Samsung Eternity Review

14
Introduction and Design
Introduction:

After seeing our neighbors across the big pond get acquainted with Samsung’s multimedia touch screen phones such as the Pixon, U.S. consumers can now get their hands on the Eternity with AT&T. This is one of the first phones in the States to use Samsung’s TouchWiz interface for a fresh new look with various widgets on the home screen. In addition to the updated software design, the phone is filled with a plethora of multimedia features such as a 3-megapixel camera, AT&T’s video share service, and Mobile TV to keep enthusiasts content.

The package contains:

  • Samsung SGH-A867
  • Charger
  • Quick Start Guide
  • User Manual
  • Interactive Device Tutorial CD


Design:

As with other touch screen phones, the Eternity keeps to fashion with its slick candy bar design (4.3x2.2x0.5 inches) that closely resembles the Instinct in dimensions. Glossy black plastic is used for the casing with a chrome metallic border going around the phone. At first glance, the battery cover looks to almost have a brushed aluminum finish but it is in fact just a hard plastic material which emulates the feel and look of a metal surface. Placing the device in your hands feels really well thanks to its relative low weight (3.9 oz). We liked the overall construction of the phone and did not feel as cheap as the LG Vu in terms of durability.



You can compare the Samsung Eternity with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

Samsung kept the size of the resistive touch screen to a reasonable 3.2” which has a resolution of 240x400 pixels and 262k colors. Vibration feedback is implemented with the device whenever the screen is pressed to notify the user that a selection has been made. The Eternity does a good job of using the vibration feature in its software to keep things new and fresh. There is a light sensor on the phone that adjusts the brightness of the screen based on the amount of ambient light coming in. We found that even viewing the phone in direct sunlight to be no problem with colors and text still being distinguishable.

Below the screen you will find three physical buttons which are flush with the device. The green send and red end keys are found on the side with the middle button being used as the back/clear key. On the left side you will find the volume rocker and charging/USB port. Samsung did not go with the traditional mini or microUSB connection and decided to stick with their own proprietary port. We are happy to find that the right side of the device has a 3.5mm jack to allow regular headphones to be used. You will also find the dedicated camera button on the bottom right side to quickly take photos. There is also a button on the right side of the phone that brings up the shortcut menu which allows you to perform basic functions such as making calls or text messaging. However, the icons in this menu can be brought up at any time but you cannot modify them to your liking.


On the back you will find the 3-megapixel camera which is a step down from the ones found on the Pixon and F480. Additionally, there is no flash or self portrait mirror found on the Eternity. The plastic battery cover slides off to reveal the battery compartment, SIM card slot, and microSD slot. We are still baffled as to why manufacturers still insist on having users remove the back cover and battery just to install a mircoSD card.


The bottom of the phone houses the microphone and a new feature that adds some flare. Whenever you receive a call, the entire bottom of the chrome border illuminates in a color. However, you can only choose five different colors for the settings. We would have been happier if the colors rotated instead of just having a singular one.




Samsung Eternity Video Review:



Samsung Eternity 360 Degrees View:


Interface:

The Eternity is AT&T’s first phone utilizing the TouchWiz interface. Samsung did a great job giving users a fresh new look to the software on the device. From the home screen to the main menu, colors are beautifully displayed and we had no problems viewing text. Although the phone uses an array of screen transitions when navigating through menus, there was no lag in speed which plagued the F480.

What you see is what you get with the phone software. There is a minimal set of personalization options with the interface which leaves us wondering why Samsung did not take the time to correct this for the U.S. launch. Users can change some settings with the phone to an extent such as using a taken photo as the wallpaper. The Eternity only provided four wallpaper options and no screen savers. Like we said, what you see is what you get when it comes to the personalization preferences.

Although AT&T packed the Eternity with its usual lineup of software applications, it did not make use of the accelerometer sensor. You will find certain programs not rotating to landscape view when you rotate the phone. In other applications, you can only view the phone in landscape view rather than in portrait mode. The lack of offering the user to choose their positions to be a little annoying. Scrolling through the phone was a breeze and we did not have any problems selecting commands. Long scrolls are accompanied with vibrations to give the user a physical feedback.

