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 and 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. ( , 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.
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.
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.
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.