Samsung Propel review: Samsung Propel

The Samsung Propel has a generous 1,000-entry phonebook with room in each entry for two phone numbers, an e-mail address, an instant-messaging handle, and notes. You can also organize your contacts by caller groups, or pair them with a photo or one of 11 polyphonic ring tones for a customized ring. Other essentials include a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, text and multimedia messaging, an alarm clock, a calendar, a to-do list, a notepad, a calculator, a tip calculator, a unit converter, a world time clock, a timer, a stopwatch, and a voice recorder. On the higher end, you also get a wireless Web browser, stereo Bluetooth, mobile e-mail, instant-messenger support (AOL, Windows Live, and Yahoo) and A-GPS. Because of the A-GPS feature, the Propel comes with AT&T Navigator, AT&T's turn-by-turn direction service.

The Propel is a 3G/HSDPA phone, meaning it has access to AT&T's full array of broadband services and applications. They include AT&T's Cellular Video, a streaming video service with content partners like NBC and ESPN, and AT&T Mobile Music. The Propel is also compatible with AT&T Video Share, which lets you stream live one-way video to another Video Share-compatible phone.

One of the Propel's features is access to AT&T Mobile Music, which is a big umbrella of features that include the built-in music player, the capability to stream and download music from Napster and eMusic, access to MusicID (a song identification service), XM radio, and streaming music videos. If you wish, you can also upload songs directly to the built-in music player via USB. The player supports MP3, MIDI, MMF, WAV, SMAF, and AAC+ file formats. The interface itself is fairly generic, with the expected functions like play, pause, and skip tracks. Other music player options include a preset equalizer, repeat and shuffle modes, and the capability to create and edit playlists. The Propel comes with 50MB of shared memory between the camera and the music player, but there's a microSD card slot if you want additional storage.

The Samsung Propel has pretty good photo quality.

The Propel comes with a 1.3-megapixel camera. It can take pictures in three resolutions (1,280x960, 640x480, 320x240), five white-balance settings, four color effects, and three quality settings. Other camera settings include 3x zoom, brightness, a self-timer, three shutter sounds with a silent option, six shot modes (single shot, multishot, mosaic shot, frame shot, and panorama), and a night mode. Photo quality was pretty good. Images looked sharp and bright. However, colors looked muted. There's also a built-in camcorder that can record in two resolutions--short video for MMS, and longer ones for whatever amount of storage is available. The only available resolution is 176x144. Other camcorder settings are the same as the still camera.

You can customize the Samsung Propel with a variety of graphics and sounds to suit your taste. If you want more, you can download them via AT&T's Media Mall store. The Propel comes with games and applications like Mobile Banking, MobiTV, the Weather Channel, WikiMobile, Guitar Hero III, JewelQuest 2, Midnight Bowling 2, and Tetris. If you want more games and applications, you can download more via the same store.

We tested the quad-band GSM and dual-band UMTS/HSDPA Samsung Propel with AT&T in San Francisco. We were impressed with the call quality. Although we could hear the occasional static, we could still hear our callers loud and clear. We thought they sounded very natural, on both landline and cell phone calls. Callers reported the same thing--they said our voices sounded quite natural, as if we were calling from a landline. Speakerphone quality was surprisingly good--callers couldn't hear much of a difference, though we thought they sounded tinny with quite a bit of echo.

We were impressed with the HSDPA speeds on the Propel. We downloaded a song in about 50 seconds, and streaming video had little to no buffering issues. Loading Web pages took only a few seconds, too.

The Samsung Propel has a rated battery life of 5 hours talk time and 10.4 days standby time. Our tests reveal a talk time of 3 hours and 7 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the Matrix has a digital SAR rating of 0.968 watts per kilogram.

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