Samsung SCH-i730 (Verizon Wireless) review: Samsung SCH-i730 (Verizon Wireless)

The sliding form factor hides a nifty full QWERTY keyboard.
Thanks to the combination of its operating system and specs, the Samsung SCH-i730 is a processing powerhouse. It sports a 520MHz Intel PXA272 processor, 64MB of internal RAM, 128MB of flash memory (more than 80MB of which is available for program storage), and an SDIO/MMC expansion slot. It runs Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition, which offers a full set of PIM functions as well as Pocket versions of Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel. Music and movie fans will appreciate the inclusion of Windows Media Player 10.0, which supports PlaysForSure WMA files from online music stores such as Napster and Musicmatch and easy syncing of television programs recorded by Windows Media Center PCs. The Samsung i730 also includes a few bonus applications, including Sprite Backup, an excellent program launcher, and Verizon's Wireless Sync push e-mail client. While Microsoft's Windows Mobile push functionality won't be built into devices until we see units featuring Windows Mobile 5.0, Verizon's push e-mail client does the trick. Though some preproduction i730s were shown with a built-in 1.3-megapixel camera, this feature is missing from the initial i730 released by Verizon. It's possible that the camera could appear in a second model or in a version from another carrier, but no camera version has been announced. Nevertheless, we had hoped that a high-end smart phone such as the Samsung i730 would have at least a VGA-quality camera.

With a 1GB SD card, the i730 stores enough digital music to hold you over during those commutes.

The i730 has the full laundry list of wireless features: It includes Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and both 1xRTT and EV-DO cellular data. The Bluetooth support worked perfectly with the hardware we tested, including the Think Outside Stowaway Bluetooth keyboard, the Stowaway Travel Mouse, the Logitech Mobile Freedom Bluetooth headset, and the Pharos Bluetooth GPS. However, Verizon has chosen not to include Bluetooth dial-up networking support, so you can't use the i730 as a wireless modem in conjunction with your laptop. Given the blistering speeds we saw in our EV-DO testing--download speeds ranging from 520Kbps to 640Kbps, compared with 60Kbps to 110Kbps for 1xRTT--we can see why Verizon would be concerned that laptop users might use this feature more than the company would like. This omission means you'll have to do your work directly on the i730 if you can't find an access point for your laptop.

Another quirk: The phone feature shuts down when you're using the i730's Wi-Fi radio, so incoming calls will go directly to voicemail. (And you have to manually turn the phone radio back on after shutting down Wi-Fi.) This is less of an issue in areas where EV-DO support is available, since our speed tests showed EV-DO data speeds were comparable to that of a Wi-Fi connection or a DSL modem. EV-DO support is still rolling out in major cities; in the Seattle area, we found some suburbs have EV-DO coverage, while in others, the phone fell back to 1xRTT support.

The dual-band (CDMA 800/1900) Samsung SCH-i730's phone features worked smoothly in our tests on Verizon's network. Voices sounded clear on both ends of the call when speaking directly into the phone, but conversations were a bit quiet when using the Logitech Mobile Freedom Bluetooth headset. Speakerphone quality, though, is excellent. A nice bonus is the inclusion of VoiceSignal software, which lets you dial by pressing the button on your Bluetooth headset and saying "Call name." Voice and data coverage were excellent, though the lack of analog support means you may have trouble finding a signal in some rural areas. (That said, digital CDMA coverage is more widespread in the United States than GSM.)

The i730 includes a pair of batteries: a 1,100mAh standard battery and a thicker 1,700mAh extended battery. Battery life will vary dramatically depending on how you use the phone. Wi-Fi is a real power hog, and the extended battery will come in handy if you plan to use this feature much. The standard battery is rated at 2.5 hours of talk time, which we surpassed by an extra half hour in our tests. For standby time, it promises 5.4 days; this seems accurate from our testing. The package also includes a stereo headset, a belt holster, and an extremely portable folding USB sync cradle.