The Samsung i620 is a darn good smartphone and here’s why:
While everyone and their uncle have been waiting patiently for their Kaiser, I’ve been frustrated that other devices seem to have struggled for any publicity in the face of the behemoth!
One device that does continue to make news, is this Samsung i620, and expansys have helpfully supplied us with a review device.
Since Matt has been officially banned from reviewing this device, since he appears to be in love with the HTC TyTN II, I managed to steal the Samsung i620 and have been using it over the past few weeks.
The device has been used as my sole phone device, and has been travelling in car, down to the pub, and as my work mobile as well. It’s also one of only two non-HTC Smartphones I’ve used.
The i620, supplied by eXpansys, is as far as we can tell, a final retail device. So lets see what you get for your money.
What’s in the Box?
You may have seen Matt’s Samsung SGH-i620 unboxing video already but here’s what you get with the device.
A very slim box would appear to suggest there isn’t a lot to see within, but in fact, having got inside, there’s a great selection of accessories – some you’d expect, and some you wouldn’t. I’ll explain more about the multitude of batteries later in the review.
The Samsung branded box is nice enough, but they haven’t reached the heights of HTC branding, and fanciful packaging quite yet.
Inside you’ll find:
- The i620
- Mains Charger
- USB Sync/Charge cable
- Application CD with Activesync and software pack
- ExtUSB hands free headset
- Standard Battery
- Extended Battery
- Two battery covers (one for each battery)
- External battery charger/holder
- Manual & getting started guide
Samsung i620 Specification
- Network: HSDPA / GSM 900 / GSM 1800 / GSM 1900
- OS: Microsoft Windows Mobile 6.0 Standard Edition
- Display: Type TFT, 65K colors, Size 320 x 240 pixels
- Phonebook 1000 entries, Photocall
- Call records 30 dialed, 30 received, 30 missed calls
- Card slot microSD (TransFlash)
- Data GPRS: Class 10 (4+1/3+2 slots), 32 – 48 kbps, HSCSD: No, EDGE: Yes, 3G: HSDPA, 1.8 Mbps
- Bluetooth: Yes, v2.0 with A2DP
- USB:Yes, v1.1 miniUSB
- Messaging: SMS, EMS, MMS, Email, Instant Messaging
- Browser: WAP 2.0/xHTML, HTML, RSS feeds
- Camera: 2 MP, 1600×1200 pixels, video, flash; secondary VGA videocall camera
- Java MIDP 2.0
- WMV/3GP/H.263/MPEG4 player
- WMA/MP3/AAC/AAC+/OGG/ASF player
- Document viewer (MS Word, Excel, PPT, PDF)
- Built-in handsfree
- Dimensions: 113 x 59 x 11.8 mm; 95 grams
Yes, 113 x 59 x 11.8mm is small, if a little wide. It reminds me very much of Orange’s C500/C600 phones, and must be up there with the slimmest of Windows Mobiles. It is a fair bit wider – to accommodate that full QWERTY keyboard, but it sits in the hand very nicely. Again due to its slim nature, it fits in the pocket nicely. I’m not sure of dimensions, but it can’t be that much wider than the original Motorola RAZR anyway. Certainly it’s a lot easier to carry about with me than my original TyTN.
On the front panel, we see the 320×240 landscape screen towards the top, and the main control set just below. These are in the main, all touch sensitive. There are no buttons for either the soft keys, call keys or Home and Back keys – just touch sensitive areas, which do seem very sensitive.
The lower centre area contains the wheel, and directional pad. The wheel itself is a free-flowing scroller, which for me works better than a jog wheel, with the added bonus of being a direction pad as well – push soft and spin, or push harder to click the direction pad. In the middle of all of this, is the action buttons, common to most Smartphones.
Sliding the phone to its open position, as the spring loaded mechanism hits it home point, a full QWERTY keyboard is visible. The keys are very, very small, and I was a little worried that my stubby fat fingers would struggle. Not so though – the gaps between the buttons, and the buttons themselves seem to be perfectly adjusted. The keyboard is responsive, and I can really hammer an email in quickly, without it missing a press.
