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Samsung SGH E720c review

Samsung SGH E720c review
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Innovative new Samsung E720c with MP3 player, revolutionary external music keys, megapixel camera, video camera, 88 MB memory, bluetooth and e-mail client.
Review On : Samsung SGH E720c
By BrightSpark
Hardware and Software Version
Hardware Version: REV 1.0, Software Version: E720BVEC4
First Impressions
When i first got it, i was impressed in many ways. But a part of me was dismayed(because its quite natural to compare a new phone with one's previous phone) that it didn't have this feature or it didn't have that feature. It was just a reflection of the way i was feeling while i was going through my 'adjustment phase'. The E720 has 1 or 2 features in the UI that the V500 doesn't have, and the E720's UI is definitely neater and more attractively set out. I think that, when one changes brand and gets acquainted with a new phone, its just a case of unlearning the old and learning the new. When one has accepted and appreciated the new way of doing things, the new way then feels like it is the natural way. I have now almost past my 'adjustment phase', and am happily beginning to accept the samsung way of doing things. The UI is not necessarily better nor worse, but just different and that is the crux of the matter. This applies to all UI's, and certainty the UI's of Samsung, Motorola, Nokia, and SE. Overall, the E720's UI doesn't give the user as much control over the phone as the Motorola UI, but sometimes there is beauty in simplicity.
Memory
There seems to be some confusion as to the E720's total memory.
Main Memory Requirements
Media(Ringtones, pictures, video, sounds)81920 KB
Java 4096 KB
MMS3072 KB
Email3072 KB
TOTAL92160 KB (90 MB)

Other memory requirements
400 Calendar events(100 Schedule, 100 Memo, 100 Anniversary, 100 To-Do).
1000 Phone Book Contacts.
200 SMS.
Branding
My e720 is Orange branded. This includes:
i)Uncolourful icons on the main menu
ii) A side bar on the left hand side of the main screen listing icons for recent calls, various sms functions, various calendar functions, and Orange World.
iii) The "Orange" text on the home screen can't be switched off
iv) Orange skin (its actually a grey skin).
v) Call blocking has been disabled.
vi) Orange logo on the front, inbetween the MP3 player keys and the bottom of the phone.

User Interface - Overview
The UI is laid out in an attractive manner, and is pleasant to use.

