Samsung MM-A920 (SPH-A920) Review| By Allen Tsai
As portable music become more popular, cell phone manufacturers have made it a priority to integrate MP3-capables to compete in service and functionality to standalone music players such as the Apple iPod.
Just in time for holiday music lovers, the Samsung MM-A920 embeds an MP3 player with external music navigation controls to offer access to hundreds of songs stored on TransFlash memory cards up to 512 MB in size.
Compatible with Sprint's new online Music Store, the A920 is a new type of music phone, combining wireless communications with music and high-speed internet capabilities. Offering customers access to an online music catalogue, consumers can browse, download, play, and manage high-quality digital music directly from the A920. With EV-DO access, users can instantly purchase and download music on the go, not just in front of a PC.
Contrary to devices with strict traditional exteriors, the A920 features a smooth blue shell with rounded lines; offering a relaxed yet clean conservative look, with a bit of fun thrown in. Measuring 91 x 49 x 24 mm and weighing 108 g, the A920 is mid-sized, not overly bulky but not small by any means (a bit smaller than a deck of playing cards). Being thicker than average, the A920 diverges from the ultra-thin RAZR and A900 fads.
Regardless, its design is well-suited for MP3s. Situated on the front, an external screen displays vital information at a glance away in vivid 65K-colors. Positioned above, a lens and flash to the 1.3-megapixel camera and camcorder is activated with the press of the Camera Key on the right side.
Below the screen, a 5-way keypad provides music listeners access to convenient Rewind, Play / Pause, Fast Forward, List, and Shuffle Keys for complete MP3 playing controls without having to ever open the A920. Accessing music through TransFlash memory cards, an expansion slot on the right side pops open.
On the left, a Headset Jack allows convenient music listening and handsfree access, while Volume Keys to adjust earpiece and tone during calls and standby. Power and Accessory Interface Connectors on the bottom allow users to connect optional accessories such as the USB cable. Meanwhile dual stereo speakers on the ends of the hinge allow users to experience enhanced sound quality - from ring tones to music and video playback to conversations via speakerphone.
Opened, the main 262K-color LCD is revealed. Surrounded by Talk, End, Back, Speakerphone / Voice Command, and Left and Right Keys, the standard 5-way directional and numeric keypads offer comfortable navigation and text messaging through T9 predictive text.
Out of the box, the Samsung MM-A920 comes with a standard 900 mAh Li-Ion Battery, Desktop Charger, USB Data Cable, 32 MB TransFlash Card and SD Adapter, Stereo Headset, and User Manual.
With the push of a button the A920's 1.3-megapixel camera lens is activated on the front cover. Converting the internal display into the viewfinder, photos of up to 1280 x 960 px in resolution can be captured. Other resolution sizes include 800 x 600 px, 640 x 480 px, and 320 x 240 px. In addition to resolution selections, users can choose between Fine, Normal, and Economy images compression quality options when space is limited.
Fast becoming the standard in camera phone technology, 1.3-megapixel cameras excel past prior generation imaging by capturing photos high-enough in quality to make decent prints.
Featuring standard applications such as Flash (Auto, Off, On This Shot, Always On) and Self-Timer (Off, 5 sec, and 10 sec), the A920 also allows users to choose to take photos in Wide Screen (instead of Full Screen), ideal for the scenic panoramic shots.
Supplied with an array of image correction tools, shutterbugs can adjust Color Tones (Auto, Monochrome, Green, Sepia, and Blue), Brightness (-5 to +5), and White Balance (Auto, Sunny, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, and Manual) for optimal tonal qualities and exposure.
And to add some lighthearted entertainment to snapshots, six preinstalled frames come with the A920. Able to add fun borders such as Under the Sea, Top Secret, or Roses of Love, other selections include Blue, Love, and Winter Greetings.
Taking photos is one thing, but printing them is another. Fortunately the A920 includes PictBridge software, making transferring photos from the A920 to a printer without a PC or image-editing software a breeze. As an industry standard, PictBridge-compatible devices are made by many different companies, so finding a printer to offload photos is easier than ever.
Able to record video as well, the A920's camcorder function can store videos on the internal memory or on memory cards. Ideal for situations when a photo just won't do, users can use the same filters such as Movie Light, Self-Timer, Color Tones, Brightness, White Balance, and Quality Settings. Encoded in 3GP2 codec (MPEG-4 and H.263 Video, and AMR Audio) format, video clips up to 30-seconds in length can be recorded at 15 frames per second.
