Posted August 26 2003, by Lisa
Gade, Editor in Chief
Smartphones, which combine a PDA and mobile phone
in one unit are springing out of the woodwork these days. Just
a year ago, choices were few and not always very enticing, but
now there are quite a few attractive models from which to choose.
Sprint PCS is one of the leaders offering these devices, and the
Samsung SHP-i500 is their latest Palm OS smartphone.
While smartphones are often relatively large
devices, the i500 is remarkably small, light and pocketable (see
size comparison, below). It's not much bigger than the popular
and diminutive Motorola V60c (which is not a smartphone) and indeed
may be more comfortable for those who find the Motorola too small.
The i500 looks very professional, modern and attractive in person.
Design and Ergonomics
The i500 is a clamshell phone (also called a
flip phone) that folds closed when not in use. It weighs only 5
ounces and measures 4.9" x 2.28" x .82". It has
a sturdy plastic two-tone casing finished in a warm light silver
on the outside and gunmetal on the inside-facing surfaces. The
non-extendable stub antenna is plastic and is the only protruding
part of the phone. The battery is removed via a release button
on the back and is integrated with the phone back, as is the case
with many mobile phones.
Like the Kyocera 7135 from
Verizon, the Graffiti area is located in the lower half of the
clamshell, yet is easily accessible even for a lefty like me. The
Graffiti area is quite small, to fit the size of the phone. Just
below the display on the upper half of the clamshell, you'll find
the 4 standard Palm OS buttons which are assigned to the address
book, calendar, Blazer web browser and the Messages app (you can
reassign the buttons to launch other apps). That's good news for
gamers, since many games make use of these buttons. However the
up/down rocker is located just above the number pad on the lower
clamshell, which means you'll need to have quick and dextrous fingers
if your game makes use of the 4 buttons and up/down rocker.
On the left side of the phone you'll find volume up
and down buttons, a button to activate menus and headset jack under a
rubber cover. The right side of the phone has a button that brings up
the speed dial screen, and a button that launches voice dialing. As you'd
expect the sync/charge connector is located on the bottom edge, and the
telescoping aluminum stylus lives on the top right corner of the unit.
The IR window is located on the top center edge of the phone.
The i500 has a standard mobile phone style keypad,
complete with a Talk button and an End button which doubles as the power
button for the phone section of the device. The keys light up bright
blue when you open the phone or press a key, so you can dial in the dark.
The keypad is always active, so you can dial a number even when in a
Palm OS application. In addition to Graffiti, you can use the keypad
to input text using eZiText, which is similar to the T9 predictive input
used on many mobile phones.
Comparing clamshell phone sizes:
The Kyocera 7135 from Verizon, SPH-i500 and the Motorola V60c.
Horsepower and Battery Life
The Samsung runs Palm OS 4.1 and has a Dragonball processor
running at 66 MHz with 16 megs of RAM (15.5 available). While that's
not impressive compared to the latest non-phone capable Palm OS PDAs,
it is faster than the 33 MHz Kyocera 7135 and Samsung
i330. Response times are good, and I didn't find myself waiting for
Unfortunately, the i500 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 networking cards on this device. Unlike the Kyocera 7135,
it does not have an MP3 player.
The i500 comes with both a slim and standard 2 Lithium
Ion battery. The claimed talk time is 4.2 hours and the standby time
is 250 hours for the standard battery, and 2.8 hours talk time with 210
hours of standby for the slim battery. The standard battery should last
most users through a day if not two of use on a charge. The i500 has
an internal battery which is supposed to maintain your data for 15 hours
once the main battery has completely discharged. The i500 comes with
a desktop cradle that has a slot for the device and the spare battery
so you can charge them both. The cradle has a USB connector, and the
charger can be plugged into the cradle or directly into the phone. Oddly,
you will need to plug the charger into the cradle when you wish to sync
(otherwise it ignores the HotSync button on the cradle).
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. Note that the phone doesn't support data connections
to corporate RAS, VPNs or faxes. It will only connect to the PCS Vision
network for Internet connections.
