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While a lot of phones have integrated music players, few handsets qualify as bonafide MP3 phones. Not only do they have much better audio quality than most, but also they usually boast a few features that focus specifically on enhancing the music experience. The latest Samsung Trance, for example, had its sound technology developed by Bang & Olufsen, a high-end audio equipment brand, which results in an array of equalizer modes and 3D sound effects. The result is simply fantastic audio quality; definitely one of the better MP3 phones we've tried. We're not too pleased with the lack of EV-DO and that you can't download music over-the-air from Verizon Wireless' V Cast. Still, the Trance is a very stylish handset with great performance, and for that we think the $49.99 price, with a two-year service agreement, is very reasonable.
The Samsung Trance is an undeniably stylish handset, with an elegant design that any fashionista would love. Measuring 4 inches long by 1.97 inches wide by 0.55 inch thick, the Trance has a slim profile, rounded corners, and a beautiful glossy finish. The front of the Trance is ever so slightly curved in the shape of a violin, which adds to the visual appeal. The front surface is also very reflective, which makes it fingerprint prone and a little hard to read the display under bright sunlight. The Trance is lightweight at only 3.53 ounces.
On the front of the Trance is the 2.1-inch screen with support for 262,000 TFT color and 176x229-pixel resolution. The display is gorgeous, with bold colors and a resolution that show off the drop-shadow effect on the icons. You can adjust the backlight time for the screen and the keypad, the display themes, the style and size of the dial and menu fonts, the clock format on the standby page, and the menu layout. You can even replace and reposition menu items.
Underneath the display is the touch-sensitive navigation array. When idle, the entire array appears black and empty. When the phone is active, the array lights up with the two soft keys, the four-way toggle with middle OK key, a dedicated music player key, and the Cancel key. The music player key activates the music player of course, but when the music player is already active, it brings up the song playlist. The four-way toggle corresponds to three user-defined shortcuts for the up, left, and down directions, and the right direction leads to a My Shortcuts dialog box. The My Shortcuts box can also be customized with up to four of your favorite shortcuts.
The navigation array is completely flat with the surface, and you have to rely on the keys vibration feedback to get a feel for them. You can adjust the touch vibration settings and the sensitivity level. When the phone is closed, you won't be able to use the array until you unlock it with the hold/keypad lock key on the side. While we understand this touchpad provides a very sleek look to the Trance, we still would prefer physical keys for easier navigation.
Slide the phone up and you'll reveal the number keypad with the Send, camera key, and Talk/End power keys on the top row. The overall keypad is quite flat to the surface, but there are little row dividers that help provide some texture when dialing and texting. But we would prefer a more tactile keypad.
On the left side of the Trance are the volume rocker, the hold/keypad lock key, and the microSD card slot, and the charger jack, the speakerphone key, and a 3.5 millimeter headset jack. We're definitely happy to see a 3.5 millimeter headset jack here, especially since the Trance touts itself as a music phone. The camera is only revealed when you slide the phone up--it's on the back, next to a self-portrait mirror.
The Samsung Trance has a 1,000-entry phone book with room in each entry for five numbers, two e-mail addresses, an IM screen name, a street address, and notes. You can save callers to groups, pair them with a photo for caller ID, or with one of 17 polyphonic ringtones for added customization. Basic features include a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, text and multimedia messaging, a calculator, an alarm clock, a calendar, a stop watch, a world clock, and a notepad. You also get voice command support, a wireless Web browser, mobile Web e-mail, USB mass storage mode, and location-based support for VZ Navigator and Verizon's Chaperone service. Since it's a music phone, we're also pleased to see the Trance has stereo Bluetooth, plus a Music Sharing capability that lets you connect up to two stereo Bluetooth devices simultaneously.
As we said, the primary feature of the Trance is definitely the music player. The interface is simple and easy to use, with the album art in the center and the player controls underneath. You can view the music library, create and edit playlists, and set the songs on shuffle or repeat. Not only are there 11 preset equalizer settings, but there's also a manual equalizer. The music player also has 3D sound, which you can only experience when a headset is plugged in. From there, you can choose Wide, Dynamic, or Surround sound. If you're in an airplane, you can opt for Music Only mode, which shuts off the phone's wireless signal and still lets you listen to your tunes.
Perhaps the most disappointing part of the music player is that the Trance does not have EV-DO. This means it doesn't have access to Verizon's broadband services like V Cast Music, so you can't download songs over-the-air. You can get music on to the phone via the V Cast Music with Rhapsody application, but only by attaching a USB cable to your PC. Thankfully, the Trance has a whopping 1GB of internal memory, plus you can get up to a 16GB microSD card for more storage.
The Trance also comes with a 1.3-megapixel camera, but it's nothing much to write home about. Photo quality is mediocre at best, with a lot of blurry images and muted colors. You can take pictures in six resolutions (1,280x960, 1,024x768, 640x480, 320x240, 160x120, 128x96), three quality settings, six color effects, and five white-balance presets. Other camera settings include spot or center metering, a night shot mode, a self-timer, a multishot mode, sound effects like the "ready sound" and the shutter sound (with silent options), brightness, and zoom.
You can personalize the Trance with a variety of wallpaper and sounds plus you can get more graphics and tones from the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. The Trance doesn't come with any games but you can download BREW-enabled titles from Verizon as well.
We tested the Samsung Trance in San Francisco using Verizon Wireless. We were very impressed with the call quality. Callers said we sounded loud and clear with very little hiss in the background. The voice quality was a tad machine-like but it was still very listenable. On our end, we heard them very clearly as well, with hardly any static at all. Call quality was similarly good on speakerphone mode, though callers sounded a bit hollower on the speakers.
But the real star of the show here is the audio quality. Thanks to the Bang & Olufsen ICEPower technology, we were very impressed with the strong melody and bass in the songs. This was especially apparent when we turned on the Surround Sound mode. Overall, the audio sounded nice and full, and compares well with most dedicated MP3 players.
The Samsung Trace has a rated battery life life of 4.5 hours of talk time and 12.5 days in standby time. It has a tested talk time of 3 hours and 55 minutes. According to the FCC, it has a SAR rating of 1.34 watts per kilogram.