Samsung Galaxy Note. First Look
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First look at Samsung S3650 (Corby)
Over at Samsung they've decided that the segment of touchscreen-enabled solutions is of paramount importance for the company, so that's why they've got plenty of resources locked up in there, allowing their engineers to come up with a variety of models. In 2008-2010 Samsung are planning to saturate the market with phones in all price brackets at 50 Euro steps, similar approach will be exercised for their touchscreen-enabled devices. And while their top-of-the-range phones have been around for quite a while, earlier in 2009 they moved down to the lower price segments with the Samsung S5230 Star, and back then it seemed that the arrival of an even cheaper offering was just a matter of time, as it had to play a major role in Samsung's struggle for a better position in this niche.
The S3650, codenamed Corby, was originally intended as a "killer" solution, designed to become the cheapest offering in its class. They had the right ingredients mixed in too: affordable price tag, youth as the target audience and strong parallels with their previous phones. All they had to do was let the genie out of the bottle. And that was the time first "problems" started to occur.
It's always difficult to predict demand for some specific model. And while phone makers do plan and invest into market researches, the only way to find out the results of their efforts is to put their creations on the shelves of retail stores and wait. In the case of the Samsung S5230 Star they'd thought it would sell well, but could never imagine that it would take the market by storm. In a twisted turn of events, all other unannounced budget phones they had waiting in line became dangerous for their "cash cow". The arrival of a cheaper counterpart of the Star could hurt their own sales and force them to forgo decent profit margins, while the possible benefits seemed shady, as the Star was doing just fine at attracting loyal followers of other brands. The solution they've come up with is nothing new though - they are going to keep the difference between the price tags of the two reasonably small, yet sufficient to prevent any kind of threat to the Star's sales. However, the Corby's price was one of the cornerstones of this phone, so it turns out that Samsung are willing to hold it back a little at start and then catch up when the hype around the Star dies down.
Nevertheless, similar situations occur everywhere these days and most phone makers have been through a bunch of them already. Now let's take a closer look at the Corby's positioning any see whether it'll hold given its revised price tag.
The S3650 is aimed at the younger portion of the audience, as indicated by a variety of colors it's available in, plus two spare covers that will come boxed with it (although the casing's main color will be black). Similar approach was utilized by Nokia for their 5230 (remarkably, it bears the same index as the Star), where they banked on a wide array of color schemes. Unfortunately, though, the Corby's global advertising campaign is centered around color schemes too, rather than functionality or other aspects of the phone, so some might even deem this an imitation of Nokia's experience, but that's not exactly how things stand. Either of the companies has reached this solution independently; and the only thing going for Nokia in this regard is the earlier release of the Nokia 5230.
Phones like the S3650 fall into the category of solutions for first-timers. Its reasonable price tag coupled with a touch screen makes all other aspects take a back seat. Hence the Corby's positioning as an affordable device - indeed, it'd be extremely challenging to come up with any other way to present it. In the case of the Samsung S3650, it has a distinctive youthful appeal, whereas the Star is more versatile. Because they needed to beef up the S3650's price tag, it might get treated as an edition of the S5230 for the youth, even though that's not the case - there is a lot of room for further price correction, but as it stands today, Samsung will gain extra profits, having pulled it closer to the senior offering.
The Corby's casing is made entirely out of pretty cheap glossy plastic that looks decent, even though it's quite a fingerprint-magnet. While its front fascia always remains black, the battery cover may be black, yellow or dark-blue (the third color may vary by region) - two spare panels in total.
It's quite challenging to open the battery compartment cover, even though it's not held by any sophisticated locks or latches. Speaking of build quality, the S3650 feels sturdy, just like you'd expect from a Samsung-branded handset.
Measuring at 103x57x13 mm and tipping our scales at just 92 grams, the Corby is a somewhat chubby phone, yet reasonably palm-friendly and with its own, unique face. Personally I like how its Menu button is shaped. As far as other controls are concerned, on the left-hand side there is the volume rocker and Samsung's proprietary connector (which is another detail that gives away the budget nature of the Corby, as it doesn't house a microUSB socket). On the opposite side there is the display lock key and dedicated camera button.
