Helio Mysto Review

Introduction and Design

The Helio Mysto (Samsung A523) is a mid-range slider phone that sports good looks, as well as numerous features. It joins the Helio line, between the Ocean and Fin, and is for the consumer that is looking for a phone with a slim and stylish design, without the need for a QWERTY keypad, but still wants access to a wide variety of user-friendly applications. The addition of the touch-sensitive keys also sets it apart from most others.

Included in the retail box is the Mysto phone, 880mAh battery with cover, wall charger, stereo earbuds, USB data cable, quick start guide, and user manual on CD.


The Mysto is a slider style phone with a similar design to the Helio Heat and LG Chocolate for Verizon. It is constructed out of blue sapphire plastic throughout, but unfortunately has an overall cheap and flimsy feel to it, which is most noticeable when removing the battery cover. The size of the Mysto is quite pleasing, since it is slimmer than the average phone and weighs two ounces less than the Helio Ocean, which makes it is less noticeable while in your pants pocket. The sliding mechanism works well and has a fluid movement to it, despite being able to hear the plastic parts moving against each other.

You can compare the Helio Mysto to many other phones, using PhoneArena's Visual Size Compare tool.

Just like most slider phones, the Mysto only has one display, which is a 2.2” QVGA 240x320 pixel 262K color TFT. It is truly one of the best features of the device, with images having excellent detail, color accuracy, and contrast. Despite having 5 levels of brightness control available to the user, it can still be challenging to view while in direct sunlight.

Located directly below the display are four touch-sensitive buttons and the circular d-pad, which is used for menu navigation. We found the d-pad a little smaller than we would have liked, which can cause problems when going through menus fast. Surrounding the d-pad are the touch-sensitive left and right soft keys, back button, and send button. These are capacitive keys, which are activated by conducting a small amount of electricity through your fingertip, and respond with a haptic vibration feedback. The only problem that we encountered was that the back button is shaped like a sideways “U” and doesn’t provide adequate metal contact with your finger, which in turn makes it less sensitive than the larger send button.

Located on the left side is the volume toggle and charging/data port, on the right is the power/end and camera buttons, while the 2MP camera and flash is on the back.

Sliding the Mysto open reveals the white backlit numeric keypad with a faux stainless facing. Dialing numbers and text messaging can be quite challenging at times, due to the overall cramped design of the keypad, and the poor tactile feedback that is given when pressing the keys. We also discovered that occasionally when we intended to press the 7 or 9 key, that in fact we pressed the * and # key, which caused us to have to delete the mistake and redial. It is unfortunate that the keypad was poorly designed on the Mysto. It is not a major issue for dialing simple numbers, but is almost unusable for heavy text messaging. For those users, the Ocean would be easier to use, thanks to its full QWERTY keypad.

Samsung Mysto Video Review:

Helio Mysto 360 Degrees View:

User Interface:

The main menu on the Mysto is very graphical and is laid out in a circular fashion with Customize, Surf, Snap, Videos & Music, Contact, Games, Plan, Message, and Apps. But as can be expected, there is some delay while navigating through it. Even though there is only the one included theme, you can customize the home screen with you own wallpaper, as well as changing the type of the clock, style and color of the fonts, and dialing style. This allows for a lot of personalization for most users, but there is still the option to download additional themes and layouts from Helio store for a fee.


The phonebook allows for up to 1000 contacts to be entered, each with their name, five phone number, group, email, MySpace ID, voice activation, and street address. You can also select a specific ringtone to be played and picture to be displayed when a contact calls. After a contact is saved, you can assign them to one of 100 speed dial locations. Just like most other phones, accessing a saved contact is as easy as pressing the right soft key while at the home screen. This will display all of the contacts in an alphabetical list, but you can also narrow the results down by searching for the first or last name, any phone number or email.


Accessing the calendar is done through the Plan menu. Once there, the current month is shown and the date highlighted. You can use the d-pad to select any month, day, or year that you desire, or change the view from monthly to weekly or daily. Once the desired date is selected, you can add a new event by entering in the event’s name, beginning and end time, if it should repeat, which alarm to play (or vibrate), and which icon to display. Once it is saved, and when that date and time is reached, the phone will display the information on the screen and alert you by playing the selected alarm tone. This is an easy and effective way of keeping track of appointments. There is also the option to setup a To-Do list, Wake-up Call, and independent Alarms. These are useful one-step methods that require less time to setup than having to enter in a calendar event.

Other tools include a calculator, world time clock, unit converter, notepad, and stopwatch. The calculator can only be used for simple arithmetic, the world time shows the current date and time in over two dozen cities (as well as day and night graphics), the unit converter is for converting length, volume, weight, distance, and temperature, the notepad is for entering in quick notes, and the stopwatch for counting minutes and seconds.

