Camera phones have gotten a bad rap – and rightfully so. Traditionally still an afterthought, camera capabilities are subpar on even the most sophisticated smartphones. The Samsung Memoir SGH-t929 puts the visuals first, providing a robust 8 megapixel camera and video recorder with a wide detailed screen. The other aspects are about average, making the expensive Memoir best for camera consumers who need a phone on the side – and not the other way around.
Features & Design
Similar in style to the Omnia, the Samsung Memoir is about four inches by two inches and a half inch thick. It comes in a sleek black shell with silver trimming. Unlike the Omnia and other similar phones, however, the Memoir weighs in at almost 5 ounces – there is a certain heft that makes the phone feel, well, more like a camera.
In the tradition of regular digital cameras, there is no flipping here – everything is on the surface of the candy bar phone. The touchscreen is two and a half inches by one and a half inches. When held vertically, the phone has three buttons immediately under the touchscreen: the green go button, the back button and the red stop/power button. The left side has slots for the headphone/mini-USB and the micro SD card. The right side is prepped for camera use: volume buttons that double for the zoom, a phone lock button and a round, defined picture button.
The top and the bottom are smooth and buttonless. The back of the phone, with its flash, pinhole and full-fledged lens, looks just like the average digital camera.
Samsung thankfully revised the Omnia’s strange touchpad with a direct touchscreen mechanism similar to the iPhone. The main screen remains clear, while a list of more than a dozen different icons are displayed in a left-hand column. You can scroll through the list and either double tap the desired item or, if it is appropriate, drag the item to the center screen. For instance, the weather icon can be dragged onto the main screen so the current climate is displayed permanently onscreen. Like other Samsung models, the phone will do a low-frequency vibration and a light “thud” sound whenever an icon is touched or moved.
The Samsung Memoir is a GSM phone, quad-band 850, 900, 1800, and 1900 MHz, which makes it about as worldly as any phone can get. It is available only through T-Mobile. Like other Samsung T-Mobile phones, the 3G Internet browsing was rather slow, but the device is compatible with Bluetooth.
Setup & Use
The Samsung Memoir comes with less equipment than the average smartphone, which could be a testament to its easy of use. Inside you’ll find a mini-USB cord, headphones and wall plug. That’s it. The rest of the box is dedicated to the intimidating, but thorough instruction booklet, which gives details on the Memoir’s multimedia capabilities.
Using the phone itself isn’t a pain, but it isn’t intuitive, either. As discussed, icons must be touched or dragged onto the main screen – easy enough for the average smartphone user. The challenge, like Samsung’s recent Omnia, is that the icons are still not clear enough to indicate use. The talking icon doesn’t bring you to the phone menu, but to voice command software. Does the envelope mean email, AOL instant messenger, or SMS? Users will be either doing lots of trial and error or spending time with the thick instruction booklet.
And while the Memoir’s touchscreen response isn’t as fast as competitors, it is a vast improvement over previous Samsung phones. There is less of a delay between touch and response, and the now-standard “flip” animation when turning the phone on its axis is smooth and virtually effortless.
The Memoir shines best in its camera function. All touchscreen based, the camera is a snap to use – tap the screen to activate menu options on either side. From the icons you can adjust brightness, zoom and other functions. You can also switch between picture and video, the latter of which will start and end with the touch of the top button. The 8 megapixel pictures can then instantly be uploaded to Flickr, Kodak Gallery, Photobucket, Snapfish or your own T-Mobile “My Album Online.”
Unfortunately, like the Omnia, the Memoir was slow on the Internet. Shutterbugs will probably be better off transferring the photos via mini-USB onto their computer and using their favorite digital album. (Intermediate photographers probably already have their systems in place anyway.) And while the still shot and video options were impressive, the music player was average.
The Samsung Memoir SGH-t929 is $449.99 MSRP, significantly more than a smartphone of similar compatibility and about double the price of a phone-less digital camera of similar power. At launch T-Mobile offered both a $200 instant discount and a $50 mail-in rebate, dropping Memoir down to $199.99 – a price slightly cheaper than the average digital camera. The high-resolution pictures will also require investing in a microSD card. More information is available at t-mobile.com.
Samsung should definitely be commended for taking camera phones to the next level. Veteran smartphone users, however, will realize that the Memoir is just an average phone with a very nice camera. For the hefty, non-discounted price, one could get a nice camera and an even nicer smartphone.
- Hi-res screen
- Very nice camera
- Slow touchscreen
- Slow Internet
- Average phone without camera