It's a triband supporting both US CDMA bands (1900
MHz PCS, 800 MHz) 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.
The voice quality has been very good on the i500, even
when it showed only 1 or 2 out of 5 bars of signal strength. It sounded
as good as traditional land line phones, and it didn't drop calls. It
does not have a speakerphone, but it does offer voice dialing (you can
store up to 98 voice dialing entries) and speed dialing (up to 99 entries).
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. Always check Sprint's
web site for the latest plan and service pricing.
Wireless Software Included
The i500 has a Phone application with four speed
dial entries (not tied to the address book or speed dial setup
used in conjunction with the address book). It displays your Sprint
PCS username and the time and date on main screen, and signal strength,
location service (for 911), the battery meter and sound status.
You can launch the app either from the Palm home screen or by pressing
the phone button on the right side of the unit. Unlike the Kyocera
7135 which disables the phone keypad when you're not in the phone
application, the i500 allows you to dial from the keypad at any
time. The Voice Dial app allows you to add, edit or delete voice
dialing entries, and supports up to 98 entries. You can also create
voice and speed dial entries from any record in your address book.
There's also a Messages app that notifies you if voice mail or
SMS text messages are waiting and lists the message notifications.
The i500 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.
Display and Sound
The display resolution is 162 x 176 pixels and
has 65,000 colors (it looks like the standard 160 x 160 Palm screen,
don't ask me what the extra few pixels are for). The screen looks
bright, very sharp and has striking color saturation. It's a nice
display! If only it were high res. Brightness is adjustable, and
the screen is viewable outdoors. The display is whiter and a bit
sharper than the Kyocera 7135, but it is also quite a bit smaller
since the phone itself is smaller (2" diagonal vs. 2.5").
The i500 supports audible and vibrating alerts
and ringers as well as polyphonic sound. The speaker volume is
quite loud and can be heard even in noisy environments and there's
quite a selection of midi tones and familiar tunes. The volume
controls on the side of the phone are designed so that the first
press brings up the volume control window without changing the
volume. The second press will change the volume. This helps avoid
the problem of accidentally changing the ringer volume when grabbing
the phone out of a case or bag.
If you're into voice memos, you'll be happy to
know that the Samsung has an application that allows you to record
voice notes and phone conversations. You can store up to 30 voice
memos taking up a maximum of 1.4 megs total. The recordings are
of good quality, though not terribly loud.
The i500 comes with Palm Desktop for Windows.
If you're a Mac user, you may be out of luck. I couldn't get the
i500 to sync to my Powerbook running OS X 10.2 even though Palm
Desktop and iSync are installed. However, MissingSync will do the
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. A 15 day demo of Quick Office Premiere
is included, but if you need to work with MS Office docs, you'll
have to purchase the full version.
Pro: The smallest, most lightweight Palm OS smartphone
on the market. Very attractive design. The 66 MHz processor is
competitive for the smartphone market and the unit is fast and
responsive. Has polyphonic sound (you're not limited to Midi) and
includes several fun and cool ring tones. Very nice display in
terms of color and sharpness. Supports web clippings, which help
keep the bandwidth charges down. Voice quality is very good. Con:
Low res display is getting old now that most dedicate Palm OS PDAs
have 320 x 320 displays, though to be fair, no other Palm OS Smartphone
offers a high res display. No Mac version of Palm Desktop in the
box. No expansion slot, no MP3 player which compares poorly to
the Kyocera 7135 which is $100 cheaper. But you are getting the
smallest smartphone on the market for your money!
162 x 176 pixel color TFT display with 65,000 colors.
MHz Dragonball processor. 16 megs of RAM. Palm OS
Size: 4.9" x
2.28" x .82". 5 oz.
in speaker. Has polyphonic sound and comes with
many ring tones. Supports alarm
sounds, LED alert and vibrating alerts.
Comes with 2 rechargeable Lithium Ion batteries.
OS 4.1. 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 4.1 for Windows included.
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 4.2 hours and standby time: Up to 250
hours with the standard battery.