While quality isn't as great for live action as still photos, consumers will be hard pressed to find a high-quality video phone. Video technology has yet to catch up to photo technology, so camera phones can only record low resolution grainy videos. Slow to respond at times, consumers may experience choppiness during higher resolutions.
The MM-A920 (also known as the SPH-A920) runs on Sprint's dual-band CDMA (800 / 1900) network. Unfortunately this means there's no analog support, but with most of the nation blanketed in Sprint's digital network, analog is a thing of the past.
The A920 features a busy 12-icon menu structure. As one of the newest devices accessible on Sprint's Power Vision, users will be able to check the news through On Demand, listen to music through the Media Player, or download multimedia through My Content. More cluttered than most menus, the A920 may be confusing at first, but is quickly intuitive after some use.
Rating the 900 mAh Li-Ion battery at 3.5 hours and 10.4 days (250 hours) of talk and standby times, actual times will be slightly less. Handset manufacturers and carriers often list talk-time and standby-time ratings with disclaimers about variable performance and often refer to the times they publish as maximum times.
Consumers can quickly glance at incoming information on the A920's STN (Super Twisted Nematic) external screen. Allowing users to monitor the phone's status, the display includes call status, date and time, and signal and battery strength. Projected in 65K-colors, the 128 x 96 px LCD even allows music listeners to control the playlist and MP3 playing capabilities without opening the phone.
For video streaming and camera functionality, a vivid and quick responding screen is required, and the A920 definitely delivers. Featuring a 1.56-inch (176 x 220 px) LCD, the main display is built from TFT (Thin Film Transistor) technology, enhancing the brightness and contrast of the 262K-color screen while providing fast refresh rates.
Built on TFT technology rather than STN, circuit transistors are placed directly on the internal LCD's glass eliminate the need to scan each pixel location, resulting in brighter and more responsive images.
Being Sprint's flagship music phone, the A920's built-in MP3 player is seamlessly integrated with embedded Rewind, Play / Pause, Fast Forward, List, and Shuffle Keys. Located on the front panel, the easy access music controls turn the A920 into a standalone music player. By turning on Airplane Mode, communication functionality can be deactivate while in use.
Customers can also browse tunes through Sprint Music Store. Downloading full songs over-the-air to the A920, the music player allows customers to view their music by category and artist, as well as play and manage their music using playlists. Surfing, sampling and buying music from an online catalogue, hundreds of thousands of songs in virtually every genre of music are available for purchase.
Major labels such as EMI Music, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and Universal Music Group have signed on to offer songs at $2.50 each. While pricier than other music services, customers actually receive two copies of the song: one high-quality version formatted to play and enjoy only on the A920 and another high-quality version formatted to download on their PC, so customers can burn it to CD using Windows Media Player.
Also through Sprint Power Vision, customers have access to the A920's built-in Media Player. Offering users the ability to listen to streaming music whenever and wherever they want, the A920 has access to popular services such as MSpot, Sirius, and Rhapsody. Becoming a portable online radio, data charges may apply.
Supporting stereo audio, users can listen privately without disturbing others with the included headset. And to share the music, dual speakers positioned on either ends of the hinge blast music for an excellent open-air listening experience.
Commonplace now, SMS (Short Messaging Service), EMS (Enhanced Messaging Service), and MMS (Multimedia Message Service) text messaging standards are supported on the A920.
Being on the Sprint Network, through PCS Vision, users can picture message by attaching photos taken with their camera. And with PCS Video Mail, users can record and send 15-second clips to friends and family.
Also available to all Sprint customers, PCS Mail allows users to send and receive emails including file and photo attachments. And to check email from 3rd party sites, the A920 can access popular clients such as MSN Hotmail, AOL Mail, and Yahoo! Mail.
Featuring real-time instant messaging platforms, the A920 includes preinstalled AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), MSN Messenger, and Yahoo! Messenger clients. Going beyond traditional SMS-based chat, consumers can have real-time access to buddies on the go.
The A920 includes common PIM (Personal Information Management) applications such as Alarm Clock, Calculator, Countdown, Memo Pad, Scheduler, Task List, and World Timer in addition to built-in voice recognition technology.