Samsung Corby vs Samsung Star:
The phone utilizes the display some of you might already know from the Samsung F480 - it measures 2.8 inches from corner to corner (42x57 mm) and is capable of 16 million colors at 240x320 pixel resolution. While the F480's screen was able to display only 262 K colors, the S3650's 16 million colors don't make that much of a difference.
Samsung-branded offerings also employ the VibeZ feature so as to make the casing vibrate a little, confirming your actions, and we do mean "actions", since it gives you an unobtrusive buzz whenever you tap some action-related keys.
The display accommodates up to 8 text and 3 service lines, but you can cram as many as 16 lines into it when reading a message, depending on the font size you have picked. The volume rocker lets change the font size, from large to miniscule. It's quite another matter, though, that that unlike most other offerings, the S3650 sports huge-ish font sizes, which are very readable from almost any distance.
On the downside, the S3650 gets extremely washed out under direct sunlight, which is probably our greatest niggle with this phone.
The phone comes armed with a motion sensor that allows rotating the screen and also scrolling through your galleries by tilting the handset in various directions. Another notable feature found in the S3650 is Gesture Lock, allowing the user to draw a specific letter while at the standby screen that serves as a shortcut to a phone number or an application (up to 9 programmable shortcuts).
The handset utilizes a 1000 mAh Li-Ion battery, rated for 250 hours of standby and 5 hours of talk time. In Moscow the S3650's battery time averaged around 2 days (a bit over one hour of calls, a couple of messages a day, very little email and up to two of radio). Those who are into mail and web, will be able to squeeze around a day of life time from the S3650. But in general, this handset can stay up and running for 1-2 days hands down. It takes the phone around 2 hours to charge up.
Wireless data transfers are by far the most power-hogging department of the S3650.
Bluetooth. The model supports various profiles, such as Headset, Handsfree, Serial Port, Dial Up Networking, File Transfer, Object Push, Basic Printing, A2DP. EDR-enabled Bluetooth 2.1 is onboard. Wireless headsets are handled by the S3650 with ease.
USB-connection. In the menu you may select one of three modes: Media, Mass Storage, Samsung PC Studio. When connected to a PC via USB, the S3650 automatically recharges itself. While there is no Modem mode, you can easily turn the S3650 into a wireless modem with the help of PC Studio.
While in the USB Mass Storage mode, the S3650 shows up on the desktop without requiring you to install any additional drivers, so right after plugging in it's ready to work. Data connection speeds top out 2 Mb /s.
You won't be able to use the S3650's Bluetooth connectivity along with USB - it will require you to disable Bluetooth regardless of its status (connected and transferring data or not), which is very awkward.
There is also EDGE class 10 connectivity for GSM networks.
The phone ships with 65 Mb of onboard memory - this storage space, give or take, is available to the user right out of the box. The memory card is displayed as a separate section, but you can also view both memory card and internal storage at the same time. The S3650 also comes with a file manager, enabling you to copy files to/from the memory card. During our tests the handset experienced no problems with a 32 Gb microSD memory card.
The S3650 comes equipped with a bog-standard 2 Mpix Fixed-focus camera module. The phone enjoys a landscape camera interface and allows the user to tweak all settings and change options on the fly by simply tapping on thumbnails you need right on the screen. Needless to say, this makes the phone's camera app a breeze to work with.
The handset records video in mpeg4 format (also there is an option to disable the sound recording in the camera’s menu). All the settings here aren’t too much different from the single shot mode, except for new resolutions and a bunch of effects. Maximum resolution – 320x240 (15 FPS). Video quality wise the S3650 is an average performer by contemporary standards.
The S3650 turns out to be almost an exact copy of the S5600 - if you've already seen our piece on it, then feel free to skip through this section.