Also included at the top right hand corner of the screen, is the utterly pointless forward facing camera. Does anyone still ‘do’ video calls? Well it’s there in any case!
The bottom of the device is nearly completely blank. A small mic hole is the only blemish on an empty bottom panel.
The right hand side is a little less sparse, with a “phone” button – this just brings up the system menu, containing flight mode activation, along with profile selection. This used to be brought up on Smartphones by tapping the power button – however, on the i620 this button is used to lock and unlock the device. Confused? Me to – but you do get used to it.
Also housed on the right hand side, behind a rubber grommet, is the main charge/sync/audio port. It’s proprietary, and yes its annoying. Even more so because it appears to me that a mini-usb port would have fitted quite easily along the bottom. My guess is that there is probably a reason for it – I’m just not sure what.
Moving to the left hand side, we see the microSD slot – again hidden behind a well fitting rubber grommet, and below that, a up/down jog-rocker switch. This feel really comfortable to use – but annoyingly seems to have no use by default other than to adjust volume – it can’t be used to scroll messages or websites for example.
On the reverse side of the i620, when closed we see a plain black battery cover, with the Samsung emblem, website address and ‘HSDPA’ designation. When we slide the phone open, the 2 megapixel camera becomes visible, next to a small mirror. When the phone is closed, the camera is completely protected against scratches and smudges on the lense.
Finally we move to the top of the device, and once again there isn’t a lot to see (Can you see the pattern emerging here). A solitary, recessed power button is on the right hand side, and it’s alone – nothing else to see.
This is where I was surprised. Although HTC are slowly adding bits and pieces of their own software, you don’t get a lot of software with their devices. They are usually very ‘vanilla’ to Microsoft’s operating system.
Samsung however have really come up trumps. The menu system has been edited and the structure reminds me of a dumb-phone. Easy when you need it, but complex when you need to dig a bit deeper and use things like file manager.
The jewel in the crown for me is in the ‘Internet Services’ menu. Yes we’ve got Pocket Internet Explorer – and Windows Live is also included (At least in this Samsung ROM), along with some Samsung specific software like an RSS reader and Podcast organiser. The single most useful add-on though – is Opera. Included in the base ROM, fully activated, trial-free. I’ve used it on pocket PCs – but if anything the Smartphone version is better. Far faster than PIE, and far more feature rich. It also supports the scroll wheel – and that coupled with the direction pad makes it nearly as easy to use as a full web browser on a PC – the software and hardware connection really is THAT good.
Clearvue document viewers are also installed – and don’t appear to be trialware – do need to check that though.
Samsung have also created little apps to group together, and improve the look of certain features. A good example of this is found in the ‘Applications’ area, and is called the ‘Organiser’. In actual fact, is just a collection of improved tools that are available by default in the smartphone OS, but aren’t always that easy to find. A much better Alarm’s section is available, voice notes are linked in, along with a world clock and something called “D DAY”
I always get a shock when looking for the Wireless Manager. I forget that this is a HTC addon and not part of the operating system by default. The samsung version is OK. Its functional, but certainly doesn’t look as refined as those found on HTC devices.
Finally a completely pointless, but ulimately lovely “Living World” homescreen is provided. This is an animated home screen, in which clouds and birds float in the sky of the image, and the lighting changes depending on the time of day. As I said – pointless, but it is implemented really well.
Size/Looks: This thing is small. It also looks amazing. I say without any concern that this is the best looking Windows Smartphone available. It’s exceptional, and when released, I’d hope it is marketed at everyone – not just as a business phone.
Keyboard: The sliding querty keyboard is excellent. Its responsive and doesn’t miss keypresses. The number pad is also integrated very well.
Battery life: The box contains two batteries – but I’m not sure why The difference in size is just a few millimetres, and although the standard size battery is in itself pretty good, I struggle to see why you would not just use the extended battery in day to day use.
Display: Razor sharp, if small. Colours are exceptional, and it looks and feels an expensive device, for this reason alone.
No Wifi: I’m just starting to relealise the potential of Wifi in phones. Everywhere you go these days, there are wifi stickers in windows, and its a shame I can’t take advantage of the exceptional Opera browser in this way.
