GPSolo Magazine - June 2004

PRODUCT REVIEW
Samsung SPH-i500

T he SPH-i500 is Samsung’s newest entry into the field of converged devices. It replaces the i330, which was very similar to the earlier i300. The Samsung i500 runs on Palm OS 4.1 on a 66 MHz Motorola Dragonball processor. ­­­

Size. This is a very small phone. It measures 2.1” wide, 3.4” tall, and 0.85” thick, and it weighs only 4.7 ounces with the slim battery installed. The big difference between this generation and the i300 series is that this is a flip-lid, clam-type design, compared with the “bricklike” look and feel of the i300 series. The flip style makes it easier both to talk and hear on the phone. The new style does not function as a speakerphone, however, and this is a serious drawback when compared with the i300 series.

Operating system. The Samsung i500 runs on Palm OS 4.1 on a 66 MHz Motorola Dragonball processor. The phone has 16 MB of ram, more than enough to download e-mail and run numerous applications. The i500 lacks an expansion slot, however, a feature common to other converged devices in this price range.

Use as a phone. This is perhaps the biggest upgrade from the i330 to the i500. The i330 did not have any true keys. In order to make a call you had to use the stylus to punch the “buttons” on the phone’s display, or you could use the voice dial or speed dial. The i500 has full, easy-to-use buttons. Voice dial and speed dial are still options, as well.

Use as a Palm. This device functions reasonably well as a “standard” Palm device. It runs on Palm OS version 4.1 instead of the newest version, 5.0. It utilizes Graffiti and syncs using the included USB cable or alternatively via the IR port. With the USB cable Samsung has made a huge improvement over its previous versions. The USB charger doubles as the sync station. You can also simply charge the phone with the included wall outlet plug instead of the somewhat larger sync station—this was not possible on the 300 series phones. (In fact, the new charger will also work with the earlier i330.)

Memory. The device comes with 16 MB of internal RAM. Many of the competing converged devices in this price range come with 32.

Expansion. There is no expansion slot on the i500. To me this does not seem to be that large of a drawback, but for heavy-duty users (such as my wife, who likes to actually read books on her Palm) this might pose a problem.

Multimedia. The focus of this phone is business uses, so it does not have an MP3 player. Nor does it have a digital camera.

Display. The i500’s screen is excellent. While it’s not high-resolution (it’s a bit larger than 160 x 160 pixels), it is a 16-bit color display, so it’s capable of 65,000 color variations, enough to produce very sharp text and images.

Communications. The Samsung i500 is a CDMA phone, meaning it can utilize Sprint’s PCS network, and both “standard” digital and analog. This is a must for those who travel to rural areas—even if infrequently. I used my phone at my in-laws’ farm in far western and very rural Nebraska with no problems.

The i500 also functioned admirably as a wireless data device, connecting easily to Sprint’s high-speed CDMA 1xRTT wireless network. It comes with the Handspring Blazer web browser, but you need to use a third-party e-mail client to really do e-mail well. I use SnapperMail (www.snappermail.com). This application allows me to send and receive e-mail on several POP3 e-mail accounts. This is only available as a downloadable product and can be had for $39.95 for the standard edition. Snapper works very well for sending and receiving standard e-mail messages, but it does drain battery life if you set it up for automatic e-mail downloading. I’d recommend manually checking mail every hour or so—I’ve not had any problems using it in that manner.

Power. The i500 comes with two batteries. There’s a slim battery that provides up to 2.8 hours of continuous talk time or 210 hours of continuous standby time, and a larger standard battery that offers up to four hours of talk time and up to 250 hours of standby time. The standard battery is somewhat larger than the slim battery. The difference in size, however, is very minor compared with the gain in battery life.

Add-ons. I would strongly recommend the available keyboard. The Samsung foldable keyboard is by far the best of the several different plastic keyboards I’ve used with Palm devices. Made out of a material that you can roll up and put in the included bag, it has good key feel, and I am able to type about 30 words per minute on it (compared with 45 or so on a normal keyboard). This keyboard is not readily available, though; my Sprint store didn’t have them in stock. I was able to buy it at CompUSA for $69, well worth the cost.

Bottom line. The Samsung SPH-i500 is an excellent converged device. It is quite small and has surprisingly good battery life. I have had no problem synchronizing it with my laptop and Amicus Attorney. It is also a very competent flip phone. The only drawback is that it cannot function as a speakerphone; switching from a unit that has a speakerphone to this device may take some getting used to.

Kyle L. Doviken is General Counsel and National Sales Manager for MicroLaw, Inc., a national legal technology consultancy based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He also practices law in Paris, Texas, where he specializes in consumer bankruptcies. He can be reached at kyle@dovikenlaw.com.

 

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