Samsung Galaxy Note. First Look
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Spillikins #3 - it’s all about Samsung
Back when I was in school, the swankiest gadget one could own was a Japanese electronic wristwatch with a couple of tricks up its sleeve at that, like FM-radio or a bunch of tunes it could play. The booming industry of consumer electronics of the seventies spilled out some quirky and mind-blowing things like watches, cassette players, Walkman, tiny color TVs; a multitude of companies joined the race, where the driving principle was to create smaller gadgets and charge as much as possible. As far as my class was concerned, there were around ten boys with music playing watches on their wrists, while girls tended to shun this latest and greatest addiction of those times.
The fact is, most music playing watches were pretty much the same across the market; the only things they differed in were the set of tunes and casing design. If I remember it right, I had around two dozens of these toys, for some reason my thoughts are revolving around the same number – 18. Curiously, whereas this type of watches was all the rage, there were some other flavors out there, incorporating a calculator or FM-radio. It should be obvious enough that using those “calculators” was more of a torture – even children like us had a hard time tapping their rice grain esque buttons, so we armed ourselves will all thin and sharp objects we could only find – pens, pencils, etc. As regards to radio-centric models, things got even more awkward – there was only one headphone in the box, but the worst news was that there were no FM radio stations in the Soviet Union. This way, those watches turned out to be pretty much worthless wonders of the age of miniaturization. The number crunching variant managed to stay around a while longer, but eventually went belly up too. The Soviet microelectronics industry started churning out music playing watches 5-7 years past their peak and flooded all stores with look-a-likes, whose distinct features were horrendous design and fewer tunes inside, although, on the upside, they charged less for them. All in all, it is about the best example one can think of when it comes to exploiting and capitalizing on successful ideas of other companies.
You may wonder what has prompted this seemingly random passage about wristwatches. Well, first and foremost, the other day I discovered a Casio’s ruggedized watch in my cabinet – as far as I remember, that unit one of the first of this breed in my collection and the market on the whole; I even installed a battery in it to make sure it still worked. Although I experienced no sudden feeling of nostalgia, simply because these water-proof (up to 50 or 200 meters) watches could rock someone to his/her core only a very long while ago. Then the G-Shock series came along and got a very intensive advertising campaign, ushering in the era of plasticky watches that were on the futuristic side compared to other conventional offerings out there. Many even went as far as swapping their Swiss chronographs for that new craze, and the fact that you didn't have to take them off before jumping into a swimming pool or taking a shower left no-one indifferent.
Samsung M110. Frankly speaking, this whole thing with watches popped up in my head after I played around with Samsung’s “ruggedized” offering, the M110. This phone has been on sale in Europe for some time already and as it turns out, it has garnered a fair amount of interest. Is there something special about it? In terms of its technological talents, it is the entry-level Samsung C140 that has put some armor on along with a flashlight and VGA camera. Retailing for 110 Euro the M110 is not a budget offering by any means and ends up behinds its “classmates” functionality-wise. However, in Germany its stock doesn’t last too long – why? Is the nostalgia for Siemens-branded tough phones still raging in their hearts? Or perhaps its sales have been vitalized by the generation of people who do know when and where such a phone can come in handy? I have no idea, but judging by the M110’s set of features, few could have imagined it would be even remotely popular.
The M110 is a relatively thick device that can take a few tumbles and doesn’t slip out of the hand all thanks to its rubberized casing. Also onboard are a tiny display and a lock screw on the back, while inside it sports no rubberized inserts, being all plastic. If you want to have a better idea of how “well” it is protected, take a look at the stub plugged in the interface connector’s slot – no tight-fitting rubber strips, just bare plastic. This way, the M110 is obviously inferior to the Sony Ericsson C702 that employs a mix of plastic and rubber, with the latter acting as the sealant there.
At one of our meetings with guys from Samsung, they submerged the M110 (which was turned on) into a jug filled with water – after around 15 minutes of this diving session, it didn’t pass out and surprisingly its display backlight was still on. But once we took it out of the jug we found out that it had literally drowned. I took it with me and experimented with different environments only to figure out that water gets past the casing’s walls in around two minutes. Apparently, the level of protection provided by the M110 implies that if you actually happen to drop it into a cup with water or wherever, it will stay intact only in case you rescue it immediately (it doesn’t even have water-proof membranes on the loudspeaker, so nothing really stands in the way of water other than the M110’s snazzy design that only appears to be water-proof).
Interestingly, when I was testing the M110’s diving skills by dropping it in glasses with water, beer and other liquids, some girl sitting next to me, without a second thought at that, jumped from her chair and rushed towards the drowning phone to save it. The best part of this story is that after this incident she kept watching me and had her eyes glued on her own phones – truly, there was some maniac around who threw his phone into a glass with juice!
Back when Ericsson was still around, its fans would entertain themselves in a similar fashion – they put the maker’s “tough” handsets in beer, but after all those phones were quite different creatures in their own right. They could survive 10-15 minutes in almost any liquid hands down, which is no wonder, for the level of protection they provided was a head above that of the M110. The latter, in fact, packs in a couple of visual touches that hint at it being ruggedized and aim to appeal to uninitiated and undemanding users who are not ready to shell our for more expensive solutions of this type. All this has reminded me of my Casio watch and its look-a-like (a fake, that is) housed in a flamboyant and seemingly solid casing, which didn’t protect the watch’s innards in any way, however. The latter unit went for next to nothing, sort of a budget way to go, which you wouldn't want to go swimming with, yet it looked impressive in the urban landscape. It seemed to be, yet wasn’t ruggedized, that is.
