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Samsung i600 CDMA Microsoft Smartphone

Posted April 7, 2004 by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief

Update, July 2004: Verizon has released the Smartphone 2003 upgrade for the i600, and new units ship with the 2003 OS. If you have an i600 running 2002, you can take it to a Verizon store to have it upgraded or download the upgrade from http://vz2.smithmicro.net/samsung/default.tpl and do it yourself. Sprint now offers the Samsung i600 running the 2003 OS. Update 2006: Verizon no longer offers this phone.

Looking for a mobile phone with serious PDA features, but don't want to hold a Pocket PC Phone Edition to your ear? For phone-centric users who need a phone first and a PDA second, Microsoft Smartphones make a great deal of sense. They're no larger than the average cell phone, feature one-handed operation, have standard phone creature comforts yet can sync easily with your desktop and offer slimmed-down versions of standard Pocket PC built-in applications. MS Smartphones do not have touch screens, nor can they run Pocket PC software. Instead you'll use buttons on the keypad to navigate the phone's apps and controls, and you'll need to get MS Smartphone versions of 3rd party apps if you wish to add software to the phone. Both Pocket PCs and MS Smartphones are part of the Windows Mobile OS family, and you will likely feel at home with an MS Smartphone if you're comfy with Pocket PCs.

Samsung i600

 

Samsung i600 MS Smartphone
Samsung i600 cell phone

 

The Samsung i600, offered by Verizon Wireless and Sprint in the US, is a strong offering with an attractive, sturdy design, great accessory bundle in the box and a fast processor. The screen is outstanding and the unit works both for voice and high speed data on Verizon and Sprint's 1xRTT Express and Vision Networks. Unlike the Motorola MPx200, the i600 supports SDIO for wireless networking cards, GPS and more (when MS Smartphone drivers become available for these cards). Unfortunately, neither the i600 nor the MPx200 have Bluetooth or a camera.

The Samsung i600 and the GSM Motorola MPx200 offered by AT&T Wireless were the first Microsoft Smartphone devices to hit the US market in the Fall of 2003, and three new GSM models have been introduced in the 2nd half of 2004 (the Motorola MPx220 from Cingular, the Audiovox SMT5600 from AT&T and the Sierra Wireless Voq).

 

 

 

 

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Design and Ergonomics

The Samsung i600 has a traditional clam shell design that's similar to their i500 Palm OS smartphone and some of their other clamshell offerings. The phone is quite compact and light, with a squared-off design and a champagne finish that has dark gray accents. The unit feels very solid and well made, with no creaks, groans or excess play in joints or mating surfaces. The 176 x 220 pixel color display sits on the top shell, while the keypad and directional pad are located on the bottom shell. An external 128 x 32 pixel monochrome display on the outer clamshell indicates caller ID, time, date, signal strength, roaming status and battery level. This external display is a bit larger than the MPx200's 96 x 32 pixel external display.

Like the Samsung i700 Pocket PC phone, the i600 has two speakers: the larger speaker for system sounds and the ringer is located on the back side of the unit, while the speaker for voice calls is just above the display with the mic below the keypad (same as standard clamshell phones).

In terms of ergonomics and usability, the i600 has an excellent keypad. The large backlit keys are easy to see and press, and the Send and End buttons are located directly on top of the number pad area, as with standard cell phones. The navigation and control pad lives above the keypad, and here you'll find the two MS Smartphone action buttons closest to the display, with a Home and back button below. The d-pad features single-piece construction that rocks easily in all directions. A large OK button is nestled inside the d-pad and all control pad buttons are backlit in blue.

On the left side you'll find the 2.5mm stereo headset jack, volume up/down buttons and the voice recorder button. The i600 comes with a stereo headset mic, and you can use standard 2.5mm mono mobile phone headsets too. The SD card slot, phone control launcher button and Internet Explorer quick launch button (press and hold this button to launch Voice Signal instead) are located on the right side. The unit has a stub antenna, with an external antenna jack on the back. The IR port is on the top edge of the phone and the sync connector is on the bottom edge.

What comes in the box?

As always, Samsung gives us a good bundle in the box. The package includes the i600, both a standard 900 mAh AND an extended 1700 mAh Lithium Ion battery, a desktop cradle with USB sync connector, a stereo earbud/mic headset, hand strap, case with belt clip, a 16 meg SD memory card (with bundled apps), an A/C world travel charger, a companion CD ROM that has Microsoft ActiveSync and Outlook 2000 and a printed guide.The travel charger can plug directly into the phone or into the cradle and will work most places in the world (100 to 240V, 50-60 Hz).

Wireless Voice and Data

The Samsung i600 is an all digital phone that works on 800 and 1900 MHz CDMA bands. It doesn't work on the analog AMPS network— analog capable phones are disappearing from Verizon Wireless' lineup as they move the entire US network to digital. The i600 supports Verizon's 1xRTT high speed data network which averages 60 to 70k in most areas, with maximum burst speeds of 144k. Web pages optimized for phones and PDAs load very quickly on the i600 using the 1xRTT network, and non-optimized pages take between 30 and 50 seconds to load. If you're not in a 1xRTT service area or don't wish to use that connection method, you can use the older and slower QNC 14.4k network instead. Voice quality, connection reliability and signal strength are excellent on the i600 just as they are for its big brother, the Samsung i700 Pocket PC Phone Edition.