The TouchWiz interface of course brings its heavily advertised feature:

Widgets:

Forget about the home screen, because it is now called “Widget”. Its idea is to let you add certain given “programs” and to let you arrange them the way you want. These can be found in the taskbar on the left side, from where you can drag them. It would have been nice to allow users to add more widgets than what the phone allowed, but they will be limited with the following:

- Analog clock
- Digital clock
- Dual time zone clock
- Mobile TV
- Today
- Calendar
- Wallpaper
- Alarms
- Photo
- Birthday
- Sound Profile
- Bluetooth
- Calculator
- Music Player

Shortcut Menu:

You can enter this menu, by pressing the functionality button, located next to the camera button on the side of the phone. No matter which menu or application you were in, 6 shortcuts will be visualized on the screen. They lead to the music player, messages, back/cancel command, the main menu, the Internet browser, and the dialing pad. This feature will help you reduce the use of the main menu to a minimum.

Phonebook:

Here you can save up to 2000 contacts with up to 5 numbers, including home, business and office. On top of that, you can add pictures, ringtones, birth date and a short note. Searching is done only by first name, which is a common problem, but is largely annoying when present in such a high-end device. Additionally, you can scroll through your contacts using the magnifier icon on the side and navigate to the letter of the first name.



Organizer:

The Samsung Eternity offers some rather useful options, to help you organize your day. From the main menu, you can set up to 10 alarms, to make sure you make it to work/school on time. In the calendar, you can store up to 300 events. It can be viewed as an entire month, week or day. On top of that, from the tools menu, you are able to write short reminders and tasks (limited to 100). There is also the world clock, the calculator, the unit converter and the timer with a countdown timer. Everything that needs to be here is present.


Its built in memory is 200 MB, and it is expandable via microSD cards. However, we experienced the same problem found on the F480. Cards that were operational in other phones needed to be formatted before installing into the Eternity.



Messaging:

Thanks to the Messaging menu, you can write and send text/multimedia messages and emails. There are no factory preloaded templates, but you can save such for both, text and multimedia messages. The T9 system is present here and it will assist you type text faster. Inputting text is done via the screen numeric keypad or turning the phone counterclockwise to display the full QWERTY keyboard. If neither option is to your liking, you can even use the handwriting recognition as an alternative to input text. Although the feature is welcomed, it does take longer using your finger to write out the character you wish to use.


You can use the Mobile Email application to set up to 5 email accounts with the phone. Unfortunately, it allows you to set up specific accounts supported by the software such as Yahoo, AOL, and Hotmail and does not allow other email accounts, such as GMail. We have found that HTML emails will not display correctly on the phone and displayed random HTML tags.



Connectivity:

Samsung Eternity is a quad-band GSM, which will allow you to use it overseas. High speed internet access is supported with the dual-band UMTS. However, the device does not support 3G access overseas in Europe.

We expected the presence of a good browser seeing that it is a high class device with a large touch screen. After seeing web pages run on phones such as the iPhone and the Samsung Omnia, we would hope to get a nearly flawless experience.

At first, when loading PhoneArena.com everything looks fine (correct visualization), but it is zoomed in at 100% and only a small part of the page can be seen. The browser does not provide you an option to see an overview of the page which would come handy for larger sites. The text doesn’t automatically rearrange and you’ll have to constantly scroll or zoom out, using the volume buttons. The browser is good and useful, but still the superiority of the champions is noticeable. One major item we are disappointed to point out is the long load time we witnessed while loading a page.


To connect locally, the model is equipped with Bluetooth 2.0, as well as with a USB port. The wireless method has an interesting visualization; the Eternity is visualized in the middle of a circle and all the other devices available are around it. When you want to pair the phone with another Bluetooth capable system, you have to drag and drop its icon on the one in the center.



Camera:

We were sad to find that the Eternity does not follow the same path with either of the F480’s 5-megapixel or Pixon’s 8-megapixel camera. Instead, U.S. customers will find only a paltry 3-megapixel camera which is still higher than most phones released over here. Not only did the Eternity step back with the resolution, but it does not include a flash, self portrait mirror, or auto-focusing system. Point, stay steady, and click will be the process we will be reduced to.

It takes about 3 seconds to start the software, after holding the button on the right side. The period between two pictures is relatively short too (3-4 seconds). We were greeted with a simplistic interface – it is monochrome and very basic. There are two sets of four icons arranged vertically on the sides of the application.


Some might argue that the 3-megapixel is an outcry, but when compared to other available carrier handsets, it provides exceptional photo quality. Colors came out quite accurate without having certain colors being too saturated. We compared the LG Dare’s 3.2-megapixel camera quality and found that produced images looked almost similar. The Eternity fared better in indoor shots with low light conditions because pictures did not come out too fuzzy. Finally, close-up shots of text came out quite clear and legible.


