Samsung Soul Review

5
Introduction and Design
This is an unlocked GSM phone which can operate in the
US on AT&T (without 3G) and T-Mobile (without 3G).
Introduction:

It’s amazing how advanced the delivery services have become nowadays! Now, for example they can deliver a Soul to your doorstep and not a regular one either…

That’s exactly how we received the 2008 Samsung flagship, the Soul. Actually, the name is formed as an abbreviation of Spirit Of Ultra. The phone is expected to replace the somewhat outdated U700 and U600 in the high class of the slim sliders.

Since the very first time we meet, the phone impresses us with its fashion design and characteristics. In this model, we once more face the „Magic Touch” display (presented in last years E950 even though not under such a showy name), designed for navigation and “something more”.

The package contains:
  • Samsung Soul
  • 2 mini CD's
  • Advertising brochure
  • Manual
  • Headphones
  • Data cable
  • Charger

The Web site of the Soul, it is mentioned that the phone is equipped with an adapter for a 3.5 mm jack, but in the unit we reviewed, such is not present. Apparently, the contents of the package depends on the region you reside in.

Unfortunately, there is not a special pouch or a case included either, and such an addition, can contribute a lot for a beautiful phone to become a fashion accessory.

Design:

Who would refuse an armored soul? This one made by Samsung has been protected just partially with only the front panel and the battery lid made out of metal. The rest of the elements are made of black plastic, which prevents the phone from easily sliding out of your hands. All that is combined with a handy size (4.2 x 1.9 x 0.5 inches (106 x 49.5 x 12.9 mm)) and a well balanced body weighing 4.0 oz (112 g).


You can compare the Samsung Soul to many other phones, using PhoneArena's Visual Size Compare tool


The display takes up 2/3 of the upper part of the phone. It supports a resolution up to 240x320 and up to 16 million colors, qualities that ensure fully saturated details and images. Unfortunately, it suffers from the typical for most fashion devices, mirror-like effect, which although giving the phone an additional shine effect, makes it hard to use.

Over it, is located the video calling camera and below, are the large and easy to press soft buttons and the widely advertised „MagicalTouch” pad.

That is a touch sensitive display, which replaces the D-pad, by changing the icons indexing the functions according to the corresponding menu. It has a very good sensibility (which can be adjusted depending on your needs), it can vibrate when touched, and the color of the icons and the effects, which are a part of it, are subjects to customizations (however, according to the manufacturer, red and orange are the same color and are visualized in the same way). Even though at first sight it looks like LG KF600’s InteractPad, its purpose is totally different and there are a few substantial drawbacks:


  • First, the buttons in it (the arrow for example) are small and not convenient for use by people with big fingers.
  • In contrast to KF600’s InteractPad, which can show less, but bigger and different buttons, the icons on it will always visualize in one of the four directions or the center.
  • It only reacts to the touch of skin so you cannot even use it with thin glovers.
  • The worst is that the rest of the buttons (the soft ones and the two receivers) are not touch sensitive and you’ll often wish they were, since you’ll get used to touching and not pressing (because of the “MagicalTouch”). Nevertheless, you’ll still have to press them, which will make you feel confused; once pressing, once touching. We expected to quickly get used to the system, but alas it didn’t happen even after a few days.
  • The last thing that was annoying is the frequent accidental pressing of icons when opening and closing.

Considering all the drawbacks, we don’t see why use this “special solution”, instead of a traditional hardware D-pad. The only positive thing you get, is the “wow factor”.

In order to avoid the involuntary touching, you have to operate the slider by placing your finger on the round edges especially provided under the soft buttons, which is convenient for everyone. We are very happy with the movement of the sliding mechanism, but disappointed from the instability when opened, something inappropriate for the high-class phones.

The keyboard is revealed in the bottom part. The rows are divided by protruding elements, and the buttons have a fine relief (on the digits), which couldn’t possibly help you find them by touch only (unless of course you have very sensitive fingers). The top row contents a video calling shortcut (left), the clear button and one for the switch menu (right).

