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Review of GSM/UMTS-smartphone Samsung i7110
S60-based solutions are becoming one of Samsung’s top priorities these days. For instance, their flagship in this field, the stellar INNOV8 trumps all other phones available to date and is the most capable offering hands down. And for some reason, someone inspired by this breakthrough, thought that the Samsung i7110 would also be another powerhouse of this caliber and spread the word. However, the reality is that Nokia won’t let Samsung feel at home on its very own turf – while an “all-in-one” solution wasn’t a source of major annoyance for the Finnish giant, for they aren't eager to dissolve their current focus with the release of a new flagship product, the mid-tier is Nokia’s bread and butter. In fact, they are doing everything possible to keep the bar on an unreachable level for the rest of the pack; to put it simply Nokia has already become synonymous with “best value for money” (not only in terms of hardware, but software as well). Aiming to take on the Nokia N79, the Samsung i7110 falls flat on numerous fronts. Basically, it’s the same as the Samsung L870 - designed as a real alternative to the Nokia E66, it turned out to be a bog-standard mid-range slider. In the case of the i7110, Samsung claim they feel there’s much “potential” in it, but it seems more like an act of self-deception. As a matter of fact, Samsung are about to fall in the same pit as with their previous generation of S60-based phones: while their ultimate goal is to offer the best price/quality ratio around and grab a substantial chunk of the market with it, in reality most of much-hyped abilities look good only on paper and are rarely practical. Not that the Samsung i7110 is such a lackluster phone – by no means. Samsung’s greatest problem is that they position it as an alternative to the Nokia N79, whereas it’s miles behind the latter in almost every substantive manner. But, first things first.
Wrapping up our story on the i7110’s positioning, it’s worth mentioning that it’s a mass-market solution for those who are in the market for do-it-all smartphone functionality. So, it would seem it should enjoy great uptake, but the i7110 is more likely to follow in the footsteps of the Samsung i550.
Design-wise the i7110 takes a lot of cues from the Samsung U800; but unlike the L700 where the degree of borrowing was within reason, this phone is a direct replica of the U800. And the styling that was more than passable in a more petite phone doesn’t look so good in a 118x52x12.9 mm phone – it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how much bulkier it it, compared to the U800’s 111x46x9.9 mm. At the same time, the i7110 hasn’t gained much weight and tips our scales at just 112 grams (as opposed to the U800’s 100 g).
Our biggest gripe with the i7110 is the feel that it delivers – it’s cumbersome and much more so than the plasticky Nokia N79 that is considerably easier to handle. One of the arguments in favor of such a bulky build used primarily by those who have never had a chance to play around with the Samsung i7110 is that it feels more “robust”. Indeed, there is almost nothing wrong with the phone on this handset, except for one thing – the battery cover. Somehow its latch ended up right under the keypad area, so whenever you punch a button you’ll feel how the lid springs up and down a little. Over the month we had the i7110 in our pockets, the batter cover loosened up, although not to the extent when we needed to start worrying, but it was noticeable.
Topping the display is the forward-facing camera for videoconferencing; housed on the left-hand spine is the volume rocker together with the interface connector for plugging in a headset or a charger. The good thing about this port is that it’s hidden behind a sliding plastic door that will never get lost or torn away. On the right there are the memory expansion slot, programmable button (by default it launches the bundled FM-transmitter) and dedicated camera key. Also there is the lanyard eyelet.
Both the front fascia and rear plate are made of metal. As of today the i7110 only in one color, and while they might roll out more color schemes down the line, it seems pretty unlikely.
The i7110 comes equipped with a 2.6-inch OLED display (39x53 mm) capable of 262 K colors and 240x320 pixel resolution. As far as color reproduction goes, it's a decent screen that outputs a bright and crips image indoors, although it gets a tad washed out outdoors, especially under direct sunlight.
Compared to the Nokia N79, it’s a clear winner, although the i7110 can’t stand comparison to Nokia’s latest and greatest all-in-one N85 (Samsung i7110 on the left).