The main menu gives the following options represented by icons(these icons have been altered by Orange, and are different(ie much less attractive) to those provided by Samsung) on a 3x3 grid:
Call History..........Address Book............Settings
Camera...............Messages..................Browser
Applications.........Media Album.............Calendar
The position of these icons within the grid can't be changed from the menu. A picture showing the icons that are used by Samsung are shown at the bottom of the next post.
I have encountered no lag whatsoever. The only place that i found to be an sign of a lag was when accessing the photos or videos in the media album. The software seems to be very stable.
Address Book
The phonebook on the E720 is completely different to the one on the V500. Instead of each number/email being stored as a separate entry(although all numbers/email for each contact can be grouped so that it appears as one entry in the phonebook) for maximum flexibility, the E720 has the following fields per contact:
i) First Name ii) Last Name iii) Mobile iv) Home v) Work vi) Fax vii) Other viii) Email ix) Caller ID image x) Ringtone xi) Group that the contact belongs to. These are user defined. Examples include: Friends, Business, etc. xii) A text note
Because i have no need for Fax, i use this and 'Other' to store people's second or third mobile phone number, because many friends have a personal mobile and a work mobile. Many other people have more than 1 personal mobile phone number.
One criticism relative to my old V500 is that, with the V500, switching between the different numbers was just a case of using the left/right joystick. Also, the phone remembers the last number shown and uses this as the default number that is displayed when the user first accesses the phonebook. On the E720, you have to select the contact and scroll down to the required number, and it doesn't remember the default number. I found the phonebook to be more tedious and less flexible to use than the Motorola phonebook.
Multi-character search is available, as is 8 Speed Dial numbers, and facility for Name Card. 1000 contacts can be stored on the phone, while 200 can be stored on the SIM card. Its possible to delete all the contacts on the phone and/or contacts on the SIM.
Messages
In the Messages menu, there is the facility to define SMS Templates. I never use these for their intended purpose. My V500 also had Templates(or Quick Notes), and i used them as a to-do list. This enabled me to write an almost unlimited number of to-do's of up to 160 characters in length, to be completed as and when required. This is exactly the same purpose that i use the Templates for on the E720. In my opinion, this is a much more practical usage for them.
SMS/MMS
On an unbranded E720, when a text message comes through, the user merely has to open the phone and press 'View' to view the text message. On an Orange branded phone, you have the (less convenient) options of either: i) Going through the icons on the left hand side of the main screen ii) Going through all the menus or iii) Accessing the inbox through the shortcuts, if one was set up for it.
Either way, the unbranded way is by far the more convenient way.
The text messaging system isn't exactly the easiest to get used to, especially when coming from a Motorola where there are much fewer keystrokes required to perform the same actions. The Motorola is easier to use and more logical too. Fluidity of motion, both during writing the text, selecting the contacts, and finally sending it off, doesn't come as easy on the E720. There are more places where i have to stop and think, but for the wrong reasons.
To send off a text message to only 2 individuals requires the following steps: Write text -> Press left softkey(Options) -> select 'Send and save' -> Press left softkey(Options) -> 'Address book' -> Scroll down the address list to the position of the first contact -> Press left softkey(select) -> Scroll down to the appropriate number -> Press left softkey(select) -> Scroll down to the next position ready to insert the appropriate number for the second contact -> Press left softkey(Options) -> 'Address book' -> Scroll down the address list to the position of the second contact -> Press left softkey(select) -> Scroll down to the appropriate number -> Press left softkey(select) -> Press left softkey(select) again -> 'Send message'. A grand total of 17 keypresses each time to send a text off . A method of minimising the number of steps when sending off a text to more than 1 individual is to create a Group so that it can be sent off to the whole group in one go. However, this is inconvenient when the list of individuals to which one wants to send a text to is rarely fixed.
The Motorola UI is Designed in such a way that drastic actions are less likely to be executed. The position of the softkeys would be arranged in an unexpected way for such actions as delete, Send, etc, thereby forcing the user to stop and think before such actions are carried out. The arrangement of the softkeys on the E720 is always expected, so more drastic actions such as delete and Send are executed without any thought. Thats a sign of not so good design.
I was pleased to be reassured that the system remembers your last text input method, whether it be T9 or ABC. Previous Samsungs didn't. The user can cycle through ABC and T9 input by holding down the '*' key for a second keeping the case the same, while the user can cycle through the different case by pressing the '*' key quickly.
I discovered that it allows you to change the font size, and whether you want to write in bold and/or italic, with effects such as strikethrough or underlined. Nice, but i don't see myself ever using such a feature.
Email

To create a new email, the user can define a subject, a message, and attach a file. The file can be any type of media, a name card, a calendar Schedule, Anniversary, Memo, or To-Do. As i've described above with SMS/MMS, there is still the same problem with having such an unearthly number of keypresses between completing the writing of an email, and sending it off.
An interesting feature is that the user can enter a list of Subject and/or email addresses in which to block.
Email settings seem quite standard with the usual options for Delivery Report, Reject if larger than(maximum is 300 KB), leaving a copy of the email on the server, Priority, Signature, Check Interval(this is where the phone checks the server after a given length of time for the presence of new emails), etc.
Email protocols supported are IMAP4 and POP3. The user can store anything up to 3,072 KB of emails on the phone.
Calendar
For the most part, the calendar is excellent, although there is plenty room for improvement IMO. You can set either a Memo, Scheduled Event, To-Do, Anniversary. Scheduled events can be set to have a starting date and time, and a date for the event to recur until. Recurrence can be set as daily, weekly, or monthly(on date).
One of the nicest and most convenient aspects of the calendar is that, for each day in the month view, the type of event(eg Memo, Scheduled Event, To-Do, Anniversary) thats been assigned to a particular day can be seen at a glance. By moving the cursor to that day shows the number of each type of event that has been assigned for that day. The weekly view goes from 00:00 to 23:59 - this is good. By default, the events between 08:00 and 17:59 are shown, but events scheduled for any other hour are accessed by either scrolling up or down. Its a shame that it doesn't allow the user to show the whole day. This, i feel, would have been the more practical approach. You can go to any date on the fly, and list all events by type.
The deletion of events is quite flexible in that it allows the user to delete selected periods (eg date 1 to date 2)
The downsides to the calendar are:
i) Cannot mark a To-Do as done without listing all the To-Do's first(by choosing 'Sort By' -> 'To-Do')
ii) Cannot set a To-Do to recur.
iii) Cannot change the date of a Memo once its been set for a particular day
iv) Cannot set up a custom tone for an event
v) Absence of a text editor (this is the biggest let down).

