Samsung Galaxy Note. First Look
Today, large companies, especially corporate giants like Samsung, do not surprise users with extraordinary products...
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Samsung F700 – sparking a new range
Even before the New Year hits the streets, a number of European countries will see the Samsung F700 on shelves. This model is remarkable for having a lot of obscure facts and reports piled up around it since its original announcement in Barcelona. Initially the F700 was said to run Windows CE with Samsung’s user interface built atop, and the maker supposedly dumped all abilities of that operating system. However the F700 turns out to be somewhat different – the device is powered by Samsung’s proprietary OS, coming preinstalled with all latest and greatest phones from the company, so technically, all they have done is add support for touch-screens. I would like to put a particular emphasis on the fact that neither this handset nor those to come are smartphones. They are all positioned as fashion-savvy solution for easy-and-breezy Web-surfing, chiefly thanks to decent and huge displays. In other words, they will be sharing one niche with the Apple iPhone. In fact these two are simply bound to get faced off over and over again, and Apple’s offspring will be coming out victorious every time and these is a slew of reasons for that. But the main thing is that the Samsung F700 and those offerings that will follow shape up a whole new device line-up, allowing consumers to make a free choice. For that matter, they will be available in regions where the Apple iPhone is slotted for the next year at best. There is much room for further development of these solutions, and I suppose Samsung will prioritize this line in 2007-2009.
What’s inside? Touch-screen based version specialties
It wasn’t a mistake when we said that operating system employed by the F700 is no different from Samsung’s contemporary models – after twiddling with the F700 for like five minutes you will come to realize that most menus seems to have been carried over from the company’s latest solutions. Basically, there is only a couple of minor thing settings the F700 apart from the Samsung G600 or Samsung G800. Specifically, while on those phones you hand to press the navigation key or the joystick to scroll horizontally, with the F700 you just need to tap the place where the desired item is located. It is very straightforward and intuitive.
A seasoned user of Samsung-branded phones came to grips with the F700 in a couple of minutes – the most important thing he had to catch was the way the central hardware key worked, which in fact did the same thing as that found on the iPhone. Perhaps you might need some time to get used to scrolling through lists with your fingers, but that’s pretty much about it – other than that, you will experience no “hardships” handling the F700, as all your experience of playing around with the previous models will do here. And this is a great advantage of this phone.
Data input is done with fingers – no stylus ships with any of the new models. Nevertheless, there are two keyboard types available – a full-size on-screen QWERTY and an on-screen phone-esque keypad. The latter type is utilized by the Samsung F700, so you see a number pad on its screen with three symbols standing next to each ‘button’, and it works like those number pads you see on ordinary phones. And that’s about time we started protesting, wondering why they would even need a display like this on the F700 then and seeing how all benefits of this touch-sensitive screens are negated. But Samsung’s explanation is very adequate – models carrying a hardware thumbboards will not come equipped with on-screen QWERTY-keyboards. This way, the maker tries to make the users turn to hardware keys more often and focus on the handset’s strengths. And slender phones having no thumbboard with them will have a QWERTY-keyboard on their screens, moreover, unlike the iPhone, they already have both landscape and portrait modes available. In other words, regardless of the way you hold your phone, you will be able to type in the most convenient fashion. Other amenities include language settings, specifically you can change your input language in any menu. As the manufacturer claims, adding new languages will be painless, since they will be supported as well as the current language packages.
By default the display features a quick launch bar for the dialing screen, call list, two other applications. The screen’s center is occupied by a blue rectangular which stands for five shortcuts. If you sweep your fingers across the current time bar, you will call up the Calendar.
Unlike the demo units showcased in Barcelona, a couple of menu views and some other perks are missing from the up-to-date version of the F700.
Looking at the letdowns, the F700 will be criticized for, these will be the font height and somewhat boxy interface, reason being that the interface hasn’t been tailored to fit in such models coming with huge screens – what we see with the F700 is just a tweaked version of the basic edition. As you can see, there are some negatives to this as well.
Size, ergonomics, build quality
Only now does Samsung start getting into metal and metal parts for its solutions. At the same time, the Internet portfolio all models coming with the F index on them are made of plastic, which makes for their feather-light feel. Compared with the F700 the iPhone feels twice as heavy, even though the difference doesn’t get beyond a couple of grams.
