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Teen dream machine

THE SAMSUNG CORBY: For nimble-fingered tech savvies

Samsung CorbyTHE iPhone has certainly set the standard for new cellular descendants with newer mobile releases favoring the larger, full-touch screen. There is also a major focus on making cellphones exclusive social networking devices.

Samsung has followed suite with the release of a few touch-friendly iPhone clones – one of which is called the Samsung Corby. The device is specifically aimed at the youth market and it’s easy to see why; it takes a tech-savvy youth to get to grips with it. However, touch technology is amazingly intuitive and it shouldn’t take long for anyone to learn to use a Corby – provided you have thin and nimble fingers and thumbs.

Social features
On the plus side the Corby is certainly a very social phone. It is fully Facebook, Twitter and MySpace compatible and can be used to upload content to a variety of sites, such as YouTube, Flickr, Picasa and Photobucket. One is also able to receive updates and live feeds via Facebook, MySpace and Twitter through a simple pop-up SNS (Social Networking Service) notification feature.

With a Corby, users can upload photos and videos and view such content on these sites through a feature called Communities. However, community access is only granted after an extensive disclaimer is displayed, which includes the clause that any content uploaded may be accessed and used by third parties. Be warned that there is a risk of being spammed with adverts once your personal details are divulged.

The screen
The 2.8-inch QVGA screen is large and crystal clear – something that Samsung certainly gets right. I thought the screen would get smudgy after a few hours of fingering and was surprised to find that it didn’t leave a single fingerprint behind. Apart from three buttons found on the front, the phone is entirely operated with the screen using one’s fingers and thumbs.

This may pose a problem for some as the Corby does not favour users with fat fingers. You have to use your thumb to type / touch anything comfortably and I’m sure that the average thumb is not as small as most of the keys on the touch-screen. A better option is to use a stylus (a phone-poking pen with a thin, touchy tip). Yet the Corby comes with none.

What’s on the menu
The Corby has an elaborate menu – two and a half screens worth. These all have a function and purpose but Samsung could have easily gone for a minimalistic approach by combining some of these. For example, there are separate synonymous icons for “Google” and “Internet” as well as separate “stopwatch” and “timer” functions. I guarantee that consumers would agree that less is more and imagine that a lot of the Corby’s multiple functions would go unused.

Apart from the 27 pre-installed widgets an additional 75 are available for download from Samsung’s online Widgets Store (not unlike the iPhone App Store). The Corby makes use of quad band connectivity to download content and browse the web, which is no 3G experience but is still sufficiently fast.

Nonetheless the Corby is easy enough to navigate and it doesn’t take long for all the mysterious symbols to start making sense. There does, however, seem to be a slight misunderstanding between the scroll and the zoom functions – often confusing themselves with each other. What also lacks is an on-screen QWERTY keyboard – making message-making rather difficult.

Other features
The Corby has an impressive memory and can support up to 8GB of external storage. Battery life is said to be 9 hours of talk time and an incredible 730 hours of standby time. It has a camera yet this is a mere 2 megapixels and has no autofocus or flash. It does have a “smile shot” function which is becoming all the rage – i.e. the phone will only take a photo of a person when he/she is smiling.

There are two unique features belonging to the Corby, namely “one finger zoom” and “smart unlock.” As the name suggests, one finger zoom enables consumers to zoom in and out with one finger, while smart unlock is a feature which enables users to unlock the phone by drawing a letter on the screen. One can choose from 9 letters with which to secure their phone from teenaged trespassers.

The verdict
The S3650 Corby would definitely appeal to youngsters that are keen on technology and consider themselves as active social networkers. It is also a phone for those who like to personalise and customise and comes with extra covers slanged “fashion jackets”. The relatively low price of R1500 implies no fancy stuff, but the wide range of features and downloadable content is certainly relevant to the target audience. Tech-savvy and mobile-intuitive traits required.

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REVIEW: The Samsung S3500 Quad-band

Samsung S3500I’VE had the same brand of cellphone since I was 16, and that’s not because I’ve had the same phone since I was 16. On the contrary, I’ve been through about seven phones in the last eight years.

There was my first phone that drowned in a fishpond, another that committed suicide by jumping out of a six-storey window, a third phone that died in a freak electrical-induced accident, and a few others that were simply tossed aside because something sexier and more exciting had come to town.

But of all the phones I’ve had in my life, they’ve all had one thing in common — they all belonged to the same brand. My current phone is the same brand. I believe this is because of a fundamentally human thing — that we tend to resist change, especially in the technology department. There is something comforting about the familiar and we don’t want to have to faff about learning something new when we already have something old that works perfectly fine.

This brings me to the Samsung S3500, which was a pleasant introduction to Samsung mobile phones. This model seems to be marketed as a fairly up-to-date budget phone, because apparently we’re in some kind of merciless economic recession. It’s not a bad marketing strategy, although I would argue that what actually appeals to consumers the most is the idea of paying less for more.