You can power off the wireless radio to use the phone in flight mode. In addition, you can use the i600 as a modem for you notebook: set the phone to external data call mode and use the included cradle to connect the phone to your notebook.

Standard cell phone creature comforts abound, and you'll be able to speed dial, voice dial and use one of six profiles for the phone. If you enter the first few digits of a phone number, the phone will display all matches, and filter the matches as you enter further digits. Simply use the d-pad to select one of the matches to dial. You can assign up to 98 speed dial numbers from your contacts list (0-99 are supported, but 0 and 1 are reserved). Speed dial #1 is assigned to voice mail and 0 does nothing. Using Profiles you can customize the ringer volume, ring type, alarm type, alarm volume and notification method. The phone comes with six profiles and you can customize a profile to suit your needs. Phone security features include keypad lock, phone lock, password protection and call restrictions.

For voice dialing the i600, like the i700, comes with Voice Signal software. This is an impressive application that allows you to dial any contact by saying his or her name. If the contact has more than one phone number listed, Voice Signal will ask you which location, and you'll state the location (home, mobile, work). To start Voice Signal, you'll press and hold the i button on the right side of the phone until you hear a tone. Voice Signal is then ready to accept the following commands: Name Dial (this means you're going to say the contact's name), Digit Dial (you'll speak the numbers you want dialed) and Quick Dial (train Voice Dial to call someone based on the phrase you record, it needn't be their name). You can also do a name lookup without dialing. I'm amazed at how well the software works— with no fine tuning it recognizes my commands consistently and can even handle non-Western names. Since Voice Signal parses your entire contacts list, there is no hard limit on how many voice dial entries you can have. Sweet!

Horsepower and Expansion

The i600 has a speedy 200 MHz PXA250 XScale processor and 32 megs of RAM, beating out the 132 MHz MPx200. That's a lot of processing power for a phone-centric device, though MS Smartphones don't feel faster than regular feature phones running on slower processors. Why? The Windows Mobile OS has more overhead than a regular phone, but you do get a great many features in the deal.

Like all MS Smartphones, the i600 has an SD slot that accepts SD and MMC memory cards for expansion. The Samsung supports SDIO, which means you'll be able to use SD WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS SD cards when MS Smartphone drivers become available.

Display and Battery

The i600 has an incredibly vibrant and bright color display that looks almost too good to believe. It's a 65k color 176 x 220 transflective display, and that resolution is standard for MS Smartphones. In addition, the i600 has a monochrome external display that shows the date, time, roaming status, signal strength and caller ID info.

Samsung is quite generous with batteries for their Palm OS, Pocket PC Phone and MS Smartphone offerings. All come with both a standard and extended battery. Nice touch, since the first thing many of us buy is a spare battery. This compares well against the Motorola MPx200, which comes only with a single standard battery. The included cradle has a slot to charge both the phone and a standard or extended battery. The standard 900 mAh battery will last most users through the day. If you talk for over 1 hour per day, watch movies, play MP3s and surf the web for an hour, you'll need to charge the phone every day. If you talk on the phone for several hours each day, use the phone for long data sessions and use the PDA features, you may want to use the included extended battery. It's about twice as thick as the standard battery and will increase the phone's girth, but it's a great option to have when you're on the road or using the phone heavily.

PDA Functions: PIM and Multimedia Applications

Microsoft Windows Mobile for Smartphone OS has a set of applications that provide features for both power users who crave multimedia and gaming abilities and business users who need to share and sync their existing data with the handset seamlessly. All MS Smartphones come with apps that are equivalent to Outlook on the desktop, along with MSN Messenger and Windows Media Player for Smartphone. For PIMs, the phone can sync both to Outlook and MS Exchange servers for email, Tasks, Contacts and Calendar. If you want to do some serious data entry, Samsung sells a flexible roll-up keyboard for the i600.

Inbox- This email client supports POP3, IMAP and SMTP servers and offers authentication. It plays nicely with Exchange server and you can sync emails to and from the desktop as well as send and receive them directly from the phone.

Pocket Internet Explorer- This browser supports WAP, HTML, and cHTML (compact HTML). It also supports web pages with images and sounds, SSL and cookies but it does not support frames. The navigation is made easy via lists of favorite links, most recently-visited web pages and pages in History. The Options in the browser allows you to modify various settings, such as allowing cookies, playing sounds, showing pictures, selecting networks, etc. It may not be a desktop or full-fledged PDA browser, but it's very handy for getting info from the Web when you're on the go.

Contacts- The handset can store a very large number of records. The Contacts app on your phone provides many convenient ways for you to send messages, dial numbers and access web sites directly from the Contact records. While the Contacts is well integrated with the phone features, it can't sort or search. Contacts displays your records sorted alphabetically by last name. While you can't search by company for example, you can filter by category.