The option of selecting the starting day of the week(Sunday or Monday) is provided in the Time and Date settings menu. In my opinion, the more logical option is to have this option in the Calendar, keeping everything associated with the same feature in one place.
Call History
This provides the last 30 Dialled Calls, Missed calls, and Received calls. The time, date, contact's name, and number, is the information given for each one.
Call Time is also given. This gives the time spent on the last call made or received, Total sent(ie calls made), and Total received. These can all be reset.
On my old V500, it gave details of the total and previous amount of kilobytes sent and received via GPRS/CSD. There is no such option here on the E720 .
Camera
The E720 has a megapixel camera, but is capable of taking shots in the following resolutions: 1152x864, 640x480, 320x240, 176x148, 160x120. The quality settings are the same as the video: Super Fine, Fine, Normal, and Economy.
The shutter sound can be a (non-custom) sound or silent.
The Shooting Mode can be configured so that photos are manually or automatically saved once a shot has been taken, Multi-shot, or Mosaic Shot.
Flash can be switched off, switched on during a shot, or permanently on.
Frames are supported, as is a timer in between each shot.
Photo's can be zoomed in or out immediately it has been taken, but not while its in Media Album.
Video
The video records in mpeg4 by default in various resolutions including: 352x288, 240x320, 176x144, 128x96. Video quality can be either Super Fine, Fine, Normal, and Economy. Audio can be switched on or off.
The duration can be either 60 minutes maximum, or limited for the maximum allowable size for sending via MMS.
Media Album
All Multimedia is stored in Media Album. This includes, Images, Video's, Music, Sounds, and Other Files. Memory Status is provided to check how much memory has been used up by each type of media.
In total, 81,920 KB of shared memory is provided for Images, Video's, Music, and Sounds(this includes the memory used for Voice Recorder).
An interesting feature is that each piece of media has the capability of being shared or hidden from bluetooth devices. Media can also be locked to prevent accidental deletion.
Slideshows are possible.
Setting

Other than the menu items listed below, the only others are Time and Date, and Reset Settings
Phone Settings
This provides the user with the facility to change the following:
i) Language ii) Greeting Message ii) Shortcuts - these are the 4 shortcuts that are activate when the joystick is pressed and held in either an up, down, left, or right direction. iv) Extra settings - Auto Redial, Active Flip, Anykey Answer, Cover keypad lock(locks the side keys).
Display Settings
This provides the user with the facility to change the following:
i) Wallpaper - change the wallpaper for the inner and outer LCD, and text position and colour of the network provider. The text can't be hidden on Orange. ii) Skin - gives 4 colours and a grey skin provided by Orange. iii) LCD brightness iv) Backlight - defines how long the inner LCD backlight stays on for. Also the option to switch off the icons(battery charge, signal strength, etc) on the outer LCD.
Sound Settings
Define such features as Ringtone, Volume, and Alert Type(Melody, Vibration, Vibration before Melody) for Incoming call, Keypad tone, Message tone, Power on/off tone, Folder tone.
Other features include the option to set Vibration or Silent during Quiet Mode(Quiet Mode can be toggled on or off by pressing the '#' key), and the option to set tones for Minute minder, Connection tone, Alert on call, and Error tone.
Note that there is no option in the menu to ring and vibrate at the same time.
I found this setup to be a bit tedious. It would have been much better to give the user the option to setup their own profiles. This allows the user to switch profiles on the fly and not have to go into each of the Sound settings to change each one.
Network Services
This includes facilities for Call Barring, Call Divert, Call Waiting, and band selection. The option to restrict incoming/outgoing call to specific caller groups isn't present on my phone. Why the Answer Phone was put in with Network Services instead of Messages, i have no idea. Doesn't sem very logical.
Bluetooth
Although the option is given in Media Album, Addressbook, and Messages to send items via bluetooth, all the bluetooth settings are here. These include:
i) Activation
ii) My devices - this allows the user to search for other devices, then once paired, keeps an instance of the pairing for future use.
ii) My phones visability
iv) My phone's name
v) Secure mode - this prevents other users from browsing one's files freely, as the user is given the option to accept or deny access.
vi) Bluetooth services - this merely gives a description of each service. Examples of services are: Headset, Handsfree, etc.

Security
Security includes:
i) SIM Lock(a password is required to stop people using another SIM card in the phone) ii) Pin Check(to stop users from using the SIM thats in the phone) iii) Phone Lock(required to access the phone features) iv) Privacy(when activated, this requires a password to access any phone feature apart from making a call. Samsung should not have allowed the user to make calls IMO) v) Keypad Lock(this locks the main keypad and the side buttons).
The security is good, but could have been slightly better IMO. For the Privacy feature, Samsung should have allowed the user to lock the phone on the fly, so that all phone features require a password to enter.

