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Samsung SGH-A737 review: Samsung SGH-A737

Samsung SGH-A737

Kent German Former senior managing editor / features
Kent was a senior managing editor at CNET News. A veteran of CNET since 2003, he reviewed the first iPhone and 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).
Kent German


Samsung SGH-A737

The Good

The Samsung SGH-A737 has an attractive, comfortable design with easy-to-use navigation controls and a lovely display. It also offers a full range of features.

The Bad

The Samsung SGH-A737 had varying volume during voice calls, and its 3G connection was poky. Also, photo quality was poor and the camera doesn't offer a flash.

The Bottom Line

Though it could make better calls and its connection speed was somewhat slow, the Samsung SGH-A737 is a well-designed and full-featured multimedia cell phone.

Samsung has fallen in love with the thin slider phone, and the last couple years we've seen quite a few examples pass through our hands. Some of the models have been rather unremarkable--indeed the most recent handset we reviewed, the "="">Samsung SGH-T429, was a bit dull--but at other times they fared much better. And fortunately, the new Samsung SGH-A737 for AT&T falls in that latter camp. Though its slim profile isn't particularly unique, it offers user an easy-to-use navigation array, crisp display, and a broad set of multimedia features. We like the color accents, too. You can get it for $49. To find accessories for this phone, see our cell phone ringtones and accessories guide.

With an A707, an A717, an A727, and an A737 in its cell phone product line, you might think Samsung was beginning to copy Boeing's method of naming its products. And just as Boeing designed each of its airplanes for a specific market segment, Samsung created each of these handsets with a different user in mind. Though they all offer multimedia features, the A707 and A717 are flip phones, the A727 is a candy bar handset, and the A737 sports the thin slider style mentioned above. While its basic shape and dimensions (3.74x1.89x0.63 inches; 2.09 ounces) aren't exceptional, the A737 does come in four colors: orange (our review unit), red, blue, and lime. The color accents, which run down the side of each handset, provide a nice contrast to the simple black hue that covers the rest of the phone and they make for a unique look. We also enjoyed that the SGH-A737's solid feel in the hand, its sturdy slider mechanism, and the handy thumb grip for moving the front face up and down.

The A737 follows its predecessors in offering a brilliant display. Measuring two inches and supporting 262,000 colors, it's bright and vibrant with sharp graphics and animations. As with many Samsung displays, it's difficult to see in direct light, but that's not a huge problem. You can change the brightness and the backlight time, as well as the font size, color, and type. The menu system comes in two simple styles and you can activate nifty pop-up menus to save clicks when scrolling.

We approve of the A737's navigation array. Instead of the standard trapezoidal toggle we've seen on so many other Samsung handsets, the A737 features a large circular control that's very tactile. It was very easy to use, even with the big paws we have. Also, it's surrounded by a colored ring that corresponds to the phone's side accents. The rest of the array consists of two soft keys, a Clear control, the Talk and End/power buttons, and a shortcut for activating the music player. Like the toggle, these other buttons are large and easy to use. Additional shortcuts abound as well. The toggle gives one-touch access to four user-defined functions, and you can program a secondary shortcut menu with your favorite features. Our only complaint with the navigation array concerns the OK button in the middle of the toggle. Rather than activating the Web browser in standby mode, we wish it would just open the main menu. Oh, and one more thing: a dedicated camera shortcut would be nice.

As with most slider handsets, the A737 features a keypad that's completely flush. That means the keys aren't ideal for dialing by feel, so you'll need to pay attention when texting. On the upside, the individual buttons are large and backlit, while the top row of keys isn't squashed up against the bottom of the slider. Completing the exterior of the phone are a volume rocker and a microSD card slot on the left spine and a shortcut menu control and the headset/charger jack on the right spine. We're not fans of the combined port as it means you can use only one peripheral at a time. Also, you'll need to use Samsung's proprietary connection. The camera lens is on the rear face of the slider so you will need the phone open to take pictures.

The Samsung SGH-A737 features a 1,000-contact phone book with room in each entry for six phone numbers, two e-mail addresses, two URLs, an instant-messaging handle, and notes (the SIM card hold an additional 250 names). You can organize callers into groups or pair them with a photo or any of 10 polyphonic ringtones (can't you give us a few more Samsung?). Other essentials include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, call timers, an alarm clock, a calendar, a task list, a notepad, a calculator, a unit and currency converter, a world clock, a timer, a stopwatch, and a tip calculator. Beyond the basics, the A737 offers stereo Bluetooth, USB mass storage, a speakerphone, instant messaging (AOL, Windows Live, and Yahoo), and e-mail.

As a 3G UMTS phone, the A737 supports the full range of AT&T broadband multimedia applications. Cellular Video brings a wide variety 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 A737 also supports the AT&T Music application. Though the carrier announced last month that AT&T Music would soon support wireless downloads, the service is not live just yet, so we couldn't test it on the A737. As consolation, the handset offers other music services including support for XM Radio Mobile, a Music ID application, a Billboard Mobile channel, and a community section with access to fan sites. The music player interface is like that on other AT&T music phones; the interface is basic and features are limited to Shuffle and Repeat modes and playlists.

Samsung SGH-A737
The Samsung A737 offers a self-portrait mirror but no flash.

The A737 offers 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, exposure metering, 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. Also, it's disappointing that there's no flash. Photo quality wasn't stellar; images were washed out and too blurry.

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. The A737 comes with 50MB of shared space, which isn't extensive considering the phone's multimedia capabilities.

Samsung SGH-A737
We weren't crazy about the A737's photo quality.

You can personalize the Samsung SGH-A737 with a variety of wallpaper, menu styles, background colors, alert tones, and a greeting. If you want more options or more ringtones, you can download them from AT&T with the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. The phone also comes with six games: Brain Challenge, Diner Dash, Ms. Pac-Man and Pac-Man, Midnight Pool 3D, Tetris and World Poker Tour. You'll have to buy the full versions for extended play. There's also a My Cast weather application for checking forecasts in your area.

We tested the quadband (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; UMTS) Samsung SGH-A737 in San Francisco with AT&T service. Call quality was generally good, though not without its problems. While the reception remained strong and the signal was free of static or interference, we noticed some oscillations in the volume. At times, the volume was loud but other times it faded out somewhat. The change was minimal, but it was still noticeable, and it occurred throughout our call-testing period. Voices could also sound a tad harsh, though as with the volume fluctuations it wasn't a constant.

On their end, callers said we sounded OK though we had to speak close to the handset in order to be heard. They also had some trouble hearing us when we were in noisy environments. But most of the time they could hear and understand us without any problem. Yes, they could tell we were using a cell phone, but that's not unusual considering we were doing just that. We also had success using automated answering systems.

Speakerphone calls were about the same. The volume remained at a more constant level, but the voice quality was a bit off here as well. And again, we had to speak close to the phone in order to be heard. Bluetooth headset calls were a bit better, and we could hear the headsets to the A737 without incident.

Video quality was satisfactory; clips were smooth without much pixelation, and the player never froze or paused for rebuffering. The sound was also decent, and there was no lag between the audio and the speaker's mouth. Our 3G connection was relatively slow, however. When using the Cellular Video application, it took about 15 seconds to open new menus and almost half a minute to launch individual videos. The music player quality was somewhat better, fortunately. The speaker provided decent output, and the audio was clear, even if it was a bit tinny. Try using a headset for the best experience.

The A737 has a rated battery life of three hours talk time and 10.4 days standby time. The tested talk time was a little better, at 3 hours, 21 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the Samsung SGH-A737 has a digital digital SAR rating of 0.65 watt per kilogram.