What's hot: Has Mobile Digital TV and Video Share, good GPS services.
What's not: Resistive touch screen takes more effort to use, specs no better than original Eternity.
Reviewed August 29, 2010 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
The Samsung Eternity II (a597) comes almost 2 years after the original Eternity (a867)’s release, oddly not as an upgrade device despite the hint of a sequel in the name. The Samsung Eternity II has by and large similar specs and services as the original Eternity but with a lower end camera and a smaller screen. The Samsung Eternity II has a 3” resistive touch screen, a 2 megapixel camera with video recording capability, built-in Bluetooth and GPS, and a microSD card slot that works with SDHC. Like the first Eternity, the Samsung Eternity II is a quad band GSM phone with AT&T 3G, and has both mobile digital TV (via FloTV) and AT&T’s Mobile Video (CV) as well as Video Share. The Samsung Eternity II currently comes in an electric blue.
While Samsung has greatly improved the experience of its TouchWiz UI on phones like the Samsung Wave and Android phones like the Samsung Captivate, the Samsung Eternity II still has an older version of TouchWiz where you need to drag the application widgets to the home screen to launch them. Luckily the Samsung Eternity II also comes with a simple icon based UI. The Samsung Eternity II has limited accelerometer support, and the virtual keyboard gets the most accelerometer action, but applications like the web browser don’t.
Design and Ergonomics
If you like electric blue, you will love the look of the Samsung Eternity II. The blue back cover is bright and shiny with 3D-looking bubbles decorations on the bottom, and the wrap-around front edges and earpiece are also in blue. The display dominates the front with two rocker buttons for call send and call end functions with a hardware Back button in the middle just below the screen. The candy bar phone measures 4.41 x 2.11 x 0.5 inches, and it looks to have a solid build and is comfortable to hold for making phone calls.
The Samsung Eternity II has a 3” display that’s 240 x 400 in resolution. The original Eternity had a sharp and beautiful screen, but the Eternity II has just an OK screen. The display is reflective outdoors especially in sunlight, making it harder to see. The resistive touch screen requires some extra effort when it comes to touch control and typing on the virtual keyboard. If you are coming from a capacitive touch screen device, you won’t like the touch screen on this phone. Even if you’ve used a resistive touch screen, the Samsung Eternity II still seems to require a harder press, which slows down typing. The phone offers both audio and haptic feedback for screen presses.
Side buttons include the volume rocker on the left, screen lock button and camera and multitasking key rocker on the right. The charging port also lives on the right side. Though the phone doesn’t have a 3.5mm stereo headset jack, AT&T includes an adapter that allows you to use standard 3.5mm stereo headsets with the phone. Both the SIM slot and microSD card slot live under the battery door, but only the SIM card slot requires battery removal to gain access.
The Samsung Eternity II has good reception getting 2/3 of full signal strength in fair to moderate coverage areas. 3G is solid and the speed for music downloads, web browsing and video buffering is good. Voice quality is very good with clear voice and loud volume. The built-in speakerphone sounds loud and full for conference calls, and the Samsung Eternity II also supports AT&T’s Video Share video calling service. You can manage video call settings in the camera app. The Samsung Eternity II comes with an address book that supports groups, favorites and the ability to add more fields to each contact entry. The phone also has Nuance’s voice dialing and voice command software that works very well via the phone or Bluetooth headsets. In addition to an address book, the Samsung Eternity II also comes with calendar, memo, tasks, calculator, world clock, timer, stopwatch, unit converter, tip calculator and alarm.
Though not a messaging centric phone, the Samsung Eternity II has full messaging support including SMS, MMS, web-based email and mobile IM. Web-based email includes AT&T email, AOL, Yahoo!, Gmail and Windows Live; and mobile IM includes AIM, Windows Live and Yahoo Messenger. As with recent AT&T feature phones like the Sharp FX, the Samsung Eternity II also has AT&T Social Net powered by iSkoot. It integrates Facebook, Myspace and Twitter updates as well as RSS feeds into one place. The interface makes it convenient to keep up with your friends’ activities and it’s very easy to use.
The Samsung Eternity II comes with a full HTML web browser that can display HTML sites as well as WAP sites. The browser has both mobile view mode (single column) and desktop view mode where it preserves the desktop layout but requires side scrolling. The web browser offers different font sizes to ensure the pages are readable, but it doesn’t support the accelerometer for displaying web pages, and you must turn on the landscape view option in Settings to put web pages in landscape view. The web browser has good speed for downloading web pages and it keeps images and most page layouts intact in its desktop view.
Music and Video
The Samsung Eternity II has a built-in music player that can play MP3 and AAC (iTunes format) music. The music player is adequate but not super deluxe; it has play controls, next and previous track buttons and playlist support, but no album art support. The phone’s built-in speaker is surprisingly good for music playback: it’s loud, clear and full. The Samsung Eternity II comes with a 3.5mm adapter so that you can listen to music using stereo earbuds or headphones. The audio through a headset actually isn’t that much better; it has more noticeable channel separation compared to the phone’s mono speaker, but audio quality is similar to the speaker audio. The Samsung Eternity II has 512MB of internal storage as well as a microSD card slot that works with high capacity cards. We tested unprotected iTunes music loaded on a microSD card, the Samsung Eternity II played them just fine. The Samsung Eternity II works with AT&T’s music shop and you can preview and buy songs over the air. AT&T also throws in other mostly pay-for music services, including AT&T Radio and Music Video.