Samsung i7110 vs Nokia N79:
Samsung i7110 vs Nokia N85:
The screen can accommodate up to 12 text and 3 service lines, all with large and readable fonts, which comes in handy especially when typing an SMS or dialing a phone number.
While the i7110 rotates its screen automatically in all menus and applications (even the dialing screen), depending on how you hold the phone, we found that it was a bit too sensitive, much more so than Nokia’s phones. I would recommend Samsung’s engineers either make it adjustable or at least less responsive in general – the i7110’s picture can rotate at any moment when you don’t expect it to, which may get annoying.
The i7110 utilizes a plain metallic slab for its numeric keypad, much like most other slim phones do, and while there’s plenty of space for more conventional buttons, Samsung have decided to stick to a U800-esque setup. We were pleased by how responsive and tactile the buttons were. All keys are lit in bright white, which is well-visible in various environments. The navigation pad was easy to tap as well, although there is one thing of note about it – as you have already seen, incorporated right in the middle is the optical joystick, which should be the first thing you disable in the i7110’s menu, for it mars the menu browsing experience big time. The only situation you will actually enjoy it is when skimming through web-pages, as it is a decent replacement for a mouse pointer.
The navigation cluster feels somewhat crammed together, which makes for accidental misclicks. When you tap the “C” button, the phone will pull up a prompt that it’s impossible to delete menu items, which is especially odd since it wasn’t your original intention at all.
Another thing of note about the i7110’s keypad is that it houses an 8-way navigation key, that comes in handy only when browsing the main menu, though.
The handset utilizes a 1200 mAh Li-Ion cell. The maker i7110’s cell as being good for up to 430 hours of standby and 11 hours of talk time. Within European networks the phone lasted around 2.5 days (one hour of calls total and up to three hours of music). At the same time, in Moscow it managed to stay online for 2 days at 1.5 hours of calls. That’s why the i7110 will stay up and running for at least 2 days with average load, however under certain circumstances you might even squeeze up to 3 days of operation out of it. It takes the handset 2 hours to charge from empty to full. No higher-capacity cells are available for this model.
We managed to get 14 hours of non-stop music from the i7110 (radio module on) with the highest volume settings and bundled headset plugged in.
USB. You pick one of these 3 connection modes in the USB settings of the i7110:
Data transfer speeds top out at around 2 Mb/s.
Bluetooth. The phone comes with Bluetooth v2.0, with support for EDR. The following profiles are supported:
The top speed you can get with the i7110’s Bluetooth connection is around 100 Kb/s. We also tested its A2DP profile in pair with the Sony Ericsson DS970 headset, which worked just fine – we managed our play list, skipped within tracks and adjusted volume seamlessly, however we couldn’t make current track’s title show up on the headset’s display.
Wi-Fi. This handset comes armed with Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11 g) wireless connectivity. All security standards are supported: WEP , WPA , WPA 2, with other advanced settings available.
The phone ships with 66 Mb of onboard memory - this storage space, give or take, is available to the user right out of the box. The memory card (hot-swappable) is displayed as a separate section, but you can also view both memory card and internal storage at the same time. The i7110 also comes with a file manager, enabling you to copy files to/from the memory card. In our test the handset had no problems handling a 8 Gb microSD memory card.
While the i7110 is no different from most other today’s S60-based offerings, Samsung’s engineers have made a blunder even this department – our sample unit refused to run 3D tests, for more details check out our video.
The handset employs a 5 Mpix CMOS camera which stands very close to that found in other Samsung-branded phones. You can launch the camera interface by tapping the dedicated button located on the right-hand side.
The camera application enjoys landscape layout, otherwise shooting with you would’ve been a pain. Various shortcuts pop up right on the navigation screen, including Macro Mode, Flash, Timer and Exposure. Since the numberpad is always exposed when shooting, you will be able to use the buttons over there as shortcuts too.
The camera supports the following resolutions:
Several shooting modes are at your disposal:
Other settings include special effects (B&W, Sepia, Negative, Sharpen), white balance, ISO (50, 100, 200, 400), timer (3, 5 or 10 seconds), antishake functionality (that kicks in very rarely, though), face recognition (which is what Samsung’s stand-alone digital cameras do), which works just fine, although fails at times when there are several people standing together. The macro mode is pretty good, just like on most other Samsung-branded devices. Plus the i7110 allows saving geo-tags for any image.