Videos on the other hand tell a different story though. We were quite disappointed to find that it only supports a maximum resolution of 320x240. There is a substantial few more options with the video and limits the user to small set of choices. After taking some videos in low light conditions and previewing them, we noticed that mostly everything that was captured came out dark. On the other hand, videos came out pretty decent in outdoor settings with plenty of light. We did not have any problems hearing the audio, but the Eternity outputs all sounds out of the main speaker (used for phone calls & speakerphone).

Multimedia:

The music player has two versions – one taking up the entire screen, and which is accessible from the main menu and a second one that is visualized as a widget. In the first one, under the album cover and the track info now playing, there are six buttons. They are used to shuffle songs, repeat, modify the equalizer settings, rewind to the previous track, pause, and forward. You can sort tracks by the artist, genre, album, play list selection. Overall, the interface is easy to use but has an unattractive “antique” design. The simple functionality (fast forward, play/pause) is accessible via the widget player.


Unfortunately, the same weak speaker you use during a call is employed for sound reproduction. Crackling noises are heard when at maximum volume.  Using the 3.5mm jack provides really good sound quality when using the correct equalizer setting. Heavy bass sounds are quite audible without any distortion when we connected the phone to an auxiliary port in a car stereo. The same goes when using standard headphones with the Eternity.

Viewing videos was tolerable, but nothing like what you would see on the iPhone or Storm. YouTube users will be pleased to know that you can watch streaming videos on the device as well. AT&T’s Mobile TV service is also included with the device and we were lucky enough to be in an area where it is provided. Watching television is acceptable on the device and did not find our eyes squinting too much. It’s great that the service offers users a guide for scheduled programs so that you can check ahead to see what shows you want to watch. At some points though, we noticed that the video quality would become pixelized and accompanied with choppy audio. After a while the video would catch up and resume its telecast.



Software:

The CD that comes with the phone does not include any synchronization software for the Eternity. We find also that the lack of a USB cable with the phone to be a little bit annoying seeing that the phone uses Samsung’s proprietary USB connection cable.

You will find a variety of applications already preloaded with the phone. For GPS tracking, you will find the AT&T Navigator software to quickly give you turn-by-turn directions to addresses or points of interests. If you’re in an area where traffic is a problem, the software can quickly redirect you to avoid it and arrive at a prompt time.


Business users might want to look elsewhere if they plan on reading important documents because the Eternity does not support viewing any Microsoft Office files. In addition to that, PDF files were unable to load as well.

Other useful software applications such as Mobile Banking were available to only Wachovia, Suntrust, Synovus, and Bancorp South customers. You’ll also find MusicID to quickly tag and identify any songs when the phone is placed close to the audio source. All the games loaded with the phone are demo. XM radio users will be happy to know that they will able to use their subscription on the device.



Performance:

No matter what new and various capabilities the modern phones have, their main purpose is to be able to make a call. In this aspect, the Eternity did a pretty good job. The voices from the earpiece were quite audible with very little noise. People on the other side said that they were able to hear our voices quite well, without any problem. On the other hand, using the speaker phone can be a task – people stated that our voice was unclear and we found ourselves repeating our words over and over again. There was also some crackling with the speaker phone when it was placed on its maximum volume setting. We would have like to see Samsung use a separate speaker for this.

According to the manufacturer the battery should provide 5 hours of talk-time and about 250 hours of standby. On a brighter note, Samsung packed a larger capacity 1300 mAh battery with the Eternity and we managed to get roughly the same results. When performing memory intensive applications like web browsing, we were able to use the phone an entire day without having to recharge. Thanks to the light sensor on the device, battery drain from the screen is reduced to a minimum.

Finally, we were quite pleased with the overall experience of the phone software. Boot up time for the device from a cold start took less than thirty seconds. With all the fancy animations and transition effects used by the phone, we still did not recognize any lag. Consumers will be content with the device without having too many frustrations waiting for something to load up.

Conclusion:

Yes, we know that the Eternity was reduced in almost every way when you compare it to similar TouchWiz handsets, like the Pixon, but it isn’t bad at all. The overall experience we got out of the phone more than makes up for the lack of serious hardware specs. Fast can be an understatement, because it is literally lightning quick from startup to running applications in the background. When compared to other current 3-megapixel camera phones, the Eternity goes above and beyond even though it is nowhere close its 5- and 8-megapixel cousins overseas. It has good multimedia features, including mobile TV, which is fun to watch on the bright 3.2” display. In addition, this is all packed into a relatively slim and light weight body that doesn’t look bad at all.



Pros

  • TouchWiz interface
  • Brilliant screen
  • Lightning quick software

Cons

  • Long load times with the browser
  • Few personalization options
  • Single speaker design

PhoneArena Rating:

7.0

User Rating:

8.9
80 Reviews

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