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We are used to seeing Windows Mobile smart phones in the standard candybar shape, but for this foray into the Windows Mobile arena Samsung has decided that is simply not good enough.
Instead the company has flattened and stretched the Windows Mobile smart phone format as if rolling out a piece of dough, so that the i320 looks like a handset in Samsung's new Ultra Edition range. In doing this, Samsung has found room to add a wide screen and mini keyboard to a thin, sleek, uber-black design.
We've already noted that the i320 is thin and black. It has a matte finish, which manages to look desirable and resists greasy fingerprints. The only place you'll notice getting grimy is the screen, and you may end up brushing it against your clothing to keep it clean.
The 12mm thickness of the i320 barely leaves room for buttons along the edges and you could easily be forgiven for thinking handsets just can't get much thinner.
Held in the hand, though, the i320 feels slightly awkward due to its height and width. And while it looks absolutely stunning on a table top, we do wonder whether you may forget it's in your back pocket and damage it when you sit down.
A keyboard takes up about a third of the front area, and the keys are tall and thin. They are raised in the centre and the numbers are on the middle keys with a silver surround so they are easy to spot. We found the keys easy to hit, but if your fingers are large or stubby you may have more trouble.
The navigation button is large and its silver select key is nicely rounded. Left and right of it are sizeable rocker buttons for getting to the Windows Mobile smart phone softmenus and the Home and Back functions. Outside these again are tall, thin call and end keys.
Despite its lack of depth, Samsung has managed to get buttons and slots around the edges of the i320. The infrared port is on the upper edge. There are two covered slots on the right edge and you'll need a fingernail to open the covers. One protects the mains power and PC charge connector, the other protects the headset connector -- both of these are proprietary.
Also on this edge is a dual-function camera and voice notes key (a long press launches the camera, a short press the voice recorder), and a dual function quick-list and lock key (a short press opens the quick list -- essentially a profile switcher and Bluetooth controller, a long press activates the keylock). The left edge houses the volume rocker.
This is a tri-band handset and it supports GPRS, WAP, HTML and Java. It'll synch with your PC thanks to provided software and a cable, and if you are not already running Outlook, a copy is provided (as with every other Windows Mobile smart phone).
The standard on-board Windows Mobile software is augmented by Samsung with a few very useful extras. For example, Samsung has a couple of nice Today screen overlays you can use to view upcoming appointments, tasks and messages, and switch into applications. One of these is so large it takes up much of the screen, the other is a single line on the bottom of the screen you move through using the navigation pad.
There's a little application called D-Day you can use to act as a count down to important days in your life, an alarm tool that caters for five different alarms, a unit converter, a stopwatch and an equaliser for the built-in speaker called WOW XT.
You also get the Picsel viewer which lets you read Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint files, as well as PDFs, text files and a range of image formats.
The wide screen really helps here. Samsung has taken a standard 240x320-pixel screen and flipped it onto its side. This is a stroke of genius if you are into reading texts on your smart phone because it gives you a wider view.
There is 120MB of shared memory on board, and if you need to augment what is available, for example if you want to carry plenty of music around, you can add more. This is achieved with microSD cards, but annoyingly Samsung has put the slot under the battery cover. You have to take the battery out and power down to get to it.
An important consequence of the small size of the i320 is that there is only room for a tiny battery. This makes for a somewhat short battery life as we report below, but Samsung provides a second cell and a charger so at least you can prepare a fully charged spare battery to pop into the slot when needed.
So let's get to battery life first. Forcing the screen to stay on and playing music from a microSD card, we got five hours of music, which is actually better than we'd expected. With two fully charged cells on hand we reckon you could get away with a weekend away and no power charger.
The camera delivered fairly sharp images but its colour reproduction wasn't all it could have been. As long as you don't have especially high expectations of it, and particularly when using it indoors, then it should serve you well enough.
Thanks to Expansys for providing a review sample of this phone.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Kate Macefield