Applications
Other than Java, Alarm, Voice Recorder, and MP3 Player in the Applications menu, there's Calculator, World Time, PIM Sync, Converter(for Currency, Length, Weight, Volume, Area, and Temperature), Timer, and Stopwatch.
MP3 Player
This seems quite standard. It has the ability to shape the output of the music by selecting jazz, classic, rock, etc. It allows for 3D sound, although i couldn't hear any difference through the earpiece(where all audio is output from) or though the supplied earphones. Of course, there is the usual volume control, repeat, shuffle, and add to playlist. Nothing major has been left out. Overall, it could be improved upon, though, by allowing the user to enter more than 1 playlist.
Java
The E720 allows 4,096 KB to be used for Java games, in addition to the four games that were preinstalled. The preinstalled games are: Bobby Carrot, Arch Angel, Freekick and Airship Racing. These can't be deleted via the menu.
The games are really good, but i don't see why the option to delete them was grey out, and i don't see why Samsung makes it so difficult to install games via cable.
Voice Recorder
This gives the user the following options:
i) Limit for MMS ii) Limit for Email iii) Max 1 hour
I found the volume to be really low.
Alarm
This gives the user the option to set up 3 different alarms, and includes: Morning Alarm, Alarm 1, Alarm 2. The Morning Alarm can gives the user the choice of the following options:
i) Once ii) Every day iii) Except Weekends iv) Except Sunday
Alarm 1 and Alarm 2 give only the first two options. There is also the option to activate an alarm even if the phone is switched off at the time.
Display - Inner LCD
The display is typically of samsung in that it is superb. The display is bright and the colours vivid. No complaints at all.
Display - Outer LCD
The outer LCD is really lovely. It stays on all the time because its an OLED display. These can stay on permanently and use next to nothing in terms of battery life. The time, signal strength and battery indicator are in turquoise, while the rest of the LCD is used for either caller ID image, or a chosen wallpaper. The outer LCD wallpaper always disappears shortly after its been lit up by the phone closing or pressing the side buttons.
Camera Functions

Camera
I don't know if its because i haven't yet been able to maximumise the quality of the pictures produced or not, but the images produced, when using super fine quality, seemed to be quite noisy. They didn't look all that nice, especially when compered to the k750i photo's.
Video
Playback is always smooth when played back on the E720, i've found. The quality of the video is much better than the video's played back on the V500, which would stutter from time to time. The images produced always look clear. The MPEG4 video quality on the E720 is highly recommended. Its a shame that the audio associated with the video images wasn't up to the same high standard. I haven't got any PC Connectivity at the moment, so i can't inspect what CIF video's look like on the PC.

Audio

MP3 Player
Many of the details of the MP3 player are mentioned in the section on Construction and Durability Some may consider 90MB of memory to be insufficient for it to be used as an MP3 player, especially considering that videos and mega pixel photos have to be stored using that same 90MB of memory too.
The E720 doesn't support multitasking, so it is not possible to do other things(such as write a text or play a java game) while listening to the MP3 player.
Ringtone Audio Quality through the Earpiece
On my phone, i found the ringtone volume to be quite low. Because there is no speakerphone and separate louspeaker, all audio is produced from the earpiece. The sound seems to lack 'weight' as a result. To increase the ringtones volume, it is a good idea to convert the ringtones to MMF format.
Ringtone Audio Quality through the Supplied Headset
The supplied headset isn't exactly the most comfortable to use. There was probably more sound waves going to people around me than there was going into my ears. The sound quality seemed to be quite good.
Earpiece call Quality
I noticed that with some peoples voices, the call quality was fine. With various other people, i had difficult making out what they were trying to say. It sounded to me like they were speaking through a filter which seemed to restrict certain frequencies, rendering the sound as a sort of mumble. Reducing the volume by pressing the outside volume keys seemed to help, but only slightly.

