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Samsung SCH-A review: Samsung SCH-A

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The Good Distinctive design; large, rotating screen; decent camera options; solid battery life.

The Bad No external LCD; travel charger not included.

The Bottom Line With an eye-catching design and an impressive feature set, the Samsung SCH-A610 gives you a lot to like.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.6 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7

Review Sections

Review summary

When Samsung introduced the SPH-A600 last year, the mobile's solid feature set and swiveling screen made it a real head-turner. And such is the case with the Samsung SCH-A610 for Verizon Wireless, the latest in the company's effort to spruce up its offerings. This slick camera phone retains many of the attractive features of its sibling but adds an expanded phone book and multimedia-messaging (MMS) capability. But at $299, the bells and whistles come with a hefty price tag that will appeal to only serious cell phone users who want full functionality in a flashy package. At first glance, the Samsung SCH-A610 resembles few of its flip-phone counterparts. Like the SPH-A600, this two-tone, silver mobile is bulky (3.5 by 1.9 by 0.9 inches; 4.23 ounces) and boxy, with a decidedly solid and sturdy feel. As is the case with its predecessor, the A610 has two features that few handsets can match: a rotating, barrel-like camera lens and a distinctive swiveling screen.

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The A610 will fit those with bigger pockets--and wallets.

Upon opening the handset, you'll notice that the large (2-inch diagonal), 65,000-color LCD rotates 180 degrees, then folds down with the display face up. With the phone in this position, you can view caller ID (when available)--thus, eliminating the need for an external screen--or use the display as a viewfinder to take self-portraits. Vivid, bright, and sharp, the LCD is easy on the eyes but goes completely dark when not backlit, so be sure to adjust the time setting accordingly. Though the swiveling mechanism has a solid feel, we can't vouch that it will remain that way after months of use, and we'd be wary of keeping the screen exposed for fear of scratches. As an alternative, a single, colored LED flashes during incoming calls, but it can't be programmed for specific callers.

The blue-backlit dial and navigation keys on the A610 are identical to those found on the A600. A four-way navigation key, which provides one-click access to designated features, surrounds an OK button, while two soft keys open the main menu page and the contacts list. There's also a dedicated camera key (an exterior camera shutter takes pictures when the flip is down). The keypad buttons are well spaced, and though they are set flush against the phone, rarely make for misdials.
The Samsung SCH-A610 comes with a 500-name phone book, or 200 more than the SPH-A600, and each entry accepts up to five phone numbers and two e-mail addresses. Improving upon the A600, the SCH-A610 offers text and multimedia messaging as a standard feature, and other goodies include voice memos, picture caller ID, a scheduler, a to-do list, a countdown timer, a memo pad, an alarm clock, a world clock, and a calculator. You'll also find 5 monophonic and 10 polyphonic (16-chord) ring tones, as well as a vibrate mode. Specific ring tones can be assigned to individual callers.

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Turn around: The A610's screen rotates 180 degrees.

As mentioned previously, the A610's VGA camera can rotate 180 degrees, allowing for a wide field of vision when taking pictures, including self-portraits and landscape shots. You can select between 10 Fun Frames and six color tones, as well as three image-quality and resolution settings (640x480, 320x240, or 160x120 pixels). You can also adjust the brightness and zoom, and though there is a built-in flash, it doesn't make a big difference in your pictures. Other bonuses included a multishot feature that takes up to seven frames in succession and a self-timer. We particularly appreciated that we could send photos via a single click after taking a shot.

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Capturing a sweet scene is just a click away.

The A610 can be personalized with wallpapers, animations, sounds, images, and BREW-supported games, all of which can be downloaded through Verizon's Get It Now service. Via Verizon's high-speed 1xRTT network, the integrated Mobile Web browser provides access to a variety of content, such as services from MSN. The A610 comes with a belt holster in the box, but the provided desktop cradle charger is rather large. If you're on the road a lot, we suggest you invest in a travel charger, available from Verizon for $29.99. We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900; AMPS 800) phone on Verizon's network in San Francisco. Call quality generally was good; we had little problem hearing callers in noisy environments, but people could tell we were on a cell phone. And while we always got a signal, call strength faded in and out more than once.

Battery life was decent, especially for a phone with such a large color screen. We managed 4.5 hours of talk time, beating the rated talk time by 30 minutes and on a par with the SPH-A600. Our standby time was five days, compared with the promised standby time of nine days.

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