attention. Samsung claims that battery life is up to 160 hours of standby or 3.5 hours of talk time. We averaged about four days between recharging the mobile phone.
While the E800 may lack higher-end features such as Bluetooth, tri-band support and an MP3 player, the features it has are implemented almost flawlessly. At a light 86 grams and a petite 87 x 43 x 23.5mm, the pod-like E800 is a mobile phone that will suit those looking not for the latest in technology but for a fashionable handset that does the job and looks great.