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Samsung SPH-i330 Palm OS Smartphone from Sprint PCS

Posted April 2003, by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief

Note the i330 is being replaced by the Samsung i500.

The elegant and ergonomic SPH-i330 is Samsung's follow up to the successful I300 Palm OS smartphone. While the I300 looked and felt more like a Palm PDA than a phone, the i330 has combined the best of both worlds: it looks and feels like a mobile phone (albeit a large phone). The curved sides and rubberized grips make the phone comfy to hold and likely to stay in your hand where it belongs.

Samsung i330
Back side of Samsung I330

 

The i330 has separate buttons for PDA power and phone power on the right side. No need to worry that you'll accidentally power the mobile on or off since you need to press and hold the phone power button for a few seconds to power the phone. The left side sports a record button and rocker switch. The front has the usual up/down half circle navigation buttons, and 4 buttons that launch Calendar, To Do, Contacts and the Contacts application. Other than the phone power button, these are too easy to push accidentally when pulling the phone from your pocket or charger, but thankfully you can turn off the auto power on feature in prefs. Since the phone power is managed separately, you'll be able to turn it off in flight and still use the PDA functions. Be sure to check out Samsung and Sprint's other offering, the SPH-i500, if you're interested in a clamshell design Palm OS smartphone.

Wireless

Wireless service is provided by Sprint PCS, and the phone supports PCS Vision, Sprint's name for their high speed 1xRTT data network capable of speeds up to 144k and averaging about 60 - 70k these days in metro areas.

It's a triband supporting both US CDMA bands and analog, which means it should work just about anywhere in the US, including rural areas. Note that digital data connections require you to be in a digital service area and to use the high speed data connection, you'll need to be in one of the many major metro areas that offer this service. Given the aggressive rollout of high speed service in the US, Sprint should have most major cities covered.

The voice quality has been very good on the i330, and it's pulled in a strong signal even inside of large buildings such as malls and didn't drop calls. It has a speakerphone, voice dialing (you can store up to 30 voice dialing entries) and works with standard cell phone headsets.

How much will wireless services cost you? Check out the Sprint PCS web site for rates and plans. The pricing runs from $45 to $100, with PCS Vision free for the $100 2,000 anytime minute plan. For lesser plans, you'll pay $10 plus charges per k of downloaded data.

 

 

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Wireless Software Included

The i330 comes with a Phone application that gives you a full screen (the Graffiti area is hidden) soft touch pad screen with Talk, Clear and End buttons. You can launch the app either from the Palm home screen or by pressing the phone button on the front face of the unit. There's also a Voice Mail app that notifies you if voice mail is waiting and lists the voice mail notifications. There's a Listen button in the voice mail app that dials your voice mailbox, and a reset button which allows you to clear voice mail notification(s). These notifications are automatically cleared from the list when you call your voice mail box and listen to your messages.

The i330 supports web clipping apps (sometimes referred to as WCA or PQA apps). These are very efficient apps originally developed for the Palm VII and i705 that allow you to access a variety of sites and online services using very little bandwidth. They're generally free and quite small. Visit Palm's web site or palmgear.com for a list of available web clippings.

Horsepower and Battery Life

The Samsung runs Palm OS 3.5.3, has a Dragonball processor running at 33 MHz and has 16 megs of RAM. Not the most stellar specs compared to the latest non-phone capable Palm OS PDAs, but it gets the job done well. Response times are good, games run well and it's a very usable Palm OS PDA. Unfortunately, the i330 does not have an SD or any other kind of expansion slot, so you won't be able to add more storage or try out SD WiFi and Bluetooth cards on this device.

The i330 comes with 2 Lithium Ion batteries, but the runtime is surprisingly good making the spare battery a generous bonus. The claimed talk time is 2.5 hours and the standby time is 4 days, and we found this to be accurate. If you're a light phone user (45 minutes/day) and use your PDA for about 1 hour per day, the i330 should run two days (if not more) without a charge. The i330 comes with a desktop charger that has a slot for the device and the spare battery so you can charge them both. It doesn't come with a travel charger, so you'll need to bring the cradle if you travel.

Display

The display resolution is 160 x 240 pixels and has 256 colors. Don't get too excited about the 240 pixel area: while the the i330 has a soft Graffiti area (it's drawn on the screen rather than being a permanent affair), the only app that takes advantage of this to hide the Graffiti area and use the full 240 pixels is the Phone app. Other programs run at 160 x 160 pixels like most Palm brand PDAs running OS 4. Despite the fact that 256 colors isn't many by today's standards, the screen looks bright, very sharp and has good color saturation. Both brightness and contrast are adjustable, and while the screen isn't easy to see in bright daylight, it is usable. Outdoor viewability is important since there is no hardware phone keypad and you'll have to rely on the phone dialer displayed on screen to make calls.

Software Bundle

The i330 comes with Palm Desktop for Windows. If you don't want to re-install Palm Desktop you can elect to only install the USB driver— nice touch. If you're a Mac user, you'll need to get MissingSync from Mark/Space. I couldn't get the i330 to sync to my Powerbook running OS X even though Palm Desktop and iSync are installed.

You'll get a registered copy of Blazer 2.0, Chapura's Pocket Mirror Standard Edition (for syncing to Outlook) and many demo versions of games. Documents to Go is not included, so if you need to work with MS Office docs, you'll have to purchase that software separately.

Conclusion

Pro: A very attractive design and reasonable size and weight for a smartphone. Even though its got a 256 color display, the quality is excellent. Has polyphonic sound (you're not limited to Midi) and includes several fun and cool ring tones. Supports web clippings, which help keep the bandwidth charges down. Voice quality and connection strength are very good. Con: Like most Palm OS smartphones currently on the market, the OS version, display resolution and processor aren't anything to write home about. No expansion slot. No Mac version of Palm Desktop in the box.

www.sprintpcs.com List price $499

 

Specs:

Display: Backlit, 160 x 240 pixel color TFT display with 256 colors.

Performance: 33 MHz Dragonball processor. 16 megs of RAM. Palm OS 3.5.3.

Size: 4.9" x 2.4" x .71". 5.8 oz.

Audio: Built in speaker. Has polyphonic sound and comes with 20 ring tones. Supports alarm sounds, LED alert and vibrating alerts.

Battery: Comes with 2 rechargeable Lithium Ion batteries. User replaceable.

Software: Palm OS 3.5.3. Includes the usual suite of Palm applications, including Address Book, Date Book, Clock, To Do List, Memo Pad and Calculator. Blazer web browser included. Chapura Pocket Mirror (for syncing to Outlook), and several demo versions of games including Bejeweled and Zio Golf. Palm Desktop for Windows included.

Network: CDMA supporting 1xRTT for data. Service provided by Sprint PCS in the US. Dual band/Tri-mode (CDMA 1900 MHz (PCS); CDMA 800 MHz; and AMPS 800 MHz). Claimed talk time: up to 2.5 hours and standby time: Up to 4 days.

 

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