Samsung SPH-I300
By Joachim Bamrud, Tue Jan 08 00:00:00 GMT 2002

The new super smart phone from Samsung features a large color screen, WAP and Web-clipping and PDA functions. And some problems.

The SPH-I300 is distributed in the United States by Sprint PCS. Sprint offers two manuals, one quick guide and a detailed guide that has to be downloaded through an accompanying CD-Rom. Both are easy and helpful.

Ease of use: 4/6 stars

In typical PDA fashion, the front includes buttons that take you directly to the date book, address book, to do list and memo, which is very useful. The key attraction, compared with a regular phone, is the on-screen keyboard which includes separate buttons for each letter and each number, making it so much easier to write URL's or e-mail messages than your standard WAP phone.

A major negative, though, was the fact that the review sample provided to us from Sprint clearly was not working properly. It repeatedly ignored commands, forcing us to press the icons or buttons again and again until we succeeded. On several occasions it would also give us the wrong selections. For example, if we chose option four, it would send us to option five.

While we don't know how representative this problem is for all models, we can only base our review on this specific one. As a result, we give an overall score of four stars for ease of use (five stars each for the manual, the large screen and keyboard and one star for the freeze-frame problems).

Design/style: 5/6 stars

The design is simple and plain, neither ugly nor beautiful. The key element is the large screen, which is more than twice as big as typical phones and more reminiscent of a PDA. Only five buttons (including an up/down scroller) on its cover, further cements the look of a PDA rather than a phone. At the same time, the SPH-I300 is smaller and lighter than the Kyocera 6035 - the leading smart phone on the US market until now.

One negative: A very thick and large external antenna.

Vital statistics: 5/6 stars

Network: CDMA 800/1900, AMPS 800
OS: Palm
Weight: 170g (6 ounces)
Dimensions: 125 x 58 x 21 mm. (4.9 x 2.28 x 0.82 inches)
Talk time: 4 hours
Standby time: 100 hours (lithium-ion battery, two included)
LCD: 256-color screen
Mobile Internet access: Openwave UP4.1 browser, Handspring Blazer HTML Browser, Web-clipping via
Memory: 8 MB
TSP (Touch screen panel)
Writing recognition (Graffiti)
Address book, To-do list, Memo pad
Scientific calculator
Voice dialing (20 numbers) and Speed dialing (99 numbers)
Speaker phone
Professional golf game
PC Synchronization

WAP browsing: 3/6 stars

The phone comes with two wireless web options: Sprint's own web portal and a color HTML browser from Handspring's Blazer (which has to be downloaded from an accompanying CD-ROM via the PC). As usual, using the Sprint portal was easy and useful. It remains one of the most extensive carrier portals for WAP that we've ever seen, with extensive listing for news, finance, sports, entertainment etc.

The big disappointment, ironically enough, was the HTML browser. Although the software's from Handspring, the version on the SPH-I300 was especially formatted for Sprint, which chose to set it up as a portal, but with only a fraction of the links in the regular wireless web portal. Several of the categories only had one or two selections and some - like Messaging - had none. One category, People, managed to only have a Spanish-language, Mexican site as the selection. To add insult to injury, the HTML browser didn't include a go to or open search possibility, so we couldn't even add our own links. (Even the Yahoo version didn't include a search option).

We were also disappointed in the sites we did see in the color HTML browser. None of them really provided any different experience than if we had seen them in the normal black-and-white version of the regular Sprint portal. Sure, you could see the Yahoo and CNN logos in red, but then the rest of the content was standard without any colors or images.

The SPH-I300 is also supposed to offer Web-clipping options, although that software was not in our review package. As a result of the disappointing offer of the color HTML browser, we give the WAP browsing an overall score of three stars (the rounded out average between one star for the HTML browser and five for the regular browser).

WAP-related features: 5/6 stars

The SPH-I300, like other phones using the Sprint PCS network, uses WAP as a platform for its text messaging service (which can only be sent to other Sprint customers). Through Sprint, the phone also offers access to Yahoo mail and AOL Instant Messenger.

Thanks to the Palm desktop software (which can be downloaded from the Sprint/Samsung CD-Rom that comes with the phone), you can use Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Express, Eudora and Lotus on the phone. However, after use, the phone has to be synchronized with the desktop PC, so the latest version will be in place on both.

Overall: 4/6 stars

The overall score is four stars (the weighted average of the five categories in this review). The relatively low score for such a promising device is further backed up by the fact that it retails for US$499.99. That compares with the $399.99 price of the Kyocera QCP-6035. While the SPH-I300 is smaller and lighter, the QCP-6035 has more talk time and standby time while otherwise offering much the same.

So in the end, the choice comes down to whether you want to pay more for a device that looks more like a compact PDA than a bulky phone.