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Samsung MM-A700 (Sprint) review: Samsung MM-A700 (Sprint)

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Besides the blue and silver coloring, the most noticeable feature on the front flap is the bright external display. It's no bigger than a postage stamp, but it supports 65,000 colors and shows the date, time, battery life, signal strength, and caller ID (where available). It also displays photo caller ID, though it's rather difficult to see when the backlighting is off. Immediately above the screen are a flash and a rotating camera lens, while a dedicated camera button sits on the right spine. One touch we liked was the multicolored LED light behind the Samsung name that flashes when a call comes in.

7.3

Samsung MM-A700 (Sprint)

The Good

High-resolution displays; integrated 1.03-megapixel camera; 32MB memory; streaming video; high-quality sound; analog roaming.

The Bad

Bulky; no Bluetooth or infrared port; average video quality; no speakerphone.

The Bottom Line

The Samsung MM-A700 isn't perfect, but its novel features will please gadget gurus.
Intro
The summer of 2004 brought a new milestone in the evolution of camera phones, with the arrival of several handsets with higher-resolution sensors. And now with its MM-A700 for Sprint PCS, Samsung follows Audiovox and Motorola in multiplying the megapixels. A true multimedia mobile, the Samsung MM-A700 not only sports a 1.03-megapixel camera and a video recorder, it's also the first CDMA phone to offer streaming audio and video. (Motorola's GSM model, the A845, which also promises streaming video, has yet to hit stores.) Despite a lackluster design and average video quality for a phone, the MM-A700 is a solid first step in a new direction. At $400, it is pricey, but you should be able to find it cheaper with service.
Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more. Though it's packed with some novel features, the Samsung MM-A700 won't win any awards for its design. That's not to say it's unattractive, but it's not particularly striking either. It's also on the bulky side (3.5 by 2.0 by 1.0 inches; 4.2 ounces), yet it can fit in a larger pocket and still feels comfortable to hold while you're talking. A stubby extendable antenna adds a bit more heft to the somewhat fragile construction.

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The MM-A700 can hardly be considered slim.

Inside the handset, you'll find the attractive 262,000-color main display. Measuring 2 inches diagonally, the screen is very pleasing to the eye, though it's hard to view in direct sunlight. Available in two styles, the cool animated menus are easy to navigate via the main controls or the volume rocker on the phone's left side. The primary navigation buttons are well spaced and tactile. There's a four-way toggle with an OK button in its center, two soft keys, and a Back button. The toggle gives one-touch access to four user-defined functions, while the soft keys open the main menu and the phone book. We would have preferred a dedicated camera button among the main navigation keys, but that's a minor point.

The large keypad buttons are a welcome departure from the cramped controls found on many other cell phones. Though they are set flush with the surface of the phone, they're easy to manipulate, and the blue backlighting makes them stand out in the dark. It is, however, difficult to dial by feel on the MM-A700.

The Samsung MM-A700 comes with a solid feature set. There's a 500-name phone book with room in each entry for five phone numbers, an e-mail address, and a Web site. You also can pair contacts with a ring tone or a picture (for photo caller ID), assign them to a group, or enter notes or a nickname. Other goodies include a scheduler, a task list, one-minute voice memos, a world clock, voice commands and dialing, a calculator, an alarm clock, text and multimedia messaging, 10 monophonic and 10 polyphonic (64-chord) ring tones, and a WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. And though the MM-A700 has three-way conference calling and e-mail support (IMAP4 and POP3), it lacks several other business-oriented features, such as Bluetooth, an infrared port, and a speakerphone.

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The MM-A700 sports a flash and a barrel camera lens that can rotate 180 degrees.

Of course, the star attractions on the MM-A700 are its multimedia offerings. For starters, you get a 1.03-megapixel camera with a CMOS lens--a marked step above VGA camera phones. You can take pictures in four resolutions (1,152x864, 640x480, 320x240, and 175x165) and choose among three quality settings. You also can adjust the brightness, as well as select from eight color-tone options and six white-balance modes. And for further customization, you can decorate your shots with a selection of 10 fun frames or pick one of four shutter sounds, as well as a silent option. A flash adds a decent amount of light to your subjects, and a self-timer lets you join your friends in a shot. The 5X digital zoom is offered at only the two lowest resolutions.

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Photo quality on the MM-A700 was decent.

The camcorder takes 15-second videos with sound. You can adjust the quality, brightness, white balance, and color tones, as well as use the 5X zoom and the self-timer. Also, the flash doubles as a bright movie light. Both pictures and video can be saved to the phone's 32MB of memory or sent via multimedia message or e-mail. Photos also can be paired with contacts or saved as wallpaper, while videos can be used as screensavers.

But more than just shooting clips, the MM-A700 also is the first CDMA phone to play streaming video. At a rate of 15 frames per second over Sprint's existing 1X network (see Performance), the mobile gives you a choice of 10 news, sports, and entertainment channels. The primary offering is Sprint TV, a compilation of ABC, NBC, the Weather Channel, and other programming, while MobiTV has such premium channels as E Entertainment and CNN. Access to video content starts at $9.99 per month, with some premium channels costing an additional $4.95 each per month. For the true media maven, there's an all-inclusive package for $25 per month that includes 100 text messages, Sprint's Picture Mail service, and the carrier's Vision Mail.

The handset can be personalized with a variety of screensavers, wallpaper, or sounds. More selections and additional ring tones and applications can be downloaded from Sprint for an added fee. Gamers, on the other hand, will be disappointed, as no titles are included with the mobile. The MM-A700 is built with the new QualComm 6100 chipset, a faster processor that makes possible the streaming video. As a result, though, it increases the speed of games up to fourfold, making some of them unplayable. Sprint promises that modifications are underway.

We tested the triband (CDMA 800/1900; AMPS 800) Samsung MM-A700 in San Francisco using Sprint's network. Audio quality was very good, with clear conversations, and callers could rarely tell we were on a cell phone.

Video quality was generally good but far from spectacular. On Sprint TV, we tried watching the Weather Channel, NBC News, ABC News, and Toon World TV. The feed was jerky, and the picture sometimes unclear. Also, while we were watching a NBC clip on Hurricane Ivan, the clip froze and had to restart. The premium channels CNN and Fox Sports had similar issues, but the previews for E and MFlix (movie previews) took longer to load and failed before they could finish. Sound quality, on the other hand, was quite good, with only occasional hiccups. Most of these problems are to be expected, though; data speeds average 50Kbps to 70Kbps, which is far below true 3G speeds of 220Kbps to 320Kbps. (Alternatively, the Motorola A845 promises a true 3G network.) The handset is a good first try, however, and early adopters should get a kick out of the new offering. One word of warning, though: the mobile will not be compatible with Sprint's forthcoming EDVO high-speed network.

For battery life, we fell 15 minutes short of the rated 4 hours of talk time. On standby time, we met the promised rate of nine days. According to the FCC, the MM-A700 has a digital SAR rating of 1.14 watts per kilogram.

7.3

Samsung MM-A700 (Sprint)

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 8