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Samsung has its share of whiz-bang devices, but like a good centrist voter, the company's U.S. devices usually fall squarely in the middle. The Samsung SGH-A237 for AT&T's is one such device. Though it offers a couple of extra features such as a VGA camera and Bluetooth, the SGH-A237 is designed mainly for communication. Its design is attractive and easy to use, but it's also a phone that you'd forget just moments after seeing it. While that reality would be fine by itself, the SGH-A237's performance didn't cut it. At $199, it's expensive if you pay full price, but you can get it for as low as $19.99 if you buy it online. To find accessories for this phone, see our cell phone ringtones and accessories guide.
The Samsung SGH-A237 has a basic flip-phone design, but it manages to retain just a bit of signature style with curved ends and a very slight hourglass shape. It won't stand out on the street but it is better looking than many handsets of this caliber. It's also compact (3.74 inches by 1.89 inches by 0.63 inch), but its 2.9 ounces gives it a bit solid feel for its size. The hinge is sturdy and we wouldn't worry about a few drops to the floor. The handset comes in red, black, and blue colors. We examined the red model but the features are the same on all versions.
The external display is about the size of a postage stamp and is monochrome. Normally, we'd complain about the lack of a color display, but it's perfectly fine on a simple handset like the SGH-A237. The screen shows the date, time, signal strength, battery life, and numeric caller ID, but it won't work as a viewfinder for the camera or show photo caller ID because of its low resolution. The camera lens sits just above the external screen and the volume rocker rests on the left side. The right spine holds a combined headset jack and charger port. Unfortunately, that means you can use only one enhancement at a time.
The interior display is just what we'd expect from a basic camera phone. It measures 1.8 inches and supports 65,000 colors (160x120 pixels). Text is readable and the menus are clear and easy to use. Graphics and photos, however, aren't very sharp. You can change the backlight time, the brightness, and the dialing font size and color.
The SGH-A237's navigation array consist of a four-way toggle with a central OK button, two soft keys, Talk and End/power keys, and back/clear control. The array is relatively spacious but the toggle and OK button are just a bit cramped. As for shortcuts, you can program the toggle to give one-touch access to four user-defined functions, and you can program a secondary shortcut menu.
The numbers on the keypad buttons are rather large and the backlighting is bright. Though the keys are mostly flat with the surface of the phone, they have a nice tactile feel. We could dial and text quickly, and dialing by feel wasn't a problem.
The SGH-A237 has a 500-contact phone book with space in each entry for five phone numbers, an e-mail address, and notes (the SIM card holds an additional 250 contacts). You can save contacts to groups and pair them with one of 10 polyphonic ringtones. There's a "reject list" where you can store numbers of unwanted callers. Other essentials include a vibrate mode, an alarm clock, a calendar, a speakerphone, a calculator, a currency and unit converter, a timer, a stopwatch, a world clock, and a tip calculator. You'll also find an audio recorder (you can save clips as ringtones), instant messaging, Bluetooth, an airplane mode, and browser-based POP3 e-mail.
The SGH-A237's VGA camera takes pictures in four resolutions, from 640x480 down to 128x96. Editing options include a night mode, four color effects brightness and white balance settings, exposure metering, a digital zoom, three shutter sounds, and metering exposure. The A237 doesn't record video. Photo quality was pretty good for a VGA camera. Colors were relatively bright, there was little image noise, and we had enough light even without a flash. Just remember that vanity shots will be tricky since there's no self-portrait mirror. The SGH-A237 has about 3MB of shared memory for storing your work.
You can personalize the SGH-A237 with a variety of wallpapers, themes, background colors, greetings, and alert sounds. You always can get more options from AT&T with the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. For gaming the SGH-A237 comes with demo versions of Ms. Pac-Man, Tetris, JQ solitaire, and Bubble Bash. You'll have to buy the full versions for extended play. You also get demo versions of My-Cast 5 Weather and Mobile Banking.
Unfortunately, call quality rather disappointing when we tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) phone in San Francisco using AT&T service. The volume was loud, but the voice quality on our end had a distorted vibrating effect that sounded rather harsh. Callers didn't quite sound like themselves.
On their end, callers didn't report the same issues but a few said they had trouble hearing us, particularly when we were talking in noisy locations. A few also mentioned some static, which is something that we didn't notice. Needless to say, they could tell we were using a cell phone. Automated calling systems could understand us most of time.
Speakerphone calls were marginally worse. The vibrating effect was more prominent and we had to be close to the phone. On the upside, you can activate the speaker after you've made a call with one press of the OK button. Bluetooth calls were a bit better.
The Samsung SGH-A237 has a rated battery life of 5 hours talk time and 10.4 days standby time. It has an impressive tested talk time of 10 hours and 6 minutes. The SGH-A237 has a digital SAR of 1.14 watts per kilogram.