The almost unthinkable happen during this year’s CTIA expo. Samsung announced just ONE new device! But at least it is definitely an interesting one! Based on the F300 GSM phone, its purpose in life is to merge phone and music player in one. The novelty is the dual-sidedness. On the one is the 2.1” display with a touch-sensitive pad with four directions, END and BACK buttons. We’ll call this side The M-side - this is the music player side used to see the full Menu, navigate the music playback, create playlists etc. Pushing the MENU button will open the full menu. If you for example want to type a SMS, you can start here, go to Messaging, New Message etc but when you have to input the recipient or the actual message, the phone will advise you to flip it over and look at the small 172x65 pixels display on the other side.
This is the phone’s second side and we’ll call is the K-side (K for keyboard). This is the side used for text entering as the keypad is situated here. So continuing with our text message, now we can input the recipient and the actual message and send it.
We’ll try to explain how this functions, but you have to be careful and pay close attention! Entering the menu from the this K-side, you will have only Call History, Find Contact, Send Text Message and Add New Entry. If you want to change a setting for example, you will have to push a small FLIP button, flip the phone and use its M-side (music side).
Let’s go back to the M-side and start the music player and see how it works. First, its interface is not very attractive. It looks very ordinary and not visually appealing. Starting it gives you the option to go to Sprint’s Online store where you can purchase music or go to your stored music, Playlist or Create a Playlist. Creating a new Playlist is easy – just give it a name, then browse your music and highlight all songs you want to add to is.
Ones created, entering a playlist allows the user to view all songs in it, sort them by Artist or Genre. The same sorting options are available if you go to All Your Music, not just in a playlist.
Aside from the playlists, the music player lacks any other features. Samsung should have gone an extra mile if they really wanted to create a really music-player/phone converted product. We were expecting to see at least equalizers or Song Rating/Sorting… Being a music oriented device, the Upstage comes with 3.5mm jack for everyone who wants to use their own headsets. Of course, stereo A2DP Bluetooth music streaming is also supported. In case a call comes in while listening to music, the text-to-speed software will read you who is calling. If you don’t feel like talking to anyone, the phone’s functionality can be turned off completely, while the music playback is still working.
The touch-sensitive keys are hit now, but still manufacturers have work to do to improve their performance. During out Upstage testing, on several occasions our presses were not registered by the phone so we had to repeat them. Given the short lag between a key-press and the phone’s response, if the action is not registered we waited a few seconds before we realized the phone will not respond we have to touch the key again. Aside from that, the Upstage construction seemed very sturdy. The d-pad, soft keys and the keypad on the K-side were very good even though are also flush (but regular, not touch sensitive).
While playing music, limited “multitasking” is available. By limited we mean only: Background manager, Send text message, My contacts, On-demand and Music.
An innovation is the included battery sleeve which extends substantially the battery times. The “wallet” as Samsung calls it helps protect the phone and charge it in the same time. From 2.5h of talk time, Samsung claims with the wallet it is extended to 6, while the music playback is up now up to 16h.
The UpStage will be available April 1 from Sprint PCS and should cost around $150 with a contact.