At first glance, the V206 looks conspicuously similar to its sibling, the S105. Only the square-shaped external LCD and the Samsung designer label on the top of the phone set it apart. But take a closer look, and you'll notice that the V206 weighs less (3.0 ounces) and is slightly longer (4.3 by 1.8 by 0.9 inches) than its T-Mobile brethren. The extra length is attributable to the built-in rotating camera lens tucked into the hinge of the phone.
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Samsung's version is smaller than other camera/phone hybrids
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Light it up: The translucent strip can illuminate various calls based on the phone's function.
Unlike the Sanyo SCP-5300, this model doesn't have an onboard flash. Additionally, you can't utilize the external LCD as a viewfinder or to display pictures of incoming callers. However, the external screen shows all the basic information: time, date, caller ID (when available), network, and battery strength. And as with all camera phones, the internal 65,000-color, eight-line display doubles as a viewfinder. As for the camera, since you can rotate the lens, you can always turn it on yourself and use it as a mirror. To take pictures, hit the button with a camera icon; this launches the camera application and serves as a shutter-release control. It's worth noting that you must have the phone flipped open before you can take a picture.
On the side of the phone, you'll find a headset jack, an IR port, and two volume-control buttons, which can be used to scroll through the V206's menus. When the phone is closed, there's a translucent strip that can be set to light up various colors--or not at all. Once you flip open the phone, you'll appreciate that you can choose between a list or an icon-driven menu interface. The keypad is similar to the one found on other Samsung models such as the S105 and the A460, which we prefer since it keeps misdials to a minimum. Above the keypad is a four-way rocker key for maneuvering through the V206's menus, as well as a button in the middle that launches Mmode services. While it's convenient, we kept mistaking it for an OK/Enter button.
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Candid camera: Take pictures on the sly.
The V206 has all the features you'd expect, including caller ID, conference calling, voicemail, text messaging, an alarm, a 500-name internal phone book (you can store more names and numbers on the SIM card), a calendar, a calculator, a to-do list, a currency converter, and wireless Web access, as well as Spanish, English, and French menus. There are three games, 25 polyphonic ring tones, a vibrate mode, and a couple of wallpaper options onboard. If you opt for Mmode services, you can download additional ring tones, pictures, wallpaper, and games, as well as send e-mail and chat with friends via AIM.
As noted, one of the V206's major selling points is the built-in digital camera with limited features such as a self-timer and contrast control. You can store up to 100 pictures on the phone, but the images are mediocre at best and not suitable for printing.
Once you take and save a picture, there's not a lot you can do with it. Unlike the Sanyo SCP-5300, you can't associate the picture with a name in the phone book. You can, however, store it in the V206's photo album, send it as an attachment to an e-mail address, or mail it to another MMS-ready AT&T phone. We tried all these options and were able to send pictures to various addresses, but due to naming conventions and filters, we had some difficulty sending images to recipients who use Microsoft Outlook. Once we renamed the message, the image arrived. We appreciated the alerts that appear when a picture has been sent and received. If you try to send a picture to an AT&T phone that doesn't support MMS, the recipient receives a text message instead.
There's one other quirk: The V206 has an IR port, but you can't use it to send or receive pictures. Sending an image via IR would be a sluggish affair, but we think it should at least be an option, especially when you consider that the Nokia 3650 and the Panasonic GU87 support this feature.
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Charging options: Use the compact travel charger to keep on chatting.
We tested the trimode (GSM 900/1800/1900) world phone using AT&T service in San Francisco and found call quality to be decent. However, while callers said the sonics were loud, the beginning and ends of words would get cut off intermittently.
As for battery life, the phone fell 30 minutes short of the rated talk time of 4 hours, and we managed to get only 72 hours of standby instead of the company rating of 100 hours. We should note that this is about average performance for a color-screen phone.