The Samsung Eternity II has both mobile digital TV and AT&T’s on-demand mobile video service. When the original Samsung Eternity came out in 2008, it was one of the first phones that worked with digital mobile TV and users had great hope that the service would blossom into something spectacular. Alas, that didn’t happen. FloTV today still only has 18 channels, mostly primetime channels with some boutique channels thrown in like AdultSwim. When the first Eternity came out, wireless carriers didn’t require data plans for many feature phones, so watching mobile digital TV has its advantage since it doesn’t use the data network. Unfortunately today carriers want you to get data plan for almost all the phones, and the $9.99/month extra seems a little redundant considering AT&T’s own on-demand video service, Mobile Video (which used to be called CV), is now free with most data plans. Mobile digital TV powered by FloTV plays like a real TV where you must catch the shows when they are playing, as it’s not an on-demand service, and it has commercials just like on your TV at home. But one nice thing though, is that FloTV full episodes don’t come in small chunks like they are in Mobile Video (CV), and programs generally have better playback quality than on-demand videos. FloTV isn’t available everywhere, so check AT&T’s mobile digital TV coverage map to see if it’s available in your area.
Video playback quality on the Samsung Eternity II is quite good for both services and the audio sounds loud and full. Mobile Digital TV has better performance compared to Mobile Video: playback looks smoother and audio is mostly in sync with video. Mobile Video isn’t too bad either, though we noted some frame drops and experienced some out-of-sync audio; but overall videos are very watchable.
The Samsung Eternity II has built-in GPS and comes with several free and paid location based services. The heavy hitter is AT&T Navigator powered by TeleNav that offers full turn-by-turn navigation with voice guidance and maps. The Samsung Eternity II gets the most accurate fixes when you use AT&T Navigator, and route calculations and map downloads are speedy. AT&T Navigator isn’t a free service however, so the Samsung Eternity II comes with a “lite” version (AT&T Maps) that has only maps, searches and location sharing features, but no navigation or voice guidance. The overall accuracy and speed in AT&T Maps aren’t as good as in AT&T Navigator, but you do get the Maps and its included services for free.
AT&T also included Trimble’s AllSportGPS app that can track your running, walking, biking, skiing and other outdoors sports activities using the built-in GPS. The apps tracks the distance, calories, pace and time, and provides you with detailed workout data online. It’s not a free service though, but like AT&T Navigator, you can try it out for free. Other location based services onboard also include Where and FamilyMap which tracks your family members’ current locations.
The Samsung Eternity II has a low-end 2 megapixel camera that shoots photos as well as video. The picture quality is as good as you’d expect from a 2 megapixel camera phone: the colors have a good balance with decent exposure, but pictures lack details and have lots of whiteout in outdoor shots. The camera phone records videos at QVGA resolution in MPEG 4 format and the quality is decent without noticeable frame drops. The Samsung Eternity II has full settings for the camera and camcorder including white balance, effects, quality, resolution and much more. You can save the images to phone memory or on a microSD card, use them as a background image or caller ID or upload them to the web.
The Samsung Eternity II has a rechargeable battery that’s 1000mAh in capacity and is user replaceable. The battery has good talk time reaching just below 5 hours, but standby time is quite short. The claimed standby time is over 10 days, but our tests showed that the phone never made it out of 5 days on standby. If you make a moderate number of phone calls per day and do some web surfing, picture taking, and moderate video and music playback, you will need to charge the phone at least every other day. The Samsung Eternity II charges very fast using the included AC charger.
In a long list of touch screen feature phones on AT&T, the Samsung Eternity II stands out as one of the few phones that supports mobile digital TV (others include the Samsung Mythic, the Sharp FX and the LG VU Plus). From a specs stand point, the Samsung Mythic is more compelling than the Eternity II if you don’t need a QWERTY keyboard. Eternity users who have been waiting for an upgrade should wait or look elsewhere as the Eternity II isn’t the device for that. Mobile digital TV isn’t as exciting as it used to be as channel selections haven’t improved greatly and on-demand video services have caught up on their offerings. True, it doesn’t use your data but it doesn’t offer the convenience of time shifting that on-demand video service offers either. The programs are on at certain times, and you have to catch them when they are on like you would with your TV. The Samsung Eternity II does add Video Share service which neither the Samsung Mythic nor the LG VU Plus offers. The Samsung Eternity II has a small size for a touch screen phone, and it’s well built. The bright blue with 3D bubble design will attract young mobile phone users and it’s a strong multimedia phone. The resistive touch screen for control and typing takes some getting used as it’s not as responsive as capacitive touch screen phones or even many resistive touch screen phones.
Pro: Strong multimedia features, nicely built device that feels comfortable in hand.
Con: Touch screen takes more effort to use, battery life could be better.
Price: $69.99 with 2-year contract after rebate and discount. $179.99 without contract.