New Phone: Samsung i730

I got this phone just about a month ago on my Verizon account and have been using it pretty heavily… in brief, I am in love with this phone. Slide-away keyboard, a decent amount of memory, nice bright screen, built-in Wifi, built-in Bluetooth, built-in EV-DO, and SD card expandability.

 

Some thoughts: 

1. Samsung includes an extra “extended life” battery, which is good… if you use it a lot, you’ll see the battery drop off fairly quickly. I park it in the charger each night, though, and have yet to have a day where the standard battery (slightly smaller) didn’t make it through just fine. Then again, I’m not someone who’s on the cell phone for more than an hour or so a day. In addition to the extra battery, there’s the cradle, cables, belt holster, a CD-ROM with the Windows Mobile OS, and stereo earbuds that double as a microphone headset. 

2. One irritant I’ve found is that the charging cradle has two cables — one for AC and the other for sync’ing via USB. The phone itself, however, will only take the AC cable directly. So you have to have it in the cradle if you want to sync. Not a big deal, you say, but I prefer to have the cradle on my nightstand and let it charge over night… during the day, the phone should be syncing with my machine in the office. To get around this, I picked up one of these for my desk at work and one of these for my laptop bag. Both work great for syncing, but they also charge the phone via USB power — makes battery life pretty much a non-issue for me.

3. It’s running Windows Mobile 2003 SE and I’m hopeful that a Windows Mobile 5 upgrade will be available at some point. No word yet that I know of.

4. I haven’t yet built any apps for it, but I have started to read more articles on the .NET CF… now I just need to come up with some cool ideas to build on. I’m thinking of a “Soccer Coach Assistant” to keep track of players, rosters, track goals/assists during games, etc. If the UI is done well (meaning minimal taps for in-game tracking), it could be a great way to keep statistics for a season (something young players love to hear at the year-end party). Plus, it would get me some exposure to SQL CE, which I know nothing about. Or maybe I’ll build something poker-related, I don’t know… any ideas?

5. The included apps are great… VoiceSignal is a voice-command application that seems to work very well. “Call Home” and it does “Open Excel” and it does, etc. There’s “Launcher” which is a configurable app for one-handed launching of various apps. I also like Picsel Browser, which is a web and document browser that’s very slick… it zooms in and out, pans around, and allows for lots of cool navigation options. It reads Excel docs, Word docs, PDF, images, etc, but I also prefer it over Pocket IE for general surfing. There is also a There’s all the usual Pocket PC apps, including light versions of Word, Excel, Outlook messaging, etc.

6. Combined with Verizon’s EV-DO high-speed service,  it’s amazing for on-the-go connectivity. I’m regularly getting 600kpbs or better for downloads. The EV-DO isn’t available everywhere, but the Denver/Boulder area was turned up a few weeks ago and I’ve been lovin’ it. I can stream video into the mobile Windows Media Player and get great, fluid video images. If you’re gonna go with a device like this, I think you pretty much have to get the “Unlimited Data” plan… I did and don’t regret it a bit.

7. The form factor is perfect for me. It may be on the large-ish side for some, but it compares well with the Palm Treo. I like that I get a nice, large (for a phone) screen and then can slide the keyboard open/shut as needed. The keyboard keys take some getting use to because of their size and proximity, but they stick up nicely from the device and have a solid “click” to them.

8. The built-in wifi has been great, though I’m thinking of adding a 3rd party app to manage the wifi. The built in handling for scanning, connecting, and authenticating is just a little unwieldy. Handango has a number of apps that seem to manage wifi connectivity for PPC devices, so I’ll give those a try. 

9. No chance to use the built-in Bluetooth yet, though I may have to grab a wireless headset one of these days.

10. I stuck a 1GB SD card in the side and have been installing apps to that (to save space in the built-in RAM)… I’ve also downloaded some WMV video files to watch when I’ve got dead time. There are some “DVD to PocketPC” apps out there that can apparently fit a feature film into 128MB of space, which could be pretty cool. For now, it’s been things like some Channel9 videos and some of the .NET 2.0 GrokTalks.

Finally, Verizon’s service has been awesome. I’ve been with them for about five years now… back in 2002, I got screwed when I moved my account from a company name into my personal name. Nothing changed but the account name, but the way they did it made it appear as a new account — meaning I lost all my existing customer benefits like cheap phone upgrades, etc. Try as I might, nobody could fix it for me.  Given that and their previously-crappy selection of PDA style phones, I was pretty sure I’d be jumping ship and heading to T-Mobile or Cingular.

So I checked out this phone when it first came out and really was impressed… I called Verizon customer service a number of times beforehand, with questions about upgrade pricing, various data plans, EV-DO capabilities, family-share minutes (for my wife’s phone), and so on. Without exception, the people I spoke with were friendly, knowledgeable, and very helpful. Obviously, something’s changed over there… so their improved customer service and improved selection of higher-end phones did it for me.

I love this thing.