Samsung Sunburst A697 Review
The Sunburst utilizes Samsung’s TouchWiz UI for navigation, something we’ve seen many times at this point. There are three screens that the user can customize with widgets and a side bar to house these widgets. As we’ve mentioned with past TouchWiz phones the idea is solid but the implementation feels cluttered and we prefer to keep it minimal while using the side bar much like you would use the launcher bar on a Mac.
The only thing really new here is Samsung’s Smart Unlock which lets you draw patterns on the lock screen to execute various commands. The user chooses from five pre-assigned gestures and set them to one of the following actions: Unlock, Browser, Contacts, IM and Create Message. To put it frankly it doesn’t work well at all. The Samsung Sunburst had lots of problems recognizing even simple gestures such as drawing a triangle. It’s another idea that sounds good on paper but doesn’t play out so well in reality.
Other than that TouchWiz works as expected. There is a new notification bar on the lock screen to inform the user of missed events which is a nice addition. TouchWiz has never been the quickest UI, which is a nuisance on high end devices but is plenty zippy for a low to mid-range device like the Sunburst.
Messaging, Software and Multimedia:
The Sunburst shows its low-end side by not utilizing threaded messaging but instead having a separate inbox and outbox. It supports IM from AOL, Yahoo! and Microsoft as well as automatic settings from many popular providers such as Yahoo!, Gmail and Microsoft, plus the option to configure other providers. Everything is pretty standard here. The onscreen keyboard (both landscape QWERTY and portrait T9) was unfortunately pretty laggy and texting took longer than it should, with more mistakes than normal. This is not one of Samsung’s better keyboard efforts to be sure.
AT&T preloads its AppCenter portal to app, game, ringtone, etc. download. There are many preinstalled applications, including several games and some useful apps like Mobile Banking, MusicID, My-Cast Weather, WikiMobile and several others (many of which are demos.) The Samsung Sunburst is GPS-capable and supports GPS apps like AT&T Navigator, Where and Loopt.
The camera was nothing special, maybe even slightly below average compared to other Samsung 2MP shooters. Colors were slightly muted and there is some distortion when images are viewed at full resolution. The Sunburst is a mid-range device at best, however, so these results are just fine. Images looked perfectly acceptable on the device itself and are plenty passable for casual use. The Samsung Sunburst can record video at a max 320x240 resolution and we measured it at 14fps; results were similar to what we achieved with the still shots.
The music player is pretty basic, but can be minimized and controlled with a TouchWiz widget. The lack of a 3.5mm headset jack really hurts the Sunburst as a music device, though it does have stereo Bluetooth to compensate for it. It had no problems loading and recognizing our side-loaded music.
Performance and Conclusion:
Callers were impressed with the sound quality of the Sunburst, saying we sounded very clear and rating us 8.5/10. They sounded good to us as well, but background noise came through almost as clear as the caller did. Still, their voice was reproduced naturally and volume was good. Battery life is rated at just 5 hours of talk time, very low especially for an EDGE feature phone. It will be enough to get you through a day or two.
So what is the Samsung Sunburst? It’s a fun phone that will appeal to the younger crowd who care more about style than substance. It’s perfect for the high school and college crowd who haven’t graduated to smartphones yet. Given its shortcomings and target audience the $60 AT&T is asking for it on contract is a bit steep. Still, the Sunburst offers compact size, good call quality and the oh-so-popular touchscreen which should make it a hit for family add-a-lines.
- High-end build quality and large touchscreen in a svelte package
- Good call quality
- Messaging is not threaded
- Keyboard is laggy
- Proprietary charging port and no headset jack
1. ace1122 (Posts: 237; Member since: 23 Mar 2009)
This phone may not be much but atleast its cool looking. All Verizon's non-smartphone touchscreen phones are just ugly. Well actually just bout all Verizons phones are rather dull and boring looking.
2. Jyakotu (Posts: 822; Member since: 12 Dec 2008)
I wonder if Samsung will update this phone in the near future. I like the look, but I think it should've came with 3G.
3. baldilocks (Posts: 527; Member since: 14 Dec 2008)
Why does the Alpha Tag say "Cingular" and not AT&T?? :)
4. percy (unregistered)
this model does not play videos from youtube page ...
5. fft26 (unregistered)
i hate this phone, its slow frezes and is retarted
6. gemi (unregistered)
i think samsung sunburst is cool handphone...
I LIKE IT!! i wil buy..... :)
7. ruffone (unregistered)
This is a PHONE. That means audio. Two-way real time conversations! Yet your video review completely bypasses that aspect. YUK! Poor review.
8. ruffone (unregistered)
Commenters, please note: If you cannot spell, I will not read your comment.
9. Rabby (unregistered)
I just purchased the Samsung Sunburst A697 because I was assured by Consumer Cellular that it has voice recognition. I could communicate with my co-workers as we float to locations. That's a sweet spot for me as in Maryland you can't drive your car and hold the phone. I love the fact that there are reviews of micro-electronic communication devices.
10. Jmarc (unregistered)
Thinking of buying this phone from ebay.. i got some questions 1. How good is the sound quality and should i buy this phone or the blackberry 8310 ?
11. DJ6ual (unregistered)
Can the Samsung A697 support Apps similar to that of the iPhone. I am still not really clear on the difference between the 'Colorful Touchscreen' of the Samsung A697 and 'Smartphone Technology' of other units.
My son wants a phone that will function as an iPod/mp3 Player. He also wants to text, access Facebook, and possibly check weather reports. His favorite App is the local Police Scanner for our area, he usually listens on my iPod. He says he wants a "Smartphone" but he is only 11 going on 12 so this phone looks like it might be a better choice. Please let me know what you think, thanks!
12. Older Newbie (unregistered)
Bought this phone via Consumer Cellular AARP program. Came with a 'Quick Start Guide' printed in 4 point lettering. Had to use a magnifying glass to read it. No full User's Guide that would tell me things like how to set up the Bluetooth. Some features missing: voice-activated dialing is very useful for AARP people, as keypads are usually very small and hard to use. Don't know whether I'll be satisfied or not because I can't activate the darned thing!
13. Hawthorne (Posts: 1; Member since: 24 Jan 2012)
@ Older Newbie - I trust you have called them since you posted, and got that sorted out. However, you are ahead of me a little, I didn't realize it had bluetooth at all! Might look into that, though for my purposes, the speaker phone is more than adequate. A good speakerphone has been one of my priorities, and this phone has that.
I'm happy with it, but now that Concell has made web browsing more accessible, I might have to look at upgrading to a smart phone. I don't find the web browsing very usable on it. Might be me, of course ...