While at the standby screen, the display's base is occupied by a bar containing three shortcuts to the dialing screen, phonebook and menu. On the left is an arrow, tapping which will expand the applications bar, allowing you to drag any Widgets to the screen (their layout is also adjustable). Obviously, the S3650 looks so much nicer with only a handful of windows tacked on, rather than a cacophony of widgets all around its real estate. Let's take a look at what things you can be up on the screen:
It's easy to see that Samsung's Widgets allow the user to tune and tailor the display's layout to his/her own liking. Unfortunately, sooner or later you will run into the only real limitation of the S3650 in this department - physical size of the screen; naturally, we'd like to be able to cram more elements into it. But, it is what it is today, even in this state Widgets is the most flexible solution out there and it's definitely ahead of Nokia's Active Standby.
The S3650 boasts almost twenty widgets, along with a download manager that enables the user to upload new ones from Samsung's web site. Needless to say that no other phone maker can offer anything even remotely as flexible as the S3650's standby screen.
There are three screens available for filling in with widgets, which you can jump between by sweeping your fingers across the screen.
You can enter the main menu by pressing the icon at the bottomof the screen. The main menu is displayed as a 3x4 grid. The touch-sensitive display is easy to handle - you tap the item you need, then bring up a data input field by double-pressing it, since the first one will select it, and the next one will enabled the on-screen keypad. If the phone is slid open, the user is offered to used the hardware buttons, otherwise the only way to go is the S3650's on-screen keypad.
All texting is done via the on-screen keyboard, which is almost identical to that of conventional looking handsets - it houses twelve buttons with a batch of symbols attached to each, so in order to type some particular letter you will need to tap one of these buttons sequentially. The S3650 doesn't have an on-screen QWERTY-keyboard.
Another thing that has gone through a major revamp is the predictive input system T9. You can enable it both for the numberpad in one touch. The good thing about the S3650 is that it tries to predict what letters or words you will punch in next and therefore makes it a lot easier to pick word endings by simply tapping on them.
All applications feature a context-sensitive tool bar at the foot of the screen.
Another area where the S3650 improves over its predecessors is scrolling - sliding your finger down on the left will make lists scroll through much faster than if you were doing that on the right. In case the list you are browsing features names, you can always opt to jump straight to some particular letter, like in the gallery.
On the second screen the middle button serves as a shortcut to the list with the most frequently used contacts (image, name, phone number). And while its location is somewhat questionable, I like the way it look, although obviously, to fully appreciate it, you'll need to assign photos to your favorite contacts.
You can call up the phonebook by tapping the shortcut at the standby screen; you will see a list that contains all entries from both the SIM-card and phone's memory. On the left there is a magnifier-shaped shortcut that allows scrolling all the way down to the letter you need. The drop-down list in the top right corner allows sorting the list by entry types - contacts, groups or favorites.
The only view available for the phonebook is a plain list with contact names - you won't be able to browse assigned images or phone number right there, to do that you will have to enter the detailed view.
You can assign any image, photo or video clips as caller ID. Each entry can have up to 5 phone numbers of different types (mobile, office, home, fax, and other), one of them will be the main number (by default it is the first one you entered). All fields are customizable.
There are two lines for First Name and Last Name (search is performed only by the former), these fields get merged when displayed in the general list, and First Name comes first. For example Eldar Murtazin will be shown only in this order. The length of each field is 20 characters for any supported input language. You can also switch languages on the fly when entering a name.
All entries, regardless of language, are sorted out in the following way - all contacts with headings made in a local language (Russian, for example) go first and then those with names in English. This is a rather convenient and handy list sorting system. Taking into account fast language switch option during the search, it's clear that no language will spoil the experience of working with this phone. The list can be sorted by first or last name.
But let us return to the information entered for a contact. Apart from phone numbers, e-mail address (there may be several of them), a little text memo can be submitted on top of all that. Any music file (including MP3) can be picked as a ring tone for a contact. Three caller groups are provided by default with the possibility for creating any number of additional groups, setting a personal melody and image for each (by default there are three groups). SMS alerts are not customizable.