On the right hand side, we have the camera key, which almost can’t be felt when pressed and the microSD slot. The opposite side houses the charger/data cable/handsfree connector and the volume rocker, which should have been positioned higher in order to make it more convenient to use.

On the back of the phone, we find the 5-megapixel camera, equipped with a tiny mirror and an LED flash. To get to the SIM card slot, you need to remove the back lid and the 880 mAh battery.


Overall, Samsung Soul is a very stylish device, and the combination of metal elements with a large mirror-like display would attract anybody’s attention.

The phone is offered in three color variants. Our review sample is called Soul Gray and is much more masculine, compared to the all silver unit from our preview (aka platinum silver) and the sterling steel. As far as we know the manufacturer, many more color schemes are to follow.



Samsung Soul Video Review:


Samsung Soul 360 Degrees View:



Magical touch?

As we’ve already mentioned, this feature debuted last year in the Samsung E950.It’s sad that the interface hasn’t been updated at all. Meanwhile, therival company LG put a model out on the market, employing its system,which came out to be very impressive. So, the Soul’s “magical touch”advertisement sounds pointless.

The KF600’s InteractPadnot only surpasses Soul’s in size and colorfulness, but it really givesthe user a different feeling when operating the device. Samsung’sresponse is more of a regular D-pad with the options to change thecolors and the effects. By default, the shortcuts in standby mode leadto the profiles, the music player, the internet browser, and to write anew message (SMS). The only cases, in which the InteractPad drasticallychanges its appearance and functionality are when listening to music,radio, using the calculator or the camera. Tears of sadness filled oureyes, remembering how LG’s touch interface was changing according tothe games or was complementing the animated background. These are allthings that should set Samsung thinking.


Interface:


Samsung Soul uses software similar to the one seen in G600, e.g. one of the best solutions for a non-smartphone of the manufacturer. This enables the device to proudly offer the long gone option, called profiles. We have no idea why it took the company so long to realize that the user needs different sounds and settings in his/her everyday life.

For no apparent reasons, the designers have given up on the animated homescreen, which changes according to your location and time. It has been replaced by the preloaded themes, offering only dynamic clocks. Luckily, they are beautiful and there’s a variety of them available.

The same goes for the theme themselves, and you can now enjoy full colored icons thanks to the Spazio theme. They do not change the feeling you get operating the device substantially. There are only two variants for viewing the main menu – as a 3x4 grid or as list. The good news is that you have a built-in option to create themes and by using it, you can change the way the interface appears to fit “your soul”. We had this function in G600, but here it is slightly enhanced and offers more possibilities.

An innovation here is the switch menu, which offers fast access to the most frequently used functions (dialing a number, writing a message, internet browser, music player, and closing all active applications), no matter which submenu you are in. Actually, the phone doesn’t offer simultaneous use of random applications, but only of those, included in the switch menu.

Phonebook:

If you’ve ever wondered how many contacts can a soul hold, we’ll give you a precise answer – exactly one thousand. The phonebook is identical to the one of U700 and is the most advanced, currently offered by the manufacturer in its non-smartphones. You can add up to five numbers to each contact, including home, business, and work. On top of that, you can assign to them pictures, ringtones, and a short note. You can only search by first name, which is standard, but annoying problem most non-smartphones have. In addition, the contacts can be sorted in groups with the same picture or a ringtone.

When dialing, the homescreen depends either on the themes or on the additional personification. The end result is something never seen before, but joy for the eyes. Upon entering the first digits of a number, it will be searched for, both in the phonebook and in the last calls made as well.

Organizer:

Samsung Soul offers organizing options, which are more than decent. For example, the five alarms available will help you not to be late for work/school.

In the calendar you can save events, divided in appointments, anniversaries, holidays, important, and personal. Strangely, the first ones are limited up to 100, the next two up to 50 and the last ones to 20. However, you can still choose if the calendar will be visualized as an entire month, week or a day.


Besides, from the applications menu, you are able to write short reminders and tasks (limited to 20). In this menu, we also have the world clock (kind of ugly, compared to KF600’s), the calculator (as we mentioned above, one of the few applications where the MagicalTouch Pad „shines”), the unit converter, the timer and the countdown timer. Overall, in this section, everything that is supposed to be here is present.





