The P735's attention-grabbing design is a cross between those of the Samsung SCH-A610 and the Kyocera KX2 Koi. Not only does the front flap flip up in a normal manner for talking, but like the Koi, it also rotates counterclockwise 180 degrees to reveal the keypad. The swivel mechanism is a welcome feature when using the phone as a camera, as you can let the main screen (which now faces backward) serve as a viewfinder for taking a self-portrait with the rear-facing camera lens. Or to take a traditional photo, you can flip the screen down (as with the A610) so that the internal screen is on the opposite side of the phone from the camera lens. In either case, the screen's orientation also rotates accordingly, so you don't have to turn the handset upside down. For more variation, you can rotate the flap 90 degrees for a picture in Landscape mode. But wait--there's more. A final maneuver is to rotate the flap 180 degrees clockwise from its original starting point to expose the keypad and the navigation controls. While we weren't certain of the exact purpose of this arrangement--which is similar to the normal talking position--you can make calls, take pictures, and browse through the menus, nevertheless. Take care, however, as you must repeat the three-step process to get back to the starting point.
While the multiform design may look cool, it has its disadvantages and may be too fancy for its own good. The primary flip-up mechanism is rather loose, so the mobile does not snap open and shut with a satisfying click. Moreover, when moving through the various stages of flipping and rotating, it's easy to lose your way, and we were concerned about the mechanism's long-term durability. And since you can rotate the flip in only certain directions that aren't clearly spelled out, you'll need some practice to master all the movements and to understand their functions.
Set in a mirrored frame, the P735's internal display measures 1.75 inches diagonally and supports 262,000 colors. In the usual Samsung fashion, the screen is difficult to see in direct sunlight, but it's great for viewing photos, games, and the animated menus (available in three styles). Though the menus themselves are easy to understand, we were mostly disappointed with the layout of the navigation keys. First, the good news: Immediately below the display is a large disc that serves as the flip hinge and holds a four-way navigation toggle. You can program it to launch four user-defined functions, and the blue illuminated ring adds a bit of light. Though the button in the center toggle appears to be only a shortcut to T-Mobile's T-zones, it actually doubles as a useful OK key when you're in the menus. And now, the bad news: The other navigation, consisting of two soft keys, a Clear button, and the traditional Talk and End keys, are set almost 2 inches below the screen and the navigation toggle. As a result, our thumbs had to do a lot of traveling when in the menus. The soft keys also are rather small, and while we like the dedicated camera button, its location just above the right soft key had us pressing it inadvertently. If you're thinking of buying the P735, be sure to give it a try first.
That said, we were pleased with the blue-backlit keypad buttons. They are well spaced, and their beveled shape made it easy to dial by feel. Completing the outside of the mobile was the camera lens on the rear face. Though we didn't miss a self-portrait mirror (due to the swiveling screen), a flash was conspicuously absent, especially for a megapixel camera. On the right spine, you'll find the MMC card slot, a dedicated camera button, and the proprietary headset jack; the left spine holds a volume rocker and the infrared port. We like that the volume rocker also can be used to scroll through the menus and that the charger port on the bottom of the unit has a swinging cover.The Samsung SGH-P735 sports a good selection of basic features. You get a phone book with room in each entry for three phone numbers and an e-mail address (the SIM card holds an additional 250 contacts). You can assign a picture to each contact for caller ID but can only pair caller groups with one of the 30 polyphonic ring tones. We had one additional gripe: the phone book is accessible only when in standby mode and not through the main menu. Other goodies include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, an alarm clock, a calendar, a to-do list, a calculator, a currency converter, a 30-second voice recorder, and a WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. You get an infrared port, but we were dismayed that such an expensive mobile did not include Bluetooth or a speakerphone.
The P735's megapixel camera lets you take pictures in five resolutions: 1,024x864, 640x480, 320x240, 176x176, and 176x144. Picture-editing options are extensive. You can flip the picture's orientation and activate a panoramic mode, as well as choose from 12 picture effects (except at the highest resolution), 16 fun frames, and five shutter sounds, though there's no silent option. An 8X zoom lets you get close to your subjects, while a multishot option takes up to 15 photos in rapid succession, and a matrix-shot feature takes 4 or 9 pictures in a grid pattern. Photo quality wasn't the best we've seen for a megapixel phone, however. Edges of objects were a bit fuzzy, and colors were washed out. When finished with your shots, you can upload them to an online photo album, send them via a multimedia message, or save them to the phone's whopping 64MB of memory. As a bonus, the P735 comes with a 32MB MMC card.
The video recorder takes MPEG-4 clips with sound in 320x240, 352x288, 176x144, or 128x96 resolutions. Editing effects were similar, though you can't use any fun frames. We were amazed that the P735 can record up to an hour at the highest quality, but actual size is limited by the available memory. Though the quality was nothing like a standalone camcorder's, the record time was far above that of any other camera phone we've seen. A countdown timer is available to help you time your clips.
The MP3 player was easy to use via the four-way toggle. Not surprisingly, music files were of average audio quality, but they'll do the trick if you leave your MP3 player at home. Also, be warned that the included stereo headphones use a proprietary plug. The only real drawback is that files play off the memory card, and you'll have to create a special file for them. You get six games (BubbleSmile, Fun2Link, Mobile Chess, Bomb, Metalion, and Zio Golf), three of which are three 3D titles, with more available from T-zones. You can personalize the phone with a variety of animated wallpaper, sounds, menu styles, and text colors, or you can download more options via the Web browser.We tested the triband (GSM 900/1800/1900; GPRS) Samsung SGH-P735 world phone in San Francisco and Los Angeles using T-Mobile's service. Call quality was very good, with exceptional clarity and volume. Getting a signal was no problem, and callers said they could rarely tell we were using a cell phone. Calls were a bit patchier through the included stereo headset, but it was nothing we couldn't live with. As assurance, we'd suggest buying higher-quality headphones, but the annoying proprietary plug makes that somewhat difficult.
Battery life was admirable as well. We beat the rated talk time of four hours by an extra hour and essentially met the promised standby time of eight days. According to the FCC, the P735 has a digital SAR rating of 0.39 watts per kilogram.