Slider mechantisem could be better: It’s by no means bad, and I think we were given a slightly ropey unit to be honest – but the slider isn’t exactly firm. Its a bit sloppy, and also appears to not fit right on the left hand side. I would hope this is a per-unit issue, and not a major problem affecting the majority.
Right so we’ll ignore the standard battery for now, and go straight in with the extended battery pack, and secure it with the extended battery cover (with me so far?!)
Turning on the power, we first see the Samsung “The Ultra Messaging” logo. This then pushes onto the Windows Mobile screen, and finally the Samsung logo and swirl animated startup sequence.
First things first, I need to get up some data connections. Due to it being an expansys device, this unit came setup for Vodafone. For my sins, I’m an Orange customer, so was about to dig out the settings. Being a geek, I was already playing about in the Control Panel, when I found a ‘Operator settings’ button. As suspected, this told me I was setup for Vodafone UK. Changing this was a doddle, and the software deleted my Vodafone settings, and helpfully set up GPRS, MMS, and everything else I’d need to Orange UK.
So now I’m up and running and straight away I’m in Opera to see just how good it is. Answer: Very. As I said earlier though, this is in part to the great hardware and key configurations. Its hard to fault Samsung with this device – it really feels like they have thought about what people will want from it, and how they will want to use it.
I’m already getting annoyed by the key-click sound so before I send off a round of SMS’s – I nip into the control panel again to turn this off, and also to engage automatic slider keylock. I don’t think I need to explain too much about what that is. Because of the touch sensitive controls though – I should point out that the End Call key does not work as you’d expect. Because of the risk of the touch sensitive buttons being touched during the call, the phone requires you to press the middle action key first, then press the key you want. Its not ideal, if understandable, so you might want to consider how much of an annoyance this would be to you.
Back to the messaging then – and what becomes apparent straight away is that when reaching for the ‘send’ softkey – I knock the home button and end up where you might expect. Leaving my message sitting there rather than being sent. I have over the days I’ve had the i620, got used to this, and became more confident with the phone in general. Even with smartphones and a stand OS – each new phone does have a slight learning curve, and there are no major issues with the use of the i620.
The QWERTY keyboard itself, as I’ve stated already is absolutely excellent. The size doesn’t seem to course any problems, and unlike a certain other device I’ve reviewed recently – it works absolutely 100% perfectly. The layout for symbols, and function keys is spot on – with all the main punctuation getting their own key.
The default profiles all seem OK – and in all honesty, I didn’t really have to do anything to the phone before I was happy. Its set up really sweet from the off. As you’d expect the sync ability is exactly like any other phone, and I quickly copied a mp3 ringtone to the phone via explorer/activesync with no apparent problems.
The camera application is OK. It’s very similar to the HTC standard app, but takes slightly longer to long. In reality though, its more or less identical, and since there is no problem with either – it makes it easier to switch between phones! It comes with a completely pointless digital zoom, but its there if you want it, and the video recording seems pretty nifty as well.
This is a nice bit of kit, but having had bug-ridden devices in the past – how does this compare? Very well actually. I’ve not had it fail, I’ve pushed it as best I can – and it hasn’t faltered. It isn’t the quickest device at times, but even when its got a lot to do – it does it well, and it hasn’t crashed at all, in the time I’ve used it. The Samsung ROM (and I’m told its typical of Samsung WM device ROMS), is solid as a rock. I’m not even sure what I could suggest to improve it.
This is the best Windows Mobile device I’ve ever used. Its exceptional, it looks great, feels better and is a joy to use. Other than the slight slider issues, the build quality is great and feels really robust.
The lack of Wifi and GPS will be killer for some, at least for the former, but for what it is – I don’t think there is a device that does it better.
I’ve got to send this review unit back now, and I really don’t want to. I’ll be buying it on Vodafone when it comes out (hurry up Voda!)
This device is the closest we have in the Windows Mobile world, to getting the hoards of teenage girls parting from their RAZR’s. It’s not quite there – but it’s very close.