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Samsung SGH-A637 - white (AT&T) review: Samsung SGH-A637 - white (AT&T)

Samsung SGH-A637 - white (AT&T)

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Kent German
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Kent German

Senior Managing Editor / Features

Kent is a senior managing editor at CNET News. A veteran of CNET since 2003, he reviewed the first iPhone and has worked in both the London and San Francisco offices. When not working, he's planning his next vacation, walking his dog, or watching planes land at the airport (yes, really).

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Sometimes a cell phone is not what it seems. Take, for example, the Samsung SGH-A637. Though you may think that its minimalist candy bar design hides a low-end feature set, inside you'll find a lot more. As a 3G handset, the SGH-A637 offers all the usual high-end AT&T offerings including GPS, AT&T Mobile Music, and Cellular Video. You'll also find a 1.3-megapixel camera, stereo Bluetooth, and GPS. While that's a decent assortment, and the phone performed admirably in most regards, we had issues with the design. Minimalism is one thing, but cheap is quite another. The A637 is $49 with service.

6.3

Samsung SGH-A637 - white (AT&T)

The Good

The Samsung SGH-A637 has a functional feature set, a bright display, and great multimedia quality.

The Bad

The Samsung SGH-A637's design is uninspiring and its construction and keypad feel cheap. Call quality was marred by volume fade-outs.

The Bottom Line

The Samsung SGH-A637 has multimedia prowess but we couldn't get past its design flaws and its variable call quality.

Design
In a world dominated by flip and slider phones, there's always room for a candy bar handset. But as straightforward and easy to use as they may be, candy bar phones need to be sturdy to protect the exposed display and controls. Unfortunately, the Samsung SGH-A637 doesn't make that cut. Its plastic feels quite flimsy and the phone had a slippery hold in the hand. It's fine for people who always keep the phone in a bag or glove compartment, but we doubt it will be rugged enough for most. On the upside, the SGH-A637 is relatively compact (4.41 inches tall by 1.77 inches wide by 0.81 inch thick; 3.24 ounces) and its rounded edges and white hue are a bit soothing. But as we said, we don't think this handset will withstand the test of time.

The display measures 1.8 inches and supports 262,000 colors. It's bright and vibrant with sharp colors, graphics, and text. You can change the backlighting time; the brightness; and the dialing font size, type, and color. The menu interface offers grid and list styles. Both choices are easy to use and intuitive, though the text might be too small for some users.

We like the SGH-A637's circular navigation toggle. Both it and the central OK button are raised above of the surface of the phone, which makes it tactile and easy to grasp. What's more, the blue ring surrounding the toggle makes it easily visible. You can set the toggle to act as a shortcut to user-defined shortcuts. Unfortunately, we weren't so crazy about the surrounding navigation control. Though the two soft keys, clear button, and the Talk and End/power controls are relatively spacious, they're almost flush. The same goes for the navigation keypad buttons. They have a spacious arrangement as well, but they're flat and a bit slippery.

The SGH-A637's volume rocker sits on the right spine above the camera shutter. The rocker is easy to find when on a call and the shutter is outlined in blue. On the left spine, you'll find the charger port/headset jack. Please note that it is a combined jack that uses the same Samsung proprietary connection for both. The camera lens sits in the upper-left corner of the SGH-A637's back side. There's also a memory card on the left spine but you must remove the battery cover to access it.

Features
The SGH-A637 has a large 1,000-contact phone book with room in each entry for six phone numbers, an e-mail address, an instant-messaging handle, and notes. You can assign callers to groups, give them a photo, and one of 10 polyphonic ringtones. Other essentials include: a vibrate mode, text, and multimedia messaging, an alarm clock, a calendar, a task list, a notepad, a calculator, a tip calculator, a currency and unit converter, a world clock, a timer, and a stopwatch.

You'll also find instant messaging, a speakerphone, stereo Bluetooth, Web-based POP3 e-mail, support for AT&T's Video Share service and Navigator. Media features include the standard offerings for an AT&T 3G phone. The SGH-A637 has Cellular Video, which offers an assortment of streaming video programming, and AT&T Mobile Music, which lets you download music tracks for use on the handset's digital music player. There's also a solid selection of music-related features, such as support for XM Radio Mobile, music videos, a Music ID application, a Billboard Mobile channel, and a community section with access to fan sites and downloads.

The SGH-A637's camera lens is in a convenient location but it doesn't a flash or a self-portrait mirror.

The 1.3-megapixel camera takes pictures in three resolutions, from 1,280x960 down to 320x240. Editing features include brightness and white balance settings, a panorama mode, three quality settings, a self-timer, a night mode, mosaic and multishot modes, a digital zoom, 20 fun frames and three shutter sounds (plus a silent option). Photo quality was quite good--we had enough light even without a flash and colors were bright. On the downside, there is noticeable noise around the edges of our shots.

The SGH-A637 has satisfying photo quality.

The camcorder shoots clips in one resolution (176x144) with a comparable set of editing options. Messages meant for multimedia messages are capped at 2minutes, but you can shoot for much longer in the normal mode. The SGH-A637 has a respectable 50MB of internal shared memory, but you get more space with a microSD card. A convenient meter in the camera tracks how much space is available.

You can personalize the SGH-A637 with a greeting and a variety of background colors, wallpaper, and alert tones. You can download more options and additional ringtones from AT&T using the WAP 2.0 Web browser. The handset comes with a few additional extras including Yellow pages Mobile and trial versions of MobiTV, Mobile Pix, Mobile Banking, ES Musica, Univision Movil, and WikiMobile. You also get demo versions of three games--Zuma, Tetris, and Platinum Sudoku--you'll have to buy the full versions for extended play.

Performance
We tested the dual-band, dual-mode (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; UMTS 850/1900) SGH-A637 world phone in San Francisco using AT&T service. Call quality was mostly good, though it wasn't perfect. On the upside, we enjoyed a clear signal and good voice clarity. We didn't encounter any static or interference, and callers sounded natural. But on the downside, the volume was a little soft and on a few occasions we heard a few fade-outs.

On their end, callers said we sounded fine. A few mentioned a slight background hiss, but overall the reports were positive. Automated calling systems could understand us most of the time. Speakerphone quality was decent. The phone's speaker has decent output and the audio, while somewhat harsh, was clear.

Cellular Video quality was quite good, actually. Clips took a few seconds to load, but once they were running the clarity was sharp. What's more, we didn't stop to rebuffer and the audio matched the speaker's mouth. Music quality also was satisfactory, though a headset will provide the best experience.

The Samsung SGH-A637 has a rated battery life of three hours talk time and 14.58 days standby time. Our tests reveal a talk time of 2 hours and 39 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the SGH-A637 has a digital SAR of 1.24 watts per kilogram.

6.3

Samsung SGH-A637 - white (AT&T)

Score Breakdown

Design 5Features 7Performance 7