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Samsung F700 review: Samsung F700

There's no mistaking where the Samsung F700 takes its design inspiration from -- it's a dead ringer for the iPhone. But while Apple's phone is hamstrung by its limited EDGE system, the F700 has full-blooded HSDPA mobile broadband. Can its interface bear the same comparison, though?

Andrew Lim

See full bio
5 min read

When Samsung first unveiled the F700 earlier this year at 3GSM, there was no mistaking that it took its design cues from Apple's iPhone. Since then many other manufacturers, including HTC and LG, have produced handsets that share many of the iPhone's design features -- but the F700 remains the closest to it.

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7.5

Samsung F700

The Good

Attractive design; HSDPA mobile broadband; Qwerty keypad.

The Bad

Web browser; camera could be better; user interface is fiddly at times.

The Bottom Line

There's no denying that the F700 looks like the iPhone, but in all fairness it's a very different phone. The F700 can send MMS messages, shoot videos, connect to an HSDPA network and there's a full Qwerty keypad hidden beneath the slide. But there's simply not enough to make it better than the iPhone and while it's very attractive, we can't help feeling that the user interface and features could be better

Looks alone don't make a phone though, so we've spent some quality time with the F700 to find out if it's as slick as it looks or just a well-dressed wannabe. You can currently pick up a Samsung F700 from Vodafone for free on a monthly contract.

Design
The F700 looks like the iPhone, and that's that. No, it's not identical -- it's less wide, thicker and dark blue in colour, but you wouldn't be mad if you saw a friend put it on a table and remarked, "Oh, is that your new iPhone?"

The F700 is a big leap for Samsung, which has generally stayed away from touchscreen phones, instead making masses of sliders, which are immensely popular around the world. But Samsung also has a reputation for pushing technological boundaries, even if it doesn't come up with the idea first.

The F700's large touchscreen is nice to look at and responsive to touch. Underneath the screen there's a mechanical key, which pops up a shortcut menu. On the top of the F700 there's a power key and charging port next to a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Annoyingly, the headphone jack is protected by a small cover that only serves to get in the way when you want to plug your headphones in quickly. Ironically, where a cover is needed most -- on the 3-megapixel camera at the back of the F700 -- you won't find one.

For some reason both the iPhone and F700 are slippy chappies -- Two people in the office managed to pick the F700 up and drop it within seconds, which we don't think is necessarily a design fault, but you're best holding it firmly when you use it. You'll want to wipe it every now and then too, as it picks up fingerprints very easily.

Of course unlike certain other touchscreen phones, the F700 has a trick up its sleeve so you can avoid touching the screen altogether when you're writing texts or emails, and that's a full slide-out Qwerty keypad. But breathe a sigh of relief if you're imagining some kind of squashed mess -- this keypad is usable, very usable.

We rank the F700's keypad on a similar level to the HTC TyTN II's keypad, which we rated very highly. The keys are well sized and well spaced out and the layout is straightforward. There is one niggle we had with it and that's the lack of space at the top of the keypad, which depending on how you press the keys can be annoying.

Features
The F700's user interface is closer to the LG Viewty's than the iPhone's. A phone's interface is the first port of call when you switch it on and while we see what Samsung was trying to achieve, it doesn't work in all areas of the phone. It seems unfinished, as if it was rushed for a quick launch.

Certain processes, such as hanging up, are less straightforward than they should be. There are no fancy built-in sensors, so the screen doesn't automatically change to landscape mode when you tip it over, or realise when your face is near it, or adjust the screen brightness.

It's probably because it looks so much like the iPhone that we expected an experience as good, which of course it isn't. The browser doesn't render pages very well, the music player is relatively basic and the screen just isn't as large or as sharp as the iPhone's. But before you count it out of the fight, the F700 does have some redeeming qualities.

HSDPA (3.5G) means you can download data much faster than on the iPhone's EDGE connection. Unlike the iPhone, you can take pictures and send them to friends via MMS, you can use the camera to shoot videos and you can make 3G video calls using the VGA camera on the front.


Similar to the LG Viewty, the F700's screen produces a reassuring vibration when you tap it, which helps if you want to make sure you've pressed something. You can use the F700 to watch YouTube videos and download Google Maps to it.

Better yet, MusicStation has created an app that lets you download your favourite tracks over-the-air for a flat-rate monthly subscription, which works very well. We managed to download a few tracks really easily -- our only concern is that you can't keep any of the music if you stop paying the subscription.

You can listen to tracks using your own headphones or wirelessly using a pair of stereo Bluetooth (A2DP) ones.

Performance
The audio quality during calls was loud and clear throughout, without any noticeable muffling or distortion, and the loudspeaker was equally good. Audio quality from the music player sounded fine, but the player itself is very simple and we would have liked easier-to-use controls and more options, such as an equaliser.

The picture quality from the F700's 3-megapixel camera was good for MMS messages and small prints, but blurry and grainy when blown up to full size, even when using the auto-focus. It's a shame there's no xenon flash, but the LED photo light is relatively bright at close range -- just don't expect brilliant pictures.

Battery life was good, lasting over a day and a half with moderate use and less if HSDPA was used for a prolonged period. It's quoted at 350 hours standby time and 270 minutes talk time.

Conclusion
The Samsung F700 is an attractive addition to Samsung's portfolio, but it could have been so more than just a flash phone with a few extras. Install an OS such as Symbian or possibly Android on a device like this and the possibilities are endless. But the software just didn't support the hardware well.

On a positive note, Samsung doesn't seem to have any hang-ups when it comes to trying out new concepts and while the F700 is a little rough around the edges, this bodes well for future Samsung handsets. Perhaps next time we'll see a better Web browser and a sharper camera -- and more importantly an improved user interface.

Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Nick Hide

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