Samsung MM-A920 Review

Samsung MM-A920

“...the A920 is the best music phone available for Sprint.”
  • External music controls; EV-DO compatible; Bluetooth compatible; 1.3 megapixel camera
  • Small screen for TV viewing; glitchy media controls; short battery life
MSRP $149.99

Summary

As if merging a camera into a cell phone wasn’t challenging enough for industrial designers, now they have to supplement this device with an MP3 player as well! Instead of playing with new form factors and radical designs, Samsung has simply adjusted the tried-and-true clamshell form factor to incorporate a 1.3 megapixel camera and an MP3 player into its MM-A920, available for Sprint’s PowerVision EV-DO network. The A920 could have benefited from more variation in theme and it seems like a slightly less-endowed rip-off of the LG-VX8100 for Verizon (which is undergoing a redesign as the VX8300 that is due to be available this summer). However, each of these phones operate on different networks so by default and regardless of its imitation of Verizon’s model, the A920 is the best music phone available for Sprint. Then again, if you plan on watching a lot of Sprint PowerVision TV, we’d choose a different Samsung.

Features and Design

If you’ve seen the LG-VX8100 for Verizon, you’ve seen the A920 for Sprint. The obvious differences are in the phones’ coloring — the A920 is jet black compared to the VX8100’s blue-and-silver scheme — and the VX8100 has an annoying stub antenna. Another small difference is in the minor key assignments that differentiate the dial pad layouts. Otherwise, both phones have the camera lens with flash, external color LCD screen and music control buttons on the front cover, stereo speakers mounted on opposite sides of the clamshell hinge, a volume toggle and a headphone jack on the left spine, a memory card slot and a direct camera activation key on the right spine.

One significant design difference is their respective LCD screen sizes. Both the screens on the A920, the 262k-color main internal (1.9 inch diagonal, 176 x 220 pixel) and the 65k-color external (1.2 inch diagonal, 128 x 98 pixel) LCDs are slightly smaller than those on the VX8100 (2.1 inch diagonal, 176 x 220 pixels and 1.25 inch diagonal, 128 x 128 pixels, respectively). This difference is obvious when watching the respective video offerings from each carrier; the VX8100 lets you watch Verizon V CAST TV in portrait mode while holding the phone horizontally, but Sprint’s PowerVision TV can only be watched on the A920 in a letterboxed image in the normally vertical landscape screen position.

On the camera side, the A920 also supports the PictBridge standard, which allows you to print pictures without a PC, instead connecting directly to a PictBridge-compatible printer via a USB cable. The other minor difference between the two phones is the memory card; the A920 uses a TransFlash (aka microSD) card while the 8100 uses a miniSD card (although the upcoming 8300 will also use a TransFlash).

As it is contrasted with other Sprint PowerVision phones, the A920 is the only one with external music controls. Its bright white keypad backlighting is far brighter than on the gaudier Samsung MM-A900. Also, the right side of the external flash doubles as a charging indicator, glowing red while charging and green when the charging is completed, both of which are large and bright enough to be seen from across a room.

Also included are a minimal set of the now familiar cell phone productivity apps including: a “planner” scheduler, a memo pad, world clock, alarm clock and calculator, as well as Samsung’s speech-to-text dictation feature.

Samsung MM-A920
Image Courtesy of Samsung

Performance

Thanks to the A920’s EV-DO compatibility, you get to the net in around 10 seconds and connect to Sprint’s TV or music store in around 15 seconds. Downloads are equally zippy, with complete music tracks downloaded and ready to play in less than a minute, depending on the length of the song. Equally important, WAP Web pages load in less than five seconds and Sprint TV channels started playing in less than 15 seconds.

Playing music, however, is problematic. Hitting the “list” toggle on the outside of the phone does nothing. You’ll have to open up the phone, power up the Sprint media player, and then access your play lists to start the tunes. After this you’ll have to open the phone up again to stop play. You can skip forward, skip back, and pause with the phone closed as the track progress bar flashes in different colors to indicate you have temporarily halted play. The included earbud headphones actually sounded decent, although no one with even moderately smart ears would confuse them with a good set of Shures or Ultimate Ears.

Even though the A920 has a bright screen, the A900, with its larger screen, is far better for watching Sprint TV (if watching TV on a cell phone is why you’re considering subscribing to Sprint PowerVision). But even beyond the screen, we lost audio when watching TV whenever the phone asked us to confirm that we were still watching, and nothing we did brought it back. However, this may have been in glitch in our test model. If this is a concern, test the phone in the store first.

For chatting, connections with Sprint’s network were solid with no drop outs, and cell-to-landline conversations were loud and clean. We did hear some warbling on cell-to-cell calls, however.

Samsung estimates that you’ll get three hours of continuous talk time, which is a little below average. No estimated standby time is listed, which to us sounds like a studio not previewing a movie for critics knowing that the subsequent reviews will be less than benevolent. Suffice it to say, this is a phone that ought to be charged every night and will require you to pack a charger for even overnight trips to ensure battery life.

Conclusion

If you intend to — or even suspect that you might — watch Sprint TV, get the A900. But if you intend on listening to music or just accessing the Web, then this is the PowerVision phone for you.

Pros:


  • Speedy EV-DO connections

  • External music controls

  • 1.3 megapixel digital camera/camcorder

  • Bluetooth

  • PictBridge

  • External TransFlash (microSD) slot

Cons:


  • Small screen

  • Short battery life

  • Complex access to music files

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