The phonebook is capable of holding up to 1000 contacts with filled in data fields. Even if all the available blanks are not used, the cap won't get any bigger and will still make two thousands. It is possible to specify in the settings where all new numbers should be kept by default. There is also an option for moving entries from the SIM-card, although the reverse action is denied. According to the developers, PC (MS Outlook in particular) is best for data synchronization with the S3650. Any contact in the form of SMS/MMS, mail message or other text file can be quickly sent through Bluetooth to another device. There are no problems with sending, and the phonebook entry gets beamed to another device, where it is read without any trouble.
The phonebook may contain a business card as well, though its structure copies all the fields found in a regular contact in the phone book.
There can be up to twelve numbers in the fast dial list; separate numbers tied up with a single contact may appear on this list as well.
You can create any number of caller groups, assign up to 20 contacts and customize them with a picture and tune.
On an incoming call, the caller ID picture occupies half of the screen, but that doesn't make indiscernible.
Every list contains up to 30 phone numbers, plus there is a combined list of last calls, SMS messages and emails (up to 90 entries total) with corresponding icons indicating event types. In my opinion, however, the addition of emails makes the list much harder to read if you get dozens of letters every hour, which push all other events to the bottom.
You can quickly switch between the lists. The date and time of any call can be seen in the extended view. Calls from/to one number are grouped up, so that the number standing next to the call specifies the total number of calls made. As always, the overall time of the calls and their cost can be viewed in this menu (if this service is enabled, that is).
For certain numbers you can arrange a black list that will reject all calls coming from these contacts.
Also there is a separate list for sent messages.
Much like other makers, over at Samsung they have forgone that artificial division into SMS-MMS types - you just start composing a message, and only then, depending on the contents, it is attributed to SMS or MMS. The menu still holds an option for switching message into MMS mode (for example when you need to send only text, but to an e-mail address, without calling up the bundled client).
The phone memory can hold up to as many as 500 messages; the handset supports EMS standard compatible with Nokia Smart Messaging. While choosing recipient, you can either select a telephone number from your contacts, or pick one from the call lists or groups. All messages are manageable, this means you are at liberty to move a certain number to your black list, in order to make sure all messages coming from that phone number will be deleted automatically; possibility for moving messages to any folder of your own is also at your disposal. For e-mail, you can move not only addresses to the blacklist, but unwanted subjects as well.
There are no size restrictions as far as received messages go, though an outgoing message's size is limited to 295 KB. As for additional services available with the S3650, message rejection and message retrieval type options are onboard. All messages are stored in general dynamic memory, the same goes for e-mails.
Also there is a useful function for sending SOS-messages - when activated, should you find yourself in an emergency, after pressing the volume key four times, the message "I am in emergency. Please help me" will be sent to contacts submitted earlier, all incoming calls from these numbers upon sending the emergency message will be picked up automatically. Recipients (not more than 5), as well as the number of Repeats may be set up manually, while the text of the SOS-message is not customizable.
The phone's memory can store as many as 300 events of one type - meeting. Day and time as well as end time of an event are indicated for each entry. Alert signal and its duration can be adjusted to your liking; repeatable events are available for setting up (repeat time is also manageable as well as the exceptions). The week and the month calendar views are very convenient with each type of the event having its own color.
Unfortunately, you can't start setting up an even by tapping on some day in the Calendar; plus the S3650 doesn't show three upcoming events for any selected day in the Month view because of its smaller diagonal.
Memo – standard text notes.
Tasks – a to-do list allowing you to set different priorities and adjust alarms for up to 100 tasks.
World time . is displayed for two chosen cities.
Calculator – it divides, multiplies, subtracts and adds and does several more things - quite enough for a mobile calculator.
With the Converter you can operate with different units of measurements as well as with a number of currencies.
