The Good Samsung Sync has an attractive design that incorporates a beautiful internal display. It also supports Cingular Music and offers a full range of features including support for HSDPA networks, Bluetooth stereo, and a satisfactory 2MP camera.
The Bad Samsung Sync sometimes differed in average call quality, and we were not impressed by the navigation elements and the keyboard. It also does not come with a USB cable in the box.
The Bottom Line Samsung Sync is a great choice for users with crazy music phones, but the quality of its calls may be better.
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Samsung Sync (SGH-A707)
After Sprint and Verizon Wireless introduced their music download services in late 2005 and early 2006, we were left wondering when Cingular Wireless would make its own music move. This year, the carrier made some hints in this direction, but only earlier this month Cingular finally launched Cingular Music and Samsung Sync. Also called the Samsung SGH-A707, Sync is not just an original handset to support Cingular music; it also supports the HSDPA Cingular 3.5G network and offers a 2MP camera, Bluetooth, speaker and external memory slot. The design is attractive, though decidedly invisible, and its performance is acceptable, despite some fuzzy calls. Synchronization is available for a very affordable $ 49 per service.
Samsung Sync SGH-A707
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|Price||—||$870 Walmart||$294 Amazon||$650 Amazon||$200 Amazon|
Let’s be honest: the Samsung Sync flip phone is not a fashionista when it comes to design. It’s not ugly by any means, but black is pretty ordinary, and form factor is tad box. At 3.46×1.89×0.68 inches, it will not fit in a compact parking space, but still slips easily into a bag and into smaller pockets. And while it’s subtle, we love that the SGH-A707 doesn’t blindly pursue the tired grip of thin phones. It’s also a hefty weight (3.85 ounces), but you’ll get a well-designed phone that has a solid, comfortable feel in your hand. The hinge feels especially sturdy.
Although Sync’s external screen is small (1 inch; 96×96 pixels) for the overall size of the phone, it displays almost all the information it owns, including date, time, signal strength, and battery life. It also displays the ID of the recorder and acts as a viewfinder for the camera lens that is directly above the screen. Unfortunately, there is no flash that contributes to the dim environment, and only the contrast of the display can change. Below the display are touch-sensitive music items that allow you to play and pause music, fast-forward and rewind between tracks when the phone is closed. The controls were comfortable and not too sensitive – in fact, they required a firm touch. To start the player when the front flap is closed, you need to press the silver at the bottom of the right spine, which also activates the camera and the call profile list. Above is a very in-depth Micro SD card slot (you’ll need sharp nails to remove the card), and a headset / charger and a volume socket on the left spine. Stereo speakers sit on both sides of the front cover.
Sync external music controls make it easy to access your music player.
The internal Sync display is huge – 2.24 inches (176×220 pixels) and it supports 262,000 colors. It’s very easy on the eyes, offering bright colors that make your eyes look and read text. Like most Samsung displays, it is difficult to see in direct light, but you can change the brightness, backlight time, size, color and font type. We continue to enjoy the simpler menu structure of Samsung – pop-up help menus are especially cool – and we have no trouble navigating the various options. Our one minor dispute is that the fingerprints and blotches are easily displayed.
The SGH-A707 navigation array directly below the display has its good and bad points. The keys are large and well spaced, but we want them to have a more tactile feel. And they are almost level with the surface of the phone, so they are usually slippery. In addition, the OK button opens the web browser in the standby mode rather than opening the menu, an arrangement that we will consider more convenient. A four-way toggle indicates a shortcut to four user-defined shortcuts, while a convenient optional shortcut button is located just to the left of the toggle switch. There are also two soft keys, a dedicated music player start button, the traditional Talk and End / Power buttons and a clear key.
Sync backlit keyboard buttons are similar to their navigation counterparts. Although they are large and well spaced, they are almost flat with the surface of the phone and quite smooth. We didn’t have any opposite sets, but it wasn’t easy to feel.
Although Sync multimedia skills are a star attraction, we will first get some key suggestions. A large phone book contains 1000 contacts with a room in each entry for six phone numbers, two email addresses, two web addresses, a nickname, date of birth, instant messaging, company name, position, two street addresses and notes (SIM cards with 250 additional names). You can save callers to groups, connect them to a photo, or assign them a ringtone for a caller ID. It’s worth noting that Sync comes with only 10, 64-chord polyphonic tones, which is low enough for such a multimedia phone. Other standard features include vibration mode, text and multimedia messages, voice memo recorder, alarm clock, calendar, to-do list, notepad, calculator, currency and unit converter, world clock, timer, and stopwatch. If you’re tired of talking, the SGH-A707 also offers an integrated Oz email client for Yahoo, Hotmail, and AOL accounts, and supports AOL, Yahoo, and MSN instant messaging. Full Bluetooth with stereo profile is on board, and the speaker, USB connection and modem capability add up to high-end options.
