If you're searching for a low-end cell phone in a simple design, AT&T and Samsung offer lots of choices. In the last couple months we've seen the Samsung SGH-A437 and SGH-A117, and now we present the Samsung SGH-A127. Sporting a compact design with an attractive color scheme, the SGH-A127 offers a respectable VGA camera. Call quality was just passable, providing that you're not using the speakerphone, but our experience was really ruined by the painfully small and hard-to-use controls. That's why we prefer the LG CE110 as a better basic phone.
Measuring just 3.39 inches by 1.67 inches by 0.67 inch and weighing 2.86 ounces, the SGH-A127 is a diminutive flip phone. It has a fairly standard and slightly boxy shape, but its dark red-and-silver color scheme is eye-catching. With an internal antenna, it's eminently portable, but it manages to have a fairly solid construction. No, we wouldn't want to drop it several stories, but it should survive most bumps. On the other hand, it felt a little too small in the hand.
The postage stamp external display is monochrome, but that's common on a phone of this caliber. It won't support photo caller ID, but it shows the date, time, battery life and signal strength, and number caller ID. It also works as a viewfinder for the camera lens, which sits just above. None of the display's options are customizable, including the very short backlighting time. On the left side of the SGH-A127 is a volume rocker, while a camera shutter sits on the right spine. The charger port/headset jack sits on the bottom of the phone.
The internal display measures 1.6 inches (128x160 pixels). The resolution isn't exceptional since it supports 65,000 colors (262,000-color displays have spoiled us), but it is fine for browsing the simple menus. The again, games and graphics were tame. You can change the backlighting time and the dialing font color, but the screen also is hard to see in direct light.
Unfortunately, the SGH-A127 fails miserably when it comes to its controls. Both the navigation array and the keypad buttons are much too cramped. While that can be attributed to the phone's small size, it doesn't help that all keys have cheap plastic feel and are flush with the surface of the phone. We had a very difficult time dialing, texting, and navigating through the menus, and don't get us started on playing games. Also, we didn't like how the OK button in the middle of the four-way toggle opens the Web browser when the phone is in standby mode. To open the main menu, you have to use the left soft key instead. The keys are lit by backlighting, but it was not a user-friendly experience by any stretch.
The SGH-A127 has a small phone book with room for just 300 contacts (the SIM card holds an additional 250 names). Each entry holds three phone numbers and an e-mail address. You can save callers to groups, but only groups can be paired with one of the 11 16-chord polyphonic ringtones. Other features include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a world clock, an alarm clock, a calendar, a to-do list, a voice memo, a speakerphone, a calculator, and a currency converter.
The VGA camera takes pictures in four resolutions (640x480, 320x240, 160x120, and 128x104), and you can choose from three quality settings (superfine, fine, and normal). Other features include a self-timer, a night mode, 18 fun frames, a digital zoom, multishot, and mosaic shot modes, five color tones, and a brightness setting. Photo quality was decent for a VGA camera. Some images tended to be blurry, but colors were mostly bright. The SGH-A437 does not support video recording.
You can personalize the SGH-A127 with a choice of wallpaper or alter tones. You can always download more options for AT&T using the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. Gaming options are few; you just get demo versions of Jewel Quest and Tetris.
We tested the dualband (GSM 850/1900) SGH-A127 in San Francisco using AT&T service. Call quality was acceptable on a couple levels, but ultimately it didn't measure up. Though voices sounded natural and the signal remained free of static, the volume could be somewhat louder. On their end, callers could hear us, though they knew without being prompted that we were on a cell phone. Also, they said the phone picked up a lot of wind noise, and we noticed that sound around us tended to reverberate through the phone. Automated calling systems could hear us as long as we were in a quiet place. The speakerphone was quite poor, however. On our end, the sound was garbled at all volume levels, and we barely understood what our friends were saying. On their end, they had trouble hearing us, as well.
We noticed that the SG-A127's was sluggish at times. It was particularly noticeable when entering contacts, opening games, and toggling between different menus.
The SGH-A127 has a rated battery life of 5 hours talk time and 10.4 days standby time. Our tests confirmed the rated time at 5 hours and 15 minutes.