As always, Samsung was waiting for us with a few new phones in their booth. Let’s start with the SCH-i760, a Windows Mobile device with full slide-out sideways QWERTY keyboard and numeric one. The phone should not be confused with SGH-i760 which is a European/Asian GSM phone with vertical slide-out keyboard, and support for UMTS/HSDPA, while the new i760 is a CDMA for the States. The model that was on the CES floor did not have a battery installed, so we were prevented from starting it up and validating earlier rumors which described the new device as running the new Windows Mobile 6, codenamed Crossbow. Despite our advancing questions and different tactics, we could not find our for sure which OS the phone will run. According to the reps, it all depends on the carriers’ requirements and the time at which the i760 will be commercially launched. Just as the i320 disappeared after being one day on the show’s floor during 3GSM, the i760 was gone the last day of the show. We guess way too many people were asking questions about it.
As it was not a working unit, our impressions are just from its design, which is still probably not finalized. An improvement over previous devices with side-sliding keyboard, the i760 is “assisted one” – meaning that the keyboard slides out completely after initial help slight pull by the user. The i760 was not perfect – way too strong pull was needed to take the keypad out, but this will be definitely refined in the later versions.
The numeric keys located on the top are also awkwardly titled, so it is easily accessed both in both landscape and vertical modes.
The rest of the feature will include 1.3 Mega pixel camera (too outdated), EV-DO data, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and microSD memory.
Samsung Trace, currently one of the slimmest phones available in the US, has an upgrade (sort of). The new A727 is actually an upgrade to the Z370, the European UMTS capable upgrade of the X820. It has just a few cosmetic changes such as music and camera dedicated keys. Unlike the Z370 UMTS version, the HSDPA A727 does not have 2 mega pixel camera, but just 1.3 one.
Samsung favorite line is “the world’s first/slimmest/…” and they stick to it – the A727 is the world’s slimmest HSDPA capable device. It allows the phone to achieve very fast download speeds – up to a few Mbps or similar to broadband connection.
Even though not officially announced, Cingular is currently the only US carrier with HSDPA network plus the A727 had Cingular menus, so it is obvious which provider will get it. Unlike the Trace, which used customized T-mo menu, the A727 has the same menu as the one on the X820 which we reviewed a while ago. It is EXTREMELY responsive, with instantaneous menu loads.
Samsung A717 is another HSDPA Samsung heading to Cingular. The phone is the US version of the Z620 and is quad-band instead of tri. The rest is identical – swiveling 2 mega pixel camera, 2.3” 240x320 mega pixel display with 96x32 OLED grayscale OLED one. It was unclear is the A717 will feature dual-band UMTS/HSDPA, but probably it will have only support for the US version of those technologies.
We also got a few minutes with the Ultra Music and Ultra Video – Samsung’s and world’s first dual-faced phones – these are multimedia phones with large display and media controller on the front, and numeric keypad and tiny additional display on the back. Part of the Ultra series, they are very slim devices. Using this form factor, the manufacturer can achieve small dimensions with large display size, without the lack of keyboard which is just on another side. The phones are dedicated to music and video, and so have slightly different specifications, with the Music one being plain candy bar while the display of the Video can be rotated in order to watch movies more comfortably. Both phones have 2-megapixel camera lens on the side of the numeric keypad, which allows you to use them with the large display as a viewfinder
Samsung U740 is CDMA phone we’ve seen several months ago: although its rather unique design, it has simple functionality. Dual-hinged clamshell, it can be used in either normal mode, or in landscape, when its QWERTY keyboard is used for messaging. In this mode, the normal-clamshell-hinge could be an obstacle for people with smaller hands, as it is slightly raised on the left side. The keyboard doesn’t have separate numeric keys line, but a 12-keys block is used for this, as alternative characters. There is an additional soft key though, which combined with the left one, helps you moving through the phone’s interface.
Using the phone in the landscape mode, the couple of speakers are situated in stereo – on the left and right side of the display. The phone also has music-dedicated touch keys below the external display on the front cover, which is a hint it can be used for music. It’s not so strong on other aspects of the multimedia, having mediocre display and camera of 1.3 megapixels.
On the Samsung booth, we found their new budget model – T329. Although there were some “Samsung” stickers over the phone, it was clear that it is designed for T-Mobile USA – the branding was all over it. The T329 is Bluetooth-capable tri-band (US) GSM with internal color and external B&W narrow display. It has VGA (0.3-megapixels) camera built-in. The software hte phone runs is similar to those of other models for T-Mobile, uncluding the T519 Trace, T619 and T629 - which means it is very fast.