With VoiceSignal, consumers can issue voice commands without pre-training such as checking the battery life, signal strength, or status. Users can also launch programs, dial numbers, and lookup contacts by using just the sound their voice. As one of the most advanced voice recognition technologies for mobile devices, VoiceSignal comprehends commands even when spoken in real-time.
Additionally a wide range of games come installed with the A920. Popular games such as 2 Fast 2 Furious, Block Breaker, Ms. PacMan, Tetris, and World Poker Tour come preloaded. Unfortunately these are all demos. Full versions are conveniently available for purchase through Sprint using J2ME (Java 2 Micro Edition) mobile platform.
Through J2ME, consumers can download and install games and applications through the web or Sprint Power Vision service. As the most popular platform for mobile devices, hundreds of games are available to choose from.
Progressing past one-player games, the A920 can connect to the Sprint's Game Lobby. Offering a place to compete against other customers, post scores, and see game recommendations, through Game Lobby online players from across the country can compete in real-time.
Being a Power Vision phone, the A920 has access to Sprint TV. Requiring a monthly subscription charge, different packages are available to customers, but users also can subscribe to single channels.
Customers who enroll in the Access Pack receive ABC News Now streaming live news channel and Sirius Hits. The Plus Pack includes everything the Access Pack has as well as NFL Network, Fox Sports, Fuse, and Fashion TV. And the Ultimate Pack includes Plus Pack plus ESPN, Fox News Channel, NBC, The Weather Channel, Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, TLC, Toon World, Looney Tunes, Comedy Time, and Music Choice.
Consumers can gain access to information through On Demand subscription channels. Up-to-date information on breaking news, sports scores, weather reports, and stock quotes are just a few key strokes away, while users can check up on movie times, directory services, or online maps.
Heavily integrated with Sprint services, the A920 has strengths and weaknesses. On the plus side, the A920 features an unsurpassed variety of entertainment features, from text messaging and chat, to mobile radio and television. The drawback is the extra charges for the services. Costing upwards of $15-25 extra per month, unsuspecting consumers may be surprised by the extra charges required to unleash the A920's potential.
Utilizing the A920 and Sprint Power Vision, consumers can surf the web at lightening fast speeds. Necessary for Sprint TV, Sirius Music, and other multimedia experiences, the Power Vision Network is built upon state-of-the-art EV-DO (Evolution-Data Optimized) technology.
Offering up to 10 times faster speeds than the conventional 2G networks, EV-DO allows users to access wireless data at average download speeds of 400-700 kbps and peak rates of up to 2 Mbps.
Launched in July, EV-DO has spread to more than 141 major markets and more than 250 airports nationwide. Accessible on Sprint's newest devices, EV-DO will reach about 150 million people in over 220 major markets by early 2006.
An ample 24 MB of internal memory is included on the A920. Enough for photos, ringtones, games, and videos, storage is dynamically shared among all multimedia, except songs. Music need to be stored on TransFlash memory cards to activate the built-in MP3 player. Current cards hold up to 512 MB in size, enough for hours and hours of music, but the A920 comes with only a 32 MB card. Consumers are highly recommended to purchase additional cards to store more than 10 songs.
The A920 can pair with devices within a 10 meter radius using Bluetooth wireless technology. Convenient to offload any photos taken with the camera to a PC, having unrestricted Bluetooth (unlike devices from other carriers), users can also save a few dollars by downloading and transferring their own multimedia from a PC instead of purchasing them from Sprint.
It's no mystery Sprint is focusing on providing an immersive multimedia experience. With the launch of its Power Vision Network, the A920 is capable of not only on-phone features, but also streaming multimedia and functionality.
Being labeled an MP3 phone, the A920 is an audio powerhouse. Music controls on the front panel offer convenient functionality as a portable player, while enhanced online radio service provides streaming music for times when the same old songs get bland.
But the A920 also holds its own as a camera phone. Featuring a 1.3-megapixel camera, the photo quality captured is better than most devices on the market. And including PictBridge technology, consumers don't need to be a tech-wiz to print photos.
All the features and functions would not be possible without Sprint's EV-DO network. Providing broadband speeds, the A920 is undoubtedly created to take advantage of Power Vision's multimedia capabilities.
Integration with Sprint