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As with the latest crop of Samsung phones, the A740 boasts a spacious, 1-inch-diagonal external screen that shines bright with 65,000 colors. It displays the time, the date, signal strength, battery life, and picture caller ID (where available). While the backlighting goes completely dark, you can use the display as a viewfinder for self-portraits. The camera lens and flash sit just above the screen.
A peep inside the phone reveals a 1.75-inch-diagonal, 65,000-color display. The screen appeared a bit washed out, but adjusting the LCD contrast helped a little. As with most mobiles, the screen was difficult to see in direct sunlight. The easy-to-use menu is standard Samsung fare, which you can navigate via the four-way toggle. You can also assign each directional key to launch your Contacts, Voice Memo, Scheduler, or Messaging applications. We found the navigation toggle a little cramped, though, and frequently pressed the surrounding keys instead of the intended button. There is an OK button in the center of the keypad, which we always appreciate. The aforementioned buttons that border the toggle include two soft keys, Talk and End buttons, and a Back key to reverse out of menus.
On the left spine, there is a headset jack as well as a volume rocker that you can also use to move through the various menu options. A sole dedicated camera button sits on the right side. We had better luck with the numerical keypad, as the buttons were well spaced and brightly backlit. They are, however, set flush with the surface, so it was a bit difficult to dial by feel.The Sprint PM-A740 has a respectable feature set for casual chatterers and shutterbugs, but mobile professionals may desire a more business-friendly phone. The handset has a 299-name phone book with room in each entry for six numbers, e-mail and Web addresses, and birthday info. You can distinguish your contacts by assigning them to a caller group or pairing them with a picture or any of 29 ring tones, 10 of which are polyphonic (32-chord). Other goodies include a healthy helping of organizer functions, such as a calendar, world and alarm clocks, a task list, a memo pad, and a calculator. For messaging fanatics, you have text and multimedia messaging, instant messaging, and e-mail. And while there is voice dialing, three-way calling, a voice recorder, and a WAP 2.0 Web browser, the lack of a speakerphone, Bluetooth, or at the very least an infrared port might have business users looking elsewhere.
We were impressed with the A740's camera, although you don't get video-recording functions. The camera takes pictures in 640x480, 320x240, and 160x120 resolution and Fine, Normal, and Economy quality levels. You also get a 4X zoom, a self-timer, brightness and white-balance controls, 10 fun frames, eight color tones, and four shutter sounds, including a silent option. There is a flash, and the tiny light does a remarkable job of brightening images in dark environments. The photo quality is also noteworthy. Once you've snapped your pictures, you can save the images to the phone's memory and send them as a multimedia message with a caption. Another nice touch is the ability to use as many as 10 pictures as a slide-show screensaver. We tried out this function; it was a snap to set up, and we were viewing our favorite shots in seconds.
You can customize your phone with a variety of screensavers, menu styles, greetings, and sounds. The handset comes with Tetris Deluxe, Ms. Pac-Man, and Solitaire demo games. Of course, you can always download more ring tones, images, Java (J2ME) games, and applications from Sprint's Web site.We tested the trimode Sprint PCS PM-A740 (800/1900 CDMA; AMPS 800) in San Francisco, and call quality was mediocre. Callers said they could tell we were on a cell phone and that we came through with a bit of an echo; we had the same complaint on our end. That said, the volume was impressive, and we could hear conversations even in loud environments. Be sure to give it a try first.
Battery life was about average. We met the rated talk time of three hours, but that's a bit short when compared to most other handsets on the market. For standby time, we matched the promised time of eight days on a single charge. According to the FCC, the A740 has a digital SAR rating of 1.05 watts per kilogram.