FM-radio. You can store up to 99 radio stations in the memory; the range of available frequencies is 87.5-108 MHz. Also, you can enjoy auto-tuning, but particular channels cannot have own names attached - they are always shown as frequencies. The radio implementation is fine, although it doesn't pick up all stations equally well, but on balance, it is quite competent in comparison to other vendors' offerings. The radio can be minimized.
RDS here displays only the station's name in the general list, no advanced options available.
Voice recorder. You can record up to several hours of voice memos with the number of files being unlimited. Basically, limitations on recording duration are set by the user himself, though length of a single recording cannot exceed 1 hour. All the files are stored in a separate folder in the memory bank. The recorder performs well during lectures, conferences and presentations - I could even say that it is a partial substitute for a digital tape recorder.
Countdown timer and Stopwatch have no bells and whistles.
RSS Reader. This is a stand-alone utility for RSS feeds. However, it would make more sense if the RSS Reader was bound up with the web-browser, but this is not the case with the S3650. This way, RSS links are not picked up by the browser, or sent directly to the application. You will need to manually submit a channel address in this app to subscribe, or enter a web address and let the application try to find an RSS channel on it.
While uploading your news feed, the S3650 can upload text, as well as video and audio files, and it is up to you to set the size limit (by default - 5 Mb per file). Regrettably, there no scheduled feed updates are available, thus you will need to refresh the feed manually every time you need hot news.
Bluetooth. As far as this app's outfit goes, it has definitely been reworked thoroughly in the S3650 - now you can view the device map (like in some wireless managers on desktops) or opt to browser the standard version of device list. In terms of Bluetooth, the S3650 is a full-spec solution that won't let you down.
Games. The S3650 supports multitasking for Java applications, meaning that you can fire up a couple of programs, minimize them and bring them back to the top whenever you please. The games pool may vary by market.
Browser – read our lowdown on the browser below, in the section titled "Google".
Community (formerly known as Share Pix) – this utility will soon become a part of the default feature pack in many Samsung-branded phones. It allows setting up an account with one of image-sharing services, so as to make the phone tag and send all your images there without your help. However, when there is no WiFi network to tap into, the S3650 will use your carrier's data connection, which will result in quite hefty bills should you leave this feature enabled.
Google. This menu features Google search, Gmail and Google Maps applications. Let's start with the latter - there are no bells and whistles in the S3650's version of these maps, however its 3.2-inch diagonal does make scrolling through them a much more gratifying experience. On top of that you can jump between satellite and street views, although the satellite images seemed somewhat rough to me, compared to other phones with this feature onboard. But probably it's more due to the fact that the S3650 boasts a sizable diagonal, but lacks in the way of resolution. The phone pinpointed our location via cellular networks without any problems, so all in all, we have no gripes with this department.
The phone comes preinstalled with NetFront 3.5 (WAP-browser ver. 2.0), sporting an improved page rendering algorithm that makes the whole process even smoother and faster. On the downside, unlike its Windows Mobile edition, this browser doesn't have such a wealth of extra options and abilities.
You can set up a number of alarm clocks in one touch or enable/disable the ones you have already created. Every alarm is fully customizable - you can pick any day you want and also use a custom tune.
That's the place to search for all files such as music, pictures, video and sounds. Any uploaded file gets stored here. The disadvantage is that files sometimes are not displayed in the list immediately - in that case you will need to leave the menu and enter it again.
Files and folders can be viewed either as a list or thumbnails. You can mark any number of files. The handset supports Move, Copy and Delete operations, as well as various types of sorting (by type, name or size).
Traditionally this item boasts a standard set of options inside like password protection of selected sections. No special or quaint settings are available with the S3650. It only comes with an assortment of wallpapers and the ability to swap them randomly. The S3650 comes preloaded with profiles enabling the user to change the settings momentarily.
The font size, as well as its color and style are also adjustable.
The user can also modify vibration power for the VibeZ.