The LED flash is not particularly bright, but it does the job. It is quite another matter, though that shots taken in the dark are far from decent, as the matrix obviously lacks sensitivity.
Samsung i7110 vs Nokia N79:
Video. For videos the i7110 proposes exactly the same pool of effects as for the single shot mode, plus most settings are identical, bar the resolutions, there are only two available for the video mode: 640x480 pixels (30 FPS) and 320x240 pixels (60 or 120 FPS). Maximum clip duration – up to 1 hour.
The i7110 runs with Route 66 for its navigation package - basically, it's not the most widely adopted solution among phone makers. The problem is, however, that the application that comes boxed with this phone is a mere demo-version, so that you will have to buy maps for your region separately. For example, a full Western Europe package retails for 99.99 Euro, whereas maps for any country in this region will set you back around 50 Euro.
Unfortunately, Route66’s special page for the owners of Samsung-branded products offers no additional information as to how it works etc – all you get there is a link to their online store. Another thing you might be interested to ponder over is that Route66’s maps are based on Navteq’s data. Curiously, though, Nokia owns Navteq, meaning that Route66’s maps will get all updates and fixes later than Nokia’s offerings. But what’s really going for Nokia on this front is that while there is little to no difference between their Maps application an Route66 in terms of functionality, they ship all phones with a free map pack, which means all you will have to pay is voice-guided navigation, but that’s optional and they don’t charge as much.
Apart from Route 66, the Samsung i7110 comes preinstalled with Google Maps that was a cinch to handle, but was a real data traffic hog.
We also carried out a number of field tests in Germany, where we compared the Nokia N79’s Maps 2.0 with the Samsung i7110’s native app. Unsurprisingly, we didn’t spot any major differences in the sense of accuracy, however the N79 managed to get a GPS fix much faster (in around 4 minutes, as opposed to the i7110’s full seven minutes), plus it lasted longer (3.5 hours or so, against 2.5 hours of juice offered by its vis-a-vis).
If it’s navigation that you are after, the Samsung i7110 pales in comparison to the Nokia N79 in this particular department. Shorter battery times, expensive maps that you’ll need to install manually – all these glitches make it pretty useless as a navigation-savvy device.
All applications that have something to do with the i7110’s music department (music player, radio, Internet radio) have been carried over from the FP2’s standard suite of features and are basically nothing to out of the ordinary. In terms of sound quality, the i7110 is a standard Nokia’s S60 fare and is little to no different from the Nokia N79, meaning that while it is has no serious glitches on this front, it still can’t be viewed as a full-time replacement for a dedicated music player. Although, people who tend to listen to their tunes in music-unfriendly environments (subway, trains, etc) won’t feel any real difference.
The lack of a remote control is a real problem with the i7110; although at least the bundled headset features a 3.5 mm audio jack, which makes the whole experience a bit better.
On the downside, its FM transmitter that can beams music, didn’t manage to impress us. It is a quaint feat that may even settle down on Nokia’s solutions, but by and large it is of no real use. Unfortunately, this decent idea is drowned by poor technical implementation, which is not the letdown of this particular handset, but rather all devices of this type. This weakish transmitter can’t make for a stable and strong signal, therefore allowing for noise and static, that’s why even audio books get pretty irritating to listen (as far as using the transmitter in car goes).
FM radio – this application sports a standard interface, with an ability to save up to 20 stations. When tested in the city, the radio performed well. On the downside, though, the i7110 lacks auto-tuning, so you’ll have to search for all stations manually.
QuickOffice here comes in a shrunk edition. Specifically, with the version found in the Nokia i7110 you won't be able to edit office documents. To go beyond the Read Only mode you will need to pay extra money.
Adobe PDF – allows reading PDF-files, no complaints about the application.
ZIP – enables you to extract files from archives or create new archives.
SmartReader – this application scans business cards and saves all relevant information into new entries in the phonebook.