As a HSDPA phone, Sync supports wireless broadband speed data over the 3.5G Cingular network. Fortunately, the phone is backwards compatible with the carrier’s slower (but still 3G) UMTS network, so you get lightning coverage in most urban areas. You can enjoy the standard streaming video options available through the carrier’s Cingular Video network, including a variety of news, sports, weather and entertainment. MobiRadio and MobiTV support are included, and HSDPA support promises to upload large files quickly.
As mentioned earlier, Cingular Music is the carrier’s response to existing Sprint and Verizon music download services. But instead of creating his own music store like his competitors did, Cingular decided to partner with existing music services such as Yahoo Music, Napster to Go and eMusic. Cingular Music subscribers buy music from these partners either on their PCs or on their phones. On the surface, everything sounds fine, but here’s an important look at the moment: songs purchased on the A707 will only be downloaded to the user’s PC, not to the phone. To transfer your recordings to your phone, you will need to transfer them using a USB cable. Although this is annoying in itself, neither the memory card nor the USB cable comes with your phone, so you must buy them separately. We would like Cingular to include at least one accessory, even if they make a few bucks more. Cingular says it will activate wireless music downloads in the near future, but the process of getting tracks to your phone is still quite sketchy.
On the other hand, the pricing scheme of Cingular Music seems quite reasonable. If you use Napster, subscribers pay a regular Napster-Go-Go subscription fee of $ 14.95 per month. When buying a phone, a new service called Napster Mobile allows users to view and buy songs from their phone for as little as $ 0.99, which is much cheaper than the $ 2.50 maximum Sprint fee per track and Verizon’s $ 1.99 charge. Yahoo Music subscription costs $ 11.99 a month at no extra charge, and eMusic offers dedicated content for Cingular Sony Ericsson Walkman phones, including the W810i or W300i. For even more musical entertainment, Cingular Music offers access to 25 XM satellite channels for $ 8.99 per month, song identification service to detect mysterious tracks heard on the radio, access to Billboard Mobile to receive music news and information , broadcast music videos, and other community music discussion sites via text or instant messaging.
The music player interface is a bit versatile and has simple animated graphics with track title, artist and album on both internal and external screens. We were hoping for the album art too, but it is great for listening to tunes. Features were also limited. Although you can create playlists and choose between shuffle and repeat modes, there is no equalizer. But of course we love that Sync supports a stereo Bluetooth profile. When music is played when the phone is closed, the external controls and display become inactive after a few seconds. Although this time does not change, a quick push of a button on the right spine will make them active again. Watch for a detailed study of Cingular Music and the A707 player.
Sync has no flash.
Sync has a high quality 2 megapixel camera that takes pictures in six resolutions from 1600×1200 to 240×180. Other features were rich and included five quality settings, night mode, 2x magnification (not used in the highest resolution), multithot with three speed variants, mosaic mode, three color effects, 20 interesting frames, timer, settings white balance and three shutter sounds (silent option). We liked the wealth of camera shortcuts, but the camera switched between options. The camcorder shoots clips in two resolutions (176×144 and 128×96) with a camera-like sound and editing capability. Clips intended for multimedia messages are limited to 45 seconds; otherwise, you can shoot as much as the available memory allows. Synchronization has a healthy 50 MB of shared memory for photos, videos and downloads, but you would be wise to invest in a MicroSD card. The quality of the photos was actually good; the colors were sharp and the lighting was common. The video quality was decent, displaying less pixelation than what we saw on other camera phones.
Sync had great photo quality.
You can personalize the synchronization with different wallpapers, background colors, greetings, and beeps. If you are unhappy with the choice of the A707, you can always buy more options at Cingular. You can download more ringtones, and for even more personalization, you can save clips of your favorite MP3s as ringtones – nice. Gamers can choose from five demo titles (World Poker Tour, Platinum Sudoku, Diner Dash, Bowling 3D and Asphalt Urban GT 3D). Of course, you will need to purchase full versions for the advanced game.
We tested the four-band Samsung Sync (GSM 800/900/1800/1900) in San Francisco. The call quality was excellent but not exceptional. Although the sound was clear and the volume was loud, the voices sounded harsh and almost robotic. There were noticeable statistics at times, especially when we were near electronic devices. On the other hand, subscribers reported few problems and we had no problems understanding automated voice response systems. The loudspeaker calls were loud, but there was some inequality in the sound, and the callers had trouble hearing us in noisy conditions. The calls from the Bluetooth headset were about the same – decent but not fantastic.
The video transmission quality on Sync was satisfactory and we did not have a problem with strong HSDPA coverage. The pixelation was small and the phone did not stop to respond. The volume was also decent, though sometimes the sound didn’t quite fit the speaker’s mouth. However, this is a minor point, and the large Sync display was a treat to watch. The quality of the music sounded pretty good, though the volume could have been a little higher. We will shortly announce a more detailed evaluation of the SGH-A707’s musical performance. At the time of writing, we have not been able to test it with headphones, but it’s worth noting that Sync uses its own, wired headsets without a higher quality audio adapter.
Samsung Sync (SGH-A707) has a four-hour talk time and a promised 10-day standby time. Talk time is 57 hours and 57 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, Sync has a digital specific absorption coefficient of 0.236 watts per kilogram.