Samsung D780 Duos. You know why I mentioned the Soviet industry at the beginning of this write-up? Simply because it is still around, although it would seem that those youngsters that run then keep muttering nonsense and doing ridiculous things. You know, traditions are above everything else.
I’m talking about Sitronics that rolled out three “Made-in-Russia” mobile phones capable of handling two SIM cards at a time. They were designed together with ZTE and as Sergey Aslonyan viewed them, they were the pinnacle of technology, pure hi-tech. More savvy people, however, gave them little credit and rather considered them rude sketches, yet pretty much in keeping with Sitronics style. Apparently, after witnessing the avalanche of ads picturing the Samsung Duos and Fly B700 Duo (which was also very hard to pass by), Sitronics ventured to present some stuff of their own and sell around 5-6 thousand units per model.
The Samsung D880 Duos was the first dual SIM device. Curiously, the manufacturer retails it for around 400-420 USD, whereas wholesale distributors offer it for 300-320 USD. What this communism is all about, I hear you ask? It’s pretty simple – they have bought up so many units that it is now impossible to dump them at an adequate price. The market is brimming with these phones, despite the fact that at least half of them are headed straight for the West, which is a rare example when a model tailored for one specific market (Russia in this case) is re-exported to the rest of the world. We even managed to find it on sale in Atlanta, US, which was pretty amusing considering that it had been only three weeks since the D880’s debut in Russia. I suppose Samsung is committed to increase the sales of the Duos range, and they are very likely to succeed in doing so (in terms of sales volumes, that is). It is quite another matter, though, what region these phones will end up in.
So, back to the topic, will the Samsung D780 be popular? I imagine it will have to restrain its appetites, for it doesn’t have any obvious edge over the D880, bar its lighter price tag. Also it has a direct rival in the form of the Fly B700 Duo that retails for just as much or even less.
And the truth is, the Samsun D780’s original index was the P240 – that was the name the maker and all distributors used… Until the moment when one Russian magazine decided to garner some attention for itself and doctored an interview about this handset against all agreements with Samsung. While that interview did in fact take place, it contained no facts about the P240 (which were added by the magazine later on) and rather focused on Samsung’s strategy and plans. All in all, it was a nasty story that made the manufacturer sweat and prompted the launch of the P240 before its original release date and under a different name.
For some vague reason every device in Samsung’s P-series is more or less a flop, to be more specific they have never been able to generate substantial sales on any market. We’ll see if the Samsung D780 will be a turning point for this line-up, since its original index was “P240”.
Samsung F110 Adidas. As its same suggests, it’s a sporty phone designed in collaboration with Adidas. However, they charge way too much for its pretty much low-tier features. Interestingly, there are two variants of the F110’s sales package: with sensors for your workouts and without them. The sensor can be tacked to your arm or put into sneakers, although not just about any pair will do – I really tried to find the model designed for this sensor in Moscow, but failed and eventually gave up. Over the two months I have spent with the F110 I’ve used the sensors for my occasional jogging sessions, so I will expand on this functionality in the review. In a word, I liked them. But what I really didn’t like about the F110 was its budget looks and low-grade materials. On the other hand, getting this phone only as a companion during your jogging sessions makes little sense, even for such an eccentric person as me. There are many other specialist devices out there that monitor your pulse and other parameters, plus allow you to upload this data on a PC. Samsung’s misstep with the F110 was the goal to bring about a convergent device, meant to assist you during workouts and also styled to look like a sporty accessory. But the fact is, workouts don’t occupy more than 1-2 hours in the average user’s daily routine, the rest of the time he needs a conventional phone with some sophisticated tricks under the hood. And I suppose you would agree that swapping the SIM card between two phones is quite a pain. So, it turns out that the Samsung F110 is not a clear-cut choice for workout junkies – while it retains the Adidas styling, it doesn’t brim with features and its looks won’t fit in the office environment.
Samsung F480. This is the phone I haven’t been able to part with for over a month already. And it is not because it has a touch screen and many take it as Samsung’s countermeasure to the Apple iPhone. The thing is I really find it comfortable to use and dig the idea of Widgets.
Apart from that it has a metallic casing, 5 Mpix camera (whose image quality is quite average) and a responsive display (although it gets extremely washed out in the sun). The F480 fares well as a fashion-savvy solution too and definitely trumps the Samsung Armani on this front. Plus, given the F480’s more adequate price tag, it will outrun its snazzy brother in arms hands down. We will have the review up in a couple of days, so I won’t expand on the phone’s functionality or design any further.
Perhaps I could have squeezed several more phones into this issue of Spillikins, but I opted not to. The truth is, I still need to deliver the reviews of the LG KF600 and Sony Ericsson C702, so they will make a nice change, given that for the next weeks our focus is going to be on Samsung’s solutions. Oh, and probably we will have some room for a couple of Nokia-branded handsets. Stay tuned for more reviews!
Published 02 May 2008
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