Another application that goes beyond the standard suite of features found in Nokia's S60-based phones. There are three modes available with this Video editor - the first and the least sophisticated one allows you to edit video clips (clip length, start time, sound track, sound recording etc).
The second mode is more a valuable addition to the default functionality of the system. With a bunch of photos on your hands, you can create a CIF, QVGA or QCIF clip. In a word, you pick all photos you will need, set the background music and then tweak transition effects. There is a multitude of options available in this mode, but it doesn't get too complicated - on the contrary, everything is pretty intuitive. Naturally, you will need some skills and taste for this, but it's worth your time. And this is by no means a replacement for the slide-show mode, you just get a short video that can be shared right away.
The last mode you can find in this Video editor is 'StoryBoard', that is quite similar to the previous one, however here you can throw photos and video into your clip. All other settings have been left intact.
Games. The phone comes preinstalled with Fifa08, which is nothing to shout about, though. Some regions will also get Asphalt as an additional game.
The CNN application allows reading this agency’s official news feed. Also onboard is Yahoo!Go.
Both the N79 and i7110 belong to the same generation of phones, pack in quite similar feature pools and therefore are bound to battle for the consumer’s wallet. Let’s take a quick look at the differences between them:
As you can see, these two phones have got a lot in common. Going for the Samsung i7110 are its metal casing and a superior display, although both these features come at a price – it’s considerably bulkier. On top of that, it doesn’t have a 3.5 mm audio jack, nor does it feature a lens cover (even though all things considered its image quality is on a par with the N79). As far as software goes, saying that the i7110 is just the same as the N79 would be a stretch. The former doesn’t come with support for N-Gage gaming platform, all its standard applications are pretty straightforward (especially when it comes to the Gallery). All in all, the N79 packs in a wealth of tiny tweaks and feats that make all the difference in the user experience (multimedia menu, WiFi setup and network locator, etc). Another fact confirming our guess that the i7110’s software hasn’t been properly optimized is that it offers significantly shorter battery times in most modes (like for GPS navigation, where the N79 can stay up and running almost 1.5 times longer).
With that said, the Samsung i7110 will appeal only to this brand’s die-hard fans, as Samsung haven’t managed to make it stand out from the crowd of other S60-based phones. They tried to come up with a sound answer to Nokia's mass-market offerings, but as it turns out, Samsung still have a lot of room for improvement.
As far as reception quality goes, we were satisfied with the i7110, plus it delivered audible ring tones (even with a single loudspeaker) and a strong vibro alert. Nevertheless, it proved to be quieter than the Nokia N79 in most environments.
To be frank, I had to rewrite this article several times. And the reason is simple – it didn’t really like the Samsung i7110. It’s just one of those cases, when you can’t see anything positive about this particular phone, no matter how you look at it. Furthermore, I couldn’t get rid of the feeling that the i7110 was in fact the same U800 but on steroids. Adding to the overall confusion were several minor problems that I thought had been long since dealt with in FP2: like when you’re trying to beam a file to another device and suddenly get a prompt that you have just run out of memory, even though there is around 6 Gb of unused space available on the memory card. How do you like that? It seems the developers simply overlooked this glitch. Or what about a really amusing pop-up window notifying you that claims your PC (when transferring data to it) doesn’t support all file formats?
But there are some good things about the i7110 as well, such as out-of-the-box DivX support that saves you the trouble of installing third-party applications. Also it’s got a reasonably good camera and a standard pack of most essential applications. On balance, the Samsung i7110 seems to have it all, but turns out to be a soulless device – a mere wannabe, whose extras and unique feats are thin on the ground.
The phone is set to arrive in November and will retail for around 400 Euros. I believe it won’t be too long before they will start adjusting the i7110’s price tag, primarily because its sales definitely won’t live up to the expectations. All up, its story repeats that of many other Samsung-branded S60 offerings – unfortunately, it’s got no bells and whistles that would serve as its major selling points. The sales package is relatively thin, the preinstalled applications are nothing out of the ordinary and they haven’t added any new feats to S60 FP2’s basic functionality. All in all, the i7110 is a mixed bag that I wasn’t able to enjoy.
Published 13 November 2008
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