The Housing
Construction and Durability
The construction seems solid. The flip seems well integrated with the main body of the phone, and gives the impression that it could not possibly become loose without deliberate and strong force. The back of the flip has a rubber cushion so that if the flip is yanked open a bit too hard, it could not possibly cause any damage to the flip or the main body of the phone. These are all good signs of a well made phone IMO.
There is a type of loose cover for the cable - i get the impression that its not meant to be inserted all the way into the actual USB/Serial port, but is just meant to shelter the USB/Serial port from any sharp objects that may be accidentally inserted into the port, potentially causing damage to the connectors.
The play/stop/pause, skip back, skip forward MP3 player buttons is quite a clever aspect of the phone. It doesn't detract from the lovely physical design of the phone and blends in nicely with the rest of the phone. In addition, i think that the software is integrated intelligently with it. Pressing the 'play' key brings up the MP3 player on the screen(briefly) and loads the current playlist. Pressing it again returns the phone to the idle state. Pressing the 'play' key while Privacy or Keypad Lock is activated brings up the message that an appropriate action is required before the MP3 player can be activated.
There is the flash on the front, either side of the camera lens. This doubles as a flashlight. This can be activated when the phone is closed too, either during the shooting of a photo, or permanently.
The battery cover is well designed and firm. No creaks or complaints of any kind.
Overall Aesthetics
One of the reasons why i got the phone is that i wanted a stylish looking phone this time. I know that the look of the phone is almost identical to the e700. But if one has never owned the e700, the E720 can seem like a fresh design. People who have previously owned the E700 will find the look of the phone a bit stale, however nice it may look.............and it truly does look chic and stylish. There is no question that the look of the E700/E720 is indeed one of the most attractive. There is nothing that stands out as if it shouldn't be there. The colours used are also attractive and blend in nicely with the overall look of the phone.
The Keypad
The keypad is good for the most part, but i would have found it slightly more comfortable when texting for there to be more space between the keys. I found myself hitting the 'End Call' key now and again. On the E700, this would have wiped a text message. On the E720, it asks the user if you want to 'Save to Draft?'.
There could also be more space between the bottom of the keypad and the bottom of the phone. I tend to text using one hand, but i found that, for the '#' key, this made an uncomfortable stretch for my thumb.
The response of the keys seems very positive and gives a 'click' sound when a key is pressed.
The backlight is spread evenly across all the keys when used in the dark.
Connectivity

Bluetooth
Paired and exchanged media flawlessly with my V500.
USB Cable
Backed up my phone and used File Manager to transfer Images to and from from phone, along with transfering MP3's to my phone. Uneventful and flawless. Speed of transfer seems quite quick, and marginally quicker (seemingly) than with my old phone.
Internet Access
The E720 can only access WAP sites. There is no HTML browser, even though it there is a GRPS Internet profile in Connection Settings. HTML sites can be viewed but without images.
Reception Quality
The reception quality seems ok. Not really had that much of a chance to test it out in some challenging scenarios yet.

Summary of the Strengths and Weaknesses
Many people mentions such things as "No speakerphone" as a weakness. To me, such a lack is not a weakness, because its not absolutely necessary. I merely mentioned the things that its lacking in order to make things vastly more convenient for any user (For most of them, anyway. Obviously, SMS tones are not an essential. They're just an added bonus, at the end of the day).
Strengths
Solid build quality and construction. Superb outer and inner LCD display. Excellent video quality. Records using MPEG4 at CIF resolution. Good battery life. Attractively laid out UI. Reliable and fast software.
Weaknesses
UI should give more options and be more flexible.
No SMS tones and lack of flexibility in allowing the user to customise and assign their own ringtones to whatever they choose. Very rigid in this respect. But perhaps i find this a bit of a bugbear because i'm used to being able to set custom tones for everything, without restriction.
Call quality not consistent. Good with some people's voices. Yet with a mij, jkjikikjnority of others, i could barely make out what they were saying, as through they were speaking through some kind of filter.
Ringtone volume not high enough to be heard on a busy street. It needs to be a lot higher than it is.
Only 4 shortcuts allowed. This is a major weakness for me because on my v500, i could make unlimited amount of shortcuts to anywhere on the phone. The E720 gives only a selection of places where i can make a shortcut to, for example: create SMS, Security, My Messages(includes Inbox, Outbox, etc), Alarm, etc.
No text editor. I still find this a major shortcoming because of what i require and what i've been used to using a lot on the V500. Having a text editor meant that i could cut/copy and paste text between the Calendar, To-Do list(i use Templates in Messages as a to-do list as a workaround, both on the E720 and the V500), different entries in the Calendar, Inbox, etc. When i want to transfer a Memo(containing up to 100 characters) to a different day or to my To-Do list, i have to write it all out again. I can't reassign the date, and i can't just cut'n'paste the text for the Memo. The absence of a text editor is one of the major omissions that i'm going to find it hardest to get used to.
Far too many keypresses required to send a SMS/email/MMS off. Only 1 playlist allowed on the MP3 player. No facility to keep a check on how many kilobytes of data that have been sent and received via GPRS/WAP. No audio profiles.
Originally posted at mobile-review


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