Samsung SGH-A727 (AT&T)
When we saw the first pictures of AT&T's Samsung SGH-A727, we did a double take, as we knew we'd seen such a design before. We've seen it in three other phones, to be exact: the unlocked SGH-X820, Alltel's SCH-R510, and T-Mobile's SGH-T519 Trace. Like its predecessors, the SGH-A727 capitalizes on its thin, candy bar design. Features are generous to begin with, but the SGH-A727's 3G capability brings support for AT&T Music and AT&T Video. Yet, we had issues with the flat navigation controls and the patchy sound quality. You can get it for $99 with service rebates or $299 if you pay full price.
Considering that the SGH-A727 is not the first handset from the company to show off such a design, it is clear that Samsung loves the phone's trim profile. At 4.5x1.98x0.35 inches, it's one of the thinnest phones around, and at 2.82 ounces, it remains one of the lightest as well. The SGH-A727 also has a comfortable feel in the hand, but some users reported that it was almost too thin and light. In other words, they wanted something with a chunkier profile.
The display measures 1.8 inches diagonally and supports 262,000 colors. As with the previous versions of the phone, the screen is bright and vivid and displays everything beautifully, from the easy-to-use menus to graphics and photos. You can change the backlighting time; the brightness; and the dialing font size, style, and color.
The SGH-A727 navigation array and keypad buttons show some slight differences from those of the previous models, though they're not changed for the better. The four-way toggle and OK button are morphed into a single control, which makes it difficult to use. Besides being rather slick, the control is flat with the surface and somewhat small. The other navigation controls are plentiful but are rather cramped as well. There are two soft keys, a music player shortcut button, a Clear control, and the talk and end/power keys. There's also a Swap button that activates a nifty pop-up menu with extra shortcuts. Unfortunately the keypad wasn't exactly ideal. It's also rather slick and a little too cramped for larger fingers.
The SGH-A727 has the same camera lens as its predecessors', located on its rear face without a flash or self-portrait mirror. The volume rocker and a covered headset jack/charger port lie on the right spine. The former is easily accessible when you're on a call. A camera shutter and the microSD card slot sit on the right spine; we're glad to see Samsung didn't stash the slot behind the battery.
The Samsung SGH-A727 has a 1,000-contact phone book, which is equal to the SGH-T519's and double that of the SCH-R510. Each entry holds seven phone numbers, two e-mail addresses, an instant messaging handle, and notes, while the SIM cards holds an additional 250 names. You can organize callers into groups and pair them with a photo and any of 10 polyphonic ringtones. Essential features include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a world clock, a calculator, a currency and unit converter, a tip calculator, a stopwatch, an alarm clock, a task list, a notepad, and a calendar. Higher-end offerings include instant messaging, a speakerphone, a voice recorder, and Bluetooth.
As a 3.5G HSDPA phone, the SGH-A727 supports the full range of Cingular broadband multimedia applications. Cingular Video brings a satisfying range of streaming video clips from such channels as NBC, Comedy Central, ESPN, The Weather Channel, VH1, and CNN. There's a special channel for kids as well, with programming from The Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, The Cartoon Network, and Muppets Mobile. Premium entertainment is offered from HBO Mobile and Music Choice for an extra charge. For a full analysis of the offerings, see our AT&T Video review. MobiTV applications are integrated as well.
If you're more interested in listening to tunes, the Samsung SGH-A727 also supports the AT&T Music application. AT&T Music competes with the music services from Sprint and Verizon Wireless by offering a central application for downloading tunes to the music player and accessing related music content. We like that AT&T uses partners rather than operating its own stores, but at present you can't download music wirelessly. There's also a Music ID application, support for XM streaming radio, a Billboard Mobile application, and a community section with access to fan sites. The music player interface is beyond basic; its features are limited to Shuffle and Repeat modes and player visualizations.
Like the SGH-T519 and SCH-R510, the SGH-A727 has a 1.3-megapixel camera. You can take pictures in five resolutions (1,280x1,024; 800x600; 640x480; 320x240; and 240x180) and choose from five quality settings. Other features include a night mode, brightness and white balance controls, multishot and mosaic shot modes, a self-timer, three color effects, 20 fun frames, and a digital zoom, though this last feature is unusable at the highest photo resolution. There are a few shutter and camera function sounds as well, but you can't silence the shutter completely. The camcorder takes clips in two resolutions (176x144 and 128x96) with sound and a similar set of editing options. Clips meant for multimedia messages are capped at 30 seconds; otherwise you can shoot for as long as the phone's available memory permits. Speaking of which, the phone comes with 30MB of shared space, which isn't extensive considering the phone's multimedia capabilities. Fortunately, you can use a microSD card for more space. Photo quality isn't the best; colors were fine, but the images were blurry for a megapixel camera.
You can personalize the SGH-A727 with a variety of wallpaper, menu styles, background colors, alert tones, and a greeting. If you want more options or additional ring tones, you can download them from AT&T with the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. The phone also comes with five games: Asphalt Urban GT 3D, Diner Dash, Ms. Pac-Man, Platinum Sudoku, Tetris, and World Poker Tour. You'll have to buy the full versions for extended play.
We tested the Samsung SGH-A727 in San Francisco using AT&T service. Call quality was variable at best; voices sounded natural and there's adequate volume, but we encountered a fair amount of static, and the audio tended to fade in and out. Interestingly, we've seen the call quality vary on all incarnations of this phone. While the SGH-X820 didn't disappoint us, the SGH-T519 Trace lacked adequate volume, and the SCH-R510 had an echoed effect. On the whole, we'd say the SGH-A727 is comparable to the Alltel handset in terms of call quality. Both had issues that diminished but didn't destroy the overall experience. Noisy environments didn't affect sound quality either way, and the handset was relatively good at blocking out wind noise. On their end, callers didn't report as many problems as we did. They could understand us clearly, though they said we sounded a bit robotic at times. We didn't have many problems with automated calling systems.
Speakerphone calls were about average. The sound wasn't muffled, but the volume was somewhat low, and voices had a tinny quality. Callers could hear us, but we had to speak quite close to the phone. Bluetooth calls had few issues.
The Samsung SGH-A727 has a rated battery life of 4 hours talk time and 10 days standby time. In-house tests revealed a talk time of 4 hours and 4 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the SGH-A727 has a digital SAR rating of 1.05 watts per kilogram.