Messages:

Did you know that souls were able to send messages? Or at least the Samsung ones. That’s thanks to the messaging menu, which let’s you write SMS/MMS/e-mails. The user is able to setup up to five e-mail accounts. You can limit the size of a letter up to 100/300/500KB, in order to save on traffic. Besides, there is the possibility to set an automatic mail check for new letters at every 0.5/1/3/6/12/24 hours. Unfortunately, for most of the large web mail servers, these are not present and have top be entered manually.

Templates can be stored for text and multimedia messages, but there are no preloaded such. The T9 predictive text input, which is the most used system of this type is present and it’ll help you input text faster.




Connection:

Samsung Soul is a tri-band GSM, which limits its use in America. The good news is that it supports HSDPA with speeds up to 7.2 Mbit/s, giving you a quite fast Internet access.

The browser handles easily complicated sites like PhoneArena.com. The big problem here is the lack of functions. You can only change the page size, by making it smaller, so you can see it fully on the screen, but the pictures are viewed rearranged. There are no shortcuts on the keyboard either.


It’s strange that lately, the manufacturer (including the rival brands) are employing horizontal and panoramic view in order to facilitate navigating even in the mid-class models. Its lack in the top model is simply unacceptable.


For local connections, the phone is equipped with Bluetooth 2.0 and a USB cable for data transfer to your computer. In order to synchronize the contacts with Outlook, you’ll need the Samsung PC Suite (found on a CD included in the package).


Multimedia:

Soul for the music or music for the soul? According to Samsung, this is one of the main purposes of phone. The built-in memory available is approximately 120 MB. In addition, you can use a microSD card up to 8 GB.

The phone is equipped with Bang & Olufsen’s ICEpower technology, which allows you to fully enjoy any songs . That could be the reason for the sound to be really good and clear, even playing low-bitrate tracks. At the same time, a gentle metal note can be heard, but it definitely isn’t annoying. The music player supports MP3, WMA, AAC+ file formats. Here, finally, you will be able to make use of the MagicalTouch pad. Displaying next/previous, play/pause, stop and a shortcut to the current playlist, it transforms into a player control panel. There are many sorting options available for the music files, including artist, genre, album, and composer. Besides, you have the background playing option, you can add effects (they actually work as an equalizer) and fade away at the end of the song. Overall, we are very happy with this element of the interface.

However, a video player as a separate application is not present. To play a video file, you have to find it in the list of your files and then, jumping to the next/previous file in the directory is done easily, by using the controls, which are very similar to the ones seen in the music player. You are only able to watch videos with a resolution up to the screen’s (320x240) and in the most popular formats - MPEG4, H.263, H.264 and WMV. There is option for a landscape view. Unfortunately, DivX videos and those with the highest bitrate require more resource than the Soul can offer, and according to the current standard, that places it in the mid class.

The model disposes of an FM radio where the MagicalTouch pad comes in handy, by transforming its shortcuts for faster transfer to next/previous stations saved. It’s the same story with the Dictaphone; here even the “record” button changes its color! Great Success!



Camera:

Did you know that the soul can store images? And they are five megapixel ones too, made with autofocus! The Samsung Soul’s camera has an interface identical to the one we’ve seen in G800. One of its best qualities is the fast focusing and snapping of an image (about 2 seconds in normally lighted area).

The main difference comes from the MagicalTouch pad. Here we have the four most frequently used commands. They allow you to easily activate/deactivate the flash and the macro mode or to setup the exposure and the self-timer.

The left soft button is a shortcut to the gallery, and the right leads to the options. There are many positions in a long horizontal list including Scenes, Resolution, White balance, Effects and many others. As we already mentioned in our G800 review, this type of interface is not very convenient; its icons are small and monochrome and it is hard to understand what purpose has each one.

The face recognition option is present in this model as well. When activated, the camera focus will remain centered over the face selected even if it moves.If the person moves out of range, the system will automatically try to focus on another one. One of its drawbacks is that it only recognizes faces if they are positioned frontally.