The speaker-independent voice commands work well with the Mysto and commands do not require any training by the user. It is conveniently launched by pressing and holding the Send button. Once activated, you can speak the name of a contact or digits to dial, have it send a message, go to a menu, check the phone status, and access a contact. We did not encounter any problems while using the voice commands, and were able to use it even in noisy environments. The only feature that we would like to see added is the ability to use speech-to-text for composing messages. Other Samsung models include this feature, so we’re not sure why it was left out of the Mysto.

There is 100MB of internal memory included on the Mysto that is shared between storing contacts, wallpapers, ringtones, music, pictures, videos, games, and other downloadable applications. The current memory usage is displayed graphically as a pie chart and will show how much is used by downloaded memory, system memory, and USB mass storage. For additional space, you can use a microSD card up to 4GB in size for extended access to music, videos, and pictures.


Messaging on the Mysto is set up like most other Helio devices. From the main messaging menu you can select to send a text or picture message, send an E-Mail, or access your text inbox. Sending a text message is nothing new and uses T9 predictive entry, or you can attach a saved image to it and turn it into a picture message. There are also options for logging into Helio Mail, Yahoo, AOL, Windows Live, GMail, and Earthlink. It is fairly easy and straight forward, since all that is required is your username and password. Access is also provided for AOL, MSN, and Yahoo Instant Messaging. We applaud Helio for including access to all these E-Mail accounts, but we would also like for them to provide an application to allow access of independent POP or IMAP accounts.

This is particularly useful for people who have business E-Mail accounts and want to be able to access them while on the go.

Connectivity and Data:

The Helio Mysto is a CDMA Dual-Band phone, which uses the 1900Mhz and 800Mhz frequencies. For data, it can connect using 1x or the faster 3G EV-DO network. Like all other Helio devices, it operates on Sprint’s network, including 3rd party roaming, but does leave some remote areas with no coverage.

Bluetooth version 2.0 is included on the Mysto, which provides for greater quality and distance over the older version 1.2. Support profiles include headset, handsfree, stereo headset, file transfer, object push, and printing. When used with our Jabra 250v headset, we were able to get up to 30 feet of static-free calls. For music playback, we were also able to get 30 feet using the Motorola HT820 Stereo Bluetooth headset. In fact, stereo Bluetooth music quality was better when using the Mysto instead of the Motorola V9m, which is only Bluetooth 1.2.

Even though the Mysto is not a Smartphone, it comes with an included HTML web browser. When the browser is loaded, the homepage displays links for Surf, Myspace, Facebook, YouTube Mobile, Yahoo, Google news, Where, and The TV Set. Choosing “Surf” will bring up even a larger list of preselected links displayed in categories. There is also the option to manually enter in a specific web address. Despite the small screen, we were able to view the PhoneArena site with no formatting problems, however there was a lot of horizontal and vertical scrolling. To avoid this, you can display sites in a column, but it will have more pages to view. Most HTML site take an average of 30-45 seconds to load while in a EV-DO coverage area, with smaller WAP site taking under 10 seconds.

Since a USB data cable is included with the Mysto, you can use the phone as a Mass Storage device and transfer files directly to and from your PC to the phone’s internal memory, but cannot use it to access the microSD card. Unfortunately, the data port on the Mysto is also proprietary, which means you can only use a Samsung USB data cable. Because of this, it is easier to simply use a standard memory card reader with the microSD card for file storage.


The Mysto comes with a basic 2MP fixed-focus camera with flash, which is located on the back, and the phone must be slid-open for it to be used. Pressing the dedicated camera button on the right side will bring up the camera menu, which will also show options for launching the video recorder and picture album. The actual camera application itself takes 5 seconds to load. Pressing the center d-pad button will capture the image in 2 seconds and saving it will require another 6 seconds. This comes to about an 8-9 second turnaround for taking pictures, which is about average for this type of cell phone. It is unfortunate however that the overall image quality is lacking and is quite poor when compared to most other 2MP camera phone. Images taken outside look dark and underexposed, with poor color representation and auto white balance issues. Inside images fair much worse, with colors not being reproduced properly and a lot of grain being shown. Lowlight images are nearly impossible to come out right, despite of the flash, with the tendency to be over-exposed and out of focus. Because of the poor quality of the camera, we can only recommend it for fun quick shots, and not capturing your family’s vacation photos.