The F700 measures up at 104x50x16.4 mm, which is pretty much acceptable and generally akin to the average size of ordinary phones. And given that this handset has a real thumbboard under its hood, we couldn’t be happier with its dimensions.
The Samsung F700’s greatest letdown is its plastic – while glossy and luxurious, it pales in comparison to the iPhone’s metal casing. And there is nothing that would save the day for the F700 – it really seems to be somewhat cheap. Probably, this is partly due to its being so light, when you don’t expect it to be, and what you expect to feel is another Nokia E90 weight-wise. Not always does being a lightweight aid the way a phone is perceived – sometimes it all goes sideways, and the F700 is one of these cases.
Having played around with the models that are still to come in this range, I can say for sure that being an underweight is rather a negative in this case – the owners are very likely to demand a solid feel, while these handsets just don’t deliver.
The slider action of the F700 is fine – you’ll have no problems zipping it open, and on top of that there is almost no chance of opening it accidentally. So don’t worry about your phone springing open in your pocket all of a sudden.
Samsung delivers, iPhone lacks
I’m not going to enrage all fans of the iPhone here, and will rather notice that all calling options of Samsung are way better implemented. You no longer need to guess when some SMS-message was sent, calls are handled pretty well. What is more, the F700 also offers a tidy 3 Mpix camera, yet a less sophisticated MP3-player and video player. As it stands today, they are no different from Samsung’s default applications found on other handsets.
The models to come will sport some of the Samsung F500’s traits in the video department and touch-based playback control (this time around with the display alone). But given the chance of seeing a substantial update to the iPhone’s abilities in summer 2008, it is pretty hard to tell which one will come out on top. Personally, I suppose Apple will have the upper hand – at any rate, the second generation of the Touch promises to be the most enticing video player out there (among portable devices). A couple of the Touch’s solutions, although boosted, will migrate to the iPhone, even though these two won’t be identical like the first generations of the phone and the player are today.
Putting NetFront 3.4 and the iPhone’s Safari face to face, I can’t really tell which one is better. The former has been tweaked for mobile devices and can crop pages to fit them into the display, so you don’t need the scroll bar. On the other hand, Safari is not without its visual appeal, and soon it will gain support for several network protocols, so it’ll get even sweeter. If it was a free choice, Safari would be the best way to go. But with the Samsung’s phone you can opt for Opera Mini, which is worth setting your eyes on.
Another thing of note – the Samsung F700 comes with full Java support (in the sense that it packs Java under its hood, however all malfunctions and problems have been carried over from other Samsung-branded handsets). The user can install own custom applications, and has access to a bunch of preinstalled games. And again, this is a phone in the fist place, not a network terminal like that from Apple. Personally, I found BeJeweled to be the most appealing game in the standard suit.
By the way, tweaking Java-applications so as to get them to work with a touch-screen doesn’t take long (according to Samsung’s representatives), which, obviously, is a good thing. But what I noticed about these devices is that conventional controls are still in business, meaning that you can tap the display or press hardware buttons (if any).
So we run right into a paradox: the iPhone’s weaknesses are what the Samsung’s offspring is good at. This sparks a new niche on the market inasmuch as these two offerings don’t really cross each other’s roads. And I can hardly imagine an Apple fan considering a Samsung’s phone as an option on his short list – the target audiences are polarized and this isn’t a bad thing.
Take the following fact as a fresh rumor – the Serenata, designed together with B&O, isn’t the last handset of this type we’ll see. There is a chance that the next device in this line will be a luxury edition of the F700. And in case they won’t let the B&O designers loose, keep the Serenata’s top-notch sonic experience and Samsung’s trademark features, plus high-quality materials, they might even roll out a Nokia 8800 SE-grade phone. But I have a sneaky feeling that these designers will make us feel crippled and wish we had somewhat different arms and ears. Which is a pity – Samsung’s solutions of this type have enormous potential. In 2-3 years’ time Samsung will get the aura of a technology-savvy maker – this is what only Nokia and Sony Ericsson can show off these days, and what Motorola has spilled over the past few years.
What’s coming next – a few final words
Samsung is planning to roll out around five F700-esque devices in 2008 – in London I had a chance to play around with two prototypes. One of these is a narrow edition of the Samsung F700 (and slender on top of that) with no keys on it or inside; obviously, it won’t escape from the “iPhone lookalike” nickname. The other model retains a couple of hardware buttons, but the rest of the concept has remained intact.
Published 07 November 2007
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