Here, the last position leads to the settings menu where we have additional options to the standard ones, such as quality (compression), ISO sensitivity (Automatic/50/100/200/400), digital stabilizer (on/off) and a few more. The phone supports the so called „wide dynamic range”, which could be on or off. Actually, it doesn’t do anything special, and it just increases the brightness in the darker areas of the pictures. In practice, you can get similar and even better results by using different computer programs. In addition, you can adjust the contrast, saturation and the sharpness of your pictures.

Overall, all functions necessary for snapping pictures using a mobile phone, are present. However, the capabilities is what people notice first, and the quality is what forms their opinion.

The pictures taken outdoors have extremely good saturated and real colors. The detail level is also very high for a phone and it really is apparent that the camera is a 5-megapixel one. Unfortunately, the pictures taken indoors are nothing similar. Even in a well-illuminated room, they come out blurry and a fair amount of noise is present. If you are taking pictures in darker environments, it is strongly recommended to use the flash, bearing in mind that it is very bright and creates annoying glossy spots. We don’t see when could the flash be used, and the Xenon solutions of Nokia N82 and Sony Ericsson K850 are much better.


In macro mode, the camera showed similar to the outdoor pictures results – if there is enough light, you’ll enjoy great quality.

The videos recorded are with a 320х240 pixels resolution and 15 fps – these having become a standard for most cameraphones and even the ones from the entry level. It would have been good if it could record at 640x480 pixels or at least 30 fps. The quality is not impressive, especially if you are shooting indoors.

Samsung Soul sample video at 320x240 pixels resolution

Overall we are happy with the camera’s quickness, rich functionality and the quality pictures made outdoors. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have what it takes to be a very good one.

Software:

The phone comes with a few built-in games, most of them just trial versions. In contrast to KF600, here the MagicalTouch pad doesn’t change and doesn’t contribute to the entertainment qualities of the phone. Since the device supports JAVA MIDP 2.0, you can easily add more games or applications.

Like the rest of the latest Samsung models, Soul can also view (without modifying) Microsoft Office 2003 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) and Adobe Reader (PDF) documents. Everything is visualized correctly, and you also have the convenient minimap, via which you can choose the part of the text you want to see, since most of the time the documents are larger than the screen (240х320). The problem with the complex (few sheets) Excel files has already been resolved and now they are visualized perfectly. Unfortunately, Office 2007 is yet not supported.



Performance:

How do we feel about talking through our soul? - not very good. Voices are heard as monotonous and unreal, sometimes fading. However, at the other end of the line, the volume is perfect, and the sound is slightly sharp, but very pleasant at the same time.

The loudspeaker is hardly useful, since the voices are heard as heavily clipped and unreal. However, that will make it easier for you to dub robot movies from the 80s.

We were very reserved towards the battery test, since usually, large displays for Samsung phone, means short lasting talk times. That’s why we were so impressed with the results; Soul provided a little bit over five hours. This could be due to the fact that the screen powers off extremely quickly, thus saving energy.

Conclusion:

The big question is „Is it worth buying a new soul? It is irrelevant whether you’ve already sold yours to the devil or haven't, because we cannot give you a definite answer.

The truth is that we expected much more from the company’s new line top model. And so we were disappointed from the fact that only the design and the music player are of high quality. The heavily advertized MagicalTouch pad is not impressive at all (when compared to KF600). The rest of the elements are at a descent level, which we do not think is enough for a widely expected top model like the Soul.

It’s strange that the alias given to the device by the manufacturer fits it very well. Samsung Soul has a strange element, call it spirit if you will, which makes us like it despite the test results. You will probably feel the same way, as if something beyond the metal cover and the lack of innovative ideas, will attract you and whisper in your ear that this is the right phone for you.


Pros

  • Beautiful design
  • User-friendly, quality music player
  • Very good picture quality outdoors and in macro mode

Cons

  • Half of the navigation buttons require pressing, and the rest do not
  • Average sound quality

PhoneArena Rating:

8.5

User Rating:

8.9
6 Reviews
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