Available Camera Options include:
Resolution: 1600x1200, 1280x960, 640x480, 320x240
Quality: Super Fine, Fine, Normal
White Balance: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent
Lighting: Normal, Spotlight
Effects: Color, Grayscale, Sepia, Green, Aqua, Negative
Set Frame: No Frame, Frame 1-20
Save Location: Internal Memory, External Memory
Mode: Still Shot, Series Shot, Divide Shot
Viewing: Full screen, Actual, Guidelines
Self Timer: Off, 2sec, 5sec, 10sec
Flash: Off, On

Videos can be recorded for MMS (short) or normal (long). Choosing the “normal” mode will allow you to record video up to the available memory limit. Options include: resolution (320x240, 176x144), white balance, frame rate (14fps, 7fps), lighting, effects, and save location. It is no surprise that videos also suffer from poor quality, and because of their low resolution, they look even worse when played back on a PC’s larger monitor.

Audio & Video Multimedia:

The built in Music Player allows playback of MP3 and AAC audio files that can be stored in the internal memory or on the microSD card, but lacks WMP support. You also have the option of purchasing MP3 files with the Mysto at the online Helio store. When the player is activated, it will categorize music by Recent, Playlists, Artists, Albums, Songs, and Genres. Once a song begins playback, the screen will show the current track name across the top. Pressing the Left Softkey will allow you to apply sound effects (none, reverb, 3D, and 13 preset equalizer settings), as well as visual effects (6 default skins, spectrum view, default view). We prefer no sound effects, but do enjoy the spectrum view, since it shows a real-time graphical EQ.

Audio is played through the earpiece speaker, which greatly limits its quality and volume. It is lacking in bass and sounds thin. Luckily, the Mysto comes with a pair of stereo earbuds, which connect to the proprietary jack and provides for better music quality. Another option is to use a Bluetooth Stereo headset, which will provide wireless connectivity while listening to music. Despite which way you choose to listen to your favorite tune, you cannot multitask, such as sending a text message or using the web browser.

Video playback is limited to your own personal MPEG-4/H.264 collection, or by going to the http://m.youtube.com web site. For watching your own videos, the quality will vary and depends on how good the original video was, but for watching Mobile YouTube videos, the quality is always lacking, with low resolution and slow frame rates, due to it being streamed over the EV-DO network. If you are a person that is looking for higher quality video streaming, you might consider Verizon’s MobileTV service, which requires one of their specific phone for use, but you are capable of receiving channels with 30fps and live TV feeds.


Like all other Helio devices, the Mysto supports Java software applications and several game demos are included (My Pet, Brain Challenge, Midnight Pool 3D, 3D Homerun Derby, Slide N’Loop, and Super Boom Boom). There are also 7 included applications (Google Maps, Obopay, Buddy Beacon, Garmin Mobile, H.O.T., MySpace, and Tellme). Additional games and applications can be downloaded for a fee. Google Maps is a free application that will use GPS to pinpoint your location on a map. From there, you can manually move the map around, zoom in and out, or use it for driving directions. The Garmin application is available for a $10/month subscription and is similar to Verizon’s VZNavigator, which will provide you with voice guided directions, as well as displaying them on the screen. Regardless on which one you choose, they are very useful while on vacation, on when traveling in an unfamiliar area.


Even though the overall build quality of the Mysto has a flimsy feel to it, we are pleased that Samsung did not lower the bar regarding the reception and call quality. We were able to maintain an average of 4-5 signal bars around most of South FL, with the exception of fringe areas that dropped down to 0-1 bars. There were only a few remote locations that calls actually did get disconnected, but that is to be expected.

The call quality through the earpiece speaker was clear and natural sounding, without any background noise or interference. People that we called on a landline stated that the Mysto produced good sound quality for outgoing calls, with our voice being clear and lacking any interference. The only problem we encountered was when raising the earpiece volume past level 4 to 5. In doing so, the speaker would start to sound distorted due to the higher volume, which is also true when using the Speakerphone. However leaving the volume at level 4 or lower does not cause this problem and eliminates the distortion.

Samsung rates the included 880mAh battery to provide up to 3.5 hours of talk time, or 8 days of standby time on a full charge. Our testing showed the Mysto to get 4 hours of talk time on a full charge.


The Helio Mysto is for the average consumer that is looking for a slim and stylish mid-range phone, without the added features and weight of the Helio Ocean. Unfortunately, the overall construction feels cheap, and does not seem like it will hold up to a lot of abuse. The d-pad and numeric keypad can be difficult to use at times, and the 2MP camera is not the best currently available. However, the phone does come with large QVGA display, HTML browser, java application support, and good voice quality. Those are the areas where the Mysto truly shines.


  • Good Voice Quality and Signal Reception
  • HTML Browser
  • Customizable home screen
  • Comes with USB Cable and Stereo Earbuds


  • Device feels cheaply made
  • Numeric keypad is not designed well
  • D-Pad is smaller than average
  • 2MP camera has poor quality
  • Low music quality when played through earpiece
  • Only one theme installed

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User Rating:

4 Reviews

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