Mobile Tracker – submit a phone number, where notifications will be sent to in case SIM-card was changed - that message will contain number of the SIM-card being used with the handset. This section is protected with password, so that no one other than you or someone else who knows the password could disable the Tracker. Should your device have the SIM-card switched once, the specified number will receive one message instantly, and one more each time a new card is plugged in. A fetching feature which can prove to be of much help in case the handset is lost or stolen.
ÒThe S3650 comes with is a typical latest-gen Samsung player. The integrated mp3 player, supports random, sequential and cyclic playback. Mp3 files can be uploaded onto the handset both directly over Bluetooth and through the sync application or Windows Media Player. There are no limitations on tags and names of music files. Bitrates are not something that really matters either - the handset easily deals with all available formats and supports WMA, AAC, eAAC, eAAC+.
The title of the currently played back track is displayed as well as the number of the remaining tracks. There is an equalizer is embedded in the S3650, but no way to tune it. Your tracks can be played through the stereo headset as well as the speakerphone. The volume bar has 14 scales on it. And of course the user can make up their own playlists. The player can work in minimized mode - in this case the display will show current track title and music controls, which is a good thing.
The player boasts the following filters: all tracks, recently played, most popular, artists, albums, genres and composers. Filters may be edited in the Settings menu (so that they'll take account of some particular options). The S3650 also sports Album Arts support.
Speaking of new options, the player has obtained the rating system, enabling you to award any track with one to five stars. The maker has driven the integration with Windows Media Player as deep as it has never been before; actually, this manager also sports the rating system.
The bundled headset has a socket for plugging in custom earphones and ensures pretty good sound quality overall. Generally speaking, as a music-minded solution, the S3650 comes close to Sony Ericsson's Walkman range, especially as far as the first generation is concerned. While at the standby screen, if you have the music player minimized, you will see its controls and current track title right on the display.
While in the speakerphone mode, the S3650 was not the best performer we had seen - it played somewhat distorted sound and obviously lacked power, even though the sound didn't feel muffled.
Find Music (formerly known as Music Recognition) – a mere alternative to Sony Ericsson's Track ID service. The gist of this service is this: you record a short clip from some music track you fancy and then the phone finds you its title and artist.
Putting it short, Picsel Viewer is an application that opens MS Office files (for instance, MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint), Adobe Acrobat (PDF), picture and video formats on the phone. The attraction of this technology is its speed, when a 20 MB PDF file takes a couple of seconds to open, then you can quickly page through it, zoom in/out and rotate pages. No editing abilities here, only viewing is available with the S8300, but that is pretty much enough already, especially considering there is no need in extra conversions.
As the chart above implies, the Samsung S3650 is a copie of the S5600 with a Star-esque price tag, yet without 3G support. But it doesn't stand in the latter's way simply because the Star packs in a superior display and boats an on-screen QWERTY keyboard, which make it a clear winner.
We were content with the S3650's reception quality, although it wasn't much different from other phones in this class. The ring tones volume was pretty average, and we even missed some calls when the phone was stuffed in a bag. The vibro alert was nothing to shout about either, as it hadn't changed at all, compared the S5600.
The Corby has what it takes to become a best seller, but its fate hinges entirely on how soon Samsung will send its price through the floor. At launch it'll retail for 225 USD, which is around the upper limit for this particular phone, although Samsung might opt to sell it for the same money as the Star, in which case it'll become uncompetitive.
As far as it direct competition goes, the only phone that comes to my mind is the Nokia 5230, but in all honesty the latter is a smartphone - some will see it as an advantage, while others won't pay attention to this fact at all. Given the Nokia 5230's price of 149 Euro, the Corby's current price tag seems somewhat inadequate. On the other hand, in Russia the Nokia 5230 will come boxed with Nokia Comes with Music service, which will boost its price tag all the way up to 260 Euro, allowing Samsun to keep the Corby's price on the current level until Q4 2009. Although in fact all they need to do is reach a 25 Euro gap in order to keep the Samsung S3650 afloat, which doesn't seem too difficult and Samsung will definitely cope with this task.
Published 01 September 2009
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