And it’s not a bad bundle that you get for around R3 000 (prepaid).

It has one unique function called “fake call” which is a little strange. This function enables you to activate a bogus incoming call so you can free yourself from awkward conversations or dodgy situations by pretending to take a call.

It has EDGE connectivity capabilities, an embedded music player, FM radio, Bluetooth, a WAP browser and a camera, among other things. It also looks really slick and there is something very pleasing about a slider phone.

Let’s take a closer look (a full list of specs appear at the end of this post):

DISPLAY
The Samsung’s display, on the other hand, is great, with each of the main keys of the D-pad bringing up a different set of options. It is easy to navigate and all the functions are neatly displayed on the main menu. It has a nice selection of themes, the icons are large and the screen is bright. Top marks for presentation.

SOUND
One thing that cellphones today are really starting to perfect is the way they sound. Gone are the days of fake-sounding, mosquito-like noises emanating from phones as they ring. Most mobiles today sound so good that they make for great portable radios and MP3 players. The Samsung S3500 is both and they sound great.

KEYPAD
Until this year I had always been reluctant to get a phone on contract. The thought that yet another phone might drown or kill itself, leaving me with the responsibility of having to pay for it every month for two years, doesn’t really appeal to me.

However, one needs to consider that as long as you take good, vigilant care of your cellphone, having one on contract should be a lot cheaper in the long run. I am finally content with my current phone with the exception of its keypad, which is very similar to that of the Samsung S3500.

I find these newer, flat and hard keypads difficult to operate, especially when trying to type an SMS in a hurry. This does not bode well for someone who SMSes more than he/she phones.

My fondest memory of my very first phone was its spongy buttons, which almost massaged one’s fingers. With these flatter, more plastic-like keypads, such as that of the Samsung S3500, I find that I have to use my fingernail to type … if it hasn’t yet been chewed off from frustration.

GAMES
The Samsung S3500 has a large library of games, which tells me that this phone is really suited for the teenage market. The phone comes with seven free games with the option of downloading more. And these are not the standard, outdated games such as Snake, but classier, more challenging digitalised treats such as Harry Potter, Midnight Pool and Sudoku.

If mobile games are your thing, these should keep you entertained for hours.

INTERNET
As soon as I read “Quad-band” on the side of the Samsung S3500’s box I got rather excited as I expected to experience lightning-fast Internet speeds. However, if you have experienced ADSL Internet speeds, then connecting to the web using this phone (or most phones for that matter) is nothing special and can be painfully slow. To make matters worse, this particular model doesn’t have 3G capabilities, which can be a bummer.

CAMERA
Considering that most modern phones today have five-megapixel cameras, the Samsung S3500’s two- mega pixel camera is a bit of a disappointment. It’s fine for taking photos (and even video) to view on the phone itself, but if you are wanting to preserve your mobile memories by printing out your pictures from your phone, this one really isn’t quite up to the task.

OTHER FEATURES
With the exception of 3G and GPS, there seems to be very little that the Samsung S3500 is missing when compared to other cellphones of 2009. It has a standard phonebook and messaging interface, the usual call log, a separate folder for all your downloaded or produced content, an organiser with a clock, alarm, calendar, calculator and converter, a voice recorder, timer, stopwatch and numbered buttons from one to nine.

FAKE CALL
There is, however, one unique function called “fake call”, which is a little strange. Many of Samsung’s more recent handsets include this feature, which enables you to activate a bogus incoming call, so you can free yourself from awkward conversations or dodgy situations by pretending to take a call.

For added authenticity, you can record your own fake voice “call” that plays back when you answer. Potentially useful perhaps, but don’t be caught using it!

Apart from that, the Samsung S3500 is nothing too special but is a decent upgrade if you currently have on older Samsung model. I think I’ll stick to my particular cellphone brand for now and simply avoid getting too close to fishponds, hanging around high-rise windows, and make an extra effort to stay away from electrical experiments.

SAMSUNG S3500 SPECS:

  • GPS: No
  • Java: Yes, MIDP 2,0
  • Games: 7 + downloadable
  • Bluetooth 2,0 + EDR and USB
  • Messaging: SMS, MMS, e-mail
  • Size: 100 mm x 48 mm x 14 mm
  • 2-megapixel camera (1600×1200 pixels)
  • FM radio with RDS and recording feature
  • MicroSD card support with up to 8GB support
  • 30MB of internal memory • Phonebook: 1 000 contacts
  • EDGE: Class 10; 236,8 kbps • Browser: WAP 2,0/xHTML, HTML
  • 2,2-inch TFT; QVGA resolution (240 x 320), 16 million colours
  • Quad-band GSM/EDGE connectivity (850/900/1800/1900 MHz)
  • Standard Li-Ion 800mAh battery with talk time of up to 7,5 hours
  • Embedded music player supports MP3/AAC/AAC +/MIDIplayback
  • Video: Record 15 f/s QVGA video in MPEG4 and H.263 formats (playback in 25 f/s QVGA)

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