Calendar- There are three views in the Calendar application: Agenda view, Week view and Month view. You can enter a new event in any of these three views. Other than basic schedule information (date, time, place), the Calendar app provides you with more fields for additional info. These fields allow you to specify a reminder time, re-occurrence, status (tentative, busy, free, mark as private) and notes. In addition to entering a calendar event on the phone, you can synchronize the events from your Outlook Calendar, import from iCal (a web calendar server for Windows) or vCal, and even import items from attachments in your email messages, SMS messages and more.

Tasks- You can use the Tasks list for keeping track of your to-do items. You can create these items on the phone or sync them with your desktop Tasks in Outlook. You can mark any of the items on the list as complete or incomplete, and you can delete the items. You can also set reminders for these to-dos.

ActiveSync- If you use Outlook on your desktop, you will love ActiveSync, which is the same syncing software that comes with Pocket PCs. In fact, if you have both an MS Smartphone and a Pocket PC, you can sync each of them using the same Outlook and ActiveSync installation. ActiveSync for the desktop is included on the companion CD, and is built into the i600. Install the syncing software on your desktop, connect the cradle's USB cable to your PC, place your phone in the cradle, and you are ready to go. ActiveSync is a flexible program that allows you to specify which types of PIM info you wish to sync and how often you wish to sync it. Your Outlook email message can be synchronized to your phone via either your desktop Outlook Inbox or a Microsoft Exchange Server. Both email messages and calendar items will only be synchronized within certain parameters (for example, messages from last 3 days or calendar items for two weeks, etc.) while all contacts can be synchronized to your Samsung.

Windows Media Player- Yes, MS Smartphones can play stereo MP3 and streaming video. Using the included three-ring stereo headset, you can enjoy pretty high quality sound in Windows Media Player. The SD/MMC card slot comes in handy for you to load up a card full of multimedia content—insert the card and you're ready to listen to music or view videos through WMP. Of course, this will enable you to take full advantage of rich media web sites that serve WMP format movies. This pocket version of WMP supports most of the Windows Media video formats and MP3 playback. If you are making your own video and MP3 files, make sure that you check the manual and use the codec versions that are supported in Smartphone's WMP.

T9 Mode- MS Smartphones support 3 input modes for entering text and numbers: Multipress, T9 and Numeric. The first two are used to enter text while the last one is used to enter numbers. You can switch modes by holding down the Asterisk (*) key while inputting data. We've all used the Mulitpress and Numeric methods on other phones, and some users will be familiar with T9. When you enter text in T9 mode by pressing a numeric key, T9 will analyze your key presses and attempt to complete the word for you. If the T9 database doesn't have certain words, you can go back to Multipress mode and enter the word. Once the word is entered, it will be stored in T9 database as well.

Conclusion

A compact, well made powerful phone. Worth a look for those who are phone users first and PDA users second. Pro: Excellent Outlook syncing: no more wearing out your thumbs entering contacts and calendar items into your phone. Attractive, clean design. The phone and antenna are very sturdy and should hold up well under heavy use. Gorgeous screen and fast 200 MHz processor. Excellent voice quality and great signal strength on the Verizon Wireless network. Data speeds on the 1xRTT Express Network are quite good. Con: No Bluetooth and no camera. There's a caller ID bug (caller ID info may be slow to appear when a call comes in). Samsung has a fix for this on their web site: caller ID will appear quickly, but will only display the number and not the name of the caller. The 2003 OS upgrade should fix the caller ID bug.

Price: $599 (less with activation of a new contract)

samsungusa.com, VerizonWireless.com , SprintPCS.com

 

Specs:

Display: TFT color LCD, 16 bit, 65K colors. Screen resolution: 176 pixels wide x 220 pixels high. External monochrome LCD for caller ID, date, time, signal strength and network status.

Battery Battery : Lithium Ion rechargeable. Comes with both a standard 900 mAh and a 1700 mAh extended battery.

Performance: 200 MHz PXA250 XScale processor. 32MB Flash ROM, 32 MB SDRAM. Can be expanded using SD and MMC cards.

size: 3.5" x 2.1" x .9". Weight: 5 oz.

In the Box: CDs, manual, phone, cradle, case, regular and extended battery, world charger, stereo headset mic with call send/end button and 16 meg SD card with bundled apps.

Phone: CDMA 800/1900MHz bands and 1xRTT (Express Network) for high speed data. No analog.

Audio: Two Built in speakers (one for system sound and ringer, the other for phone earpiece). Integrated mic. Supports alarm sounds, LED alert and vibrating alerts. Stereo output through 3 ring headset jack, MP3 playback. Voice recorder functionality.

Software: Windows Mobile for Smartphones operating system. PIM applications include Contacts, Calendar and Tasks. Calculator and file manager are included. Internet Explorer for surfing web sites, email client that works with Outlook. MSN Messenger is included. Windows Media Player included for playing MP3 and streaming video. Voice recorder included for recording voice memo and more. 3rd party apps include: Voice Signal voice dialing software, eWallet, Links golf game, Westtek ClearVue suite for viewing MS Office docs and PDFs,

Expansion: 1 MMC/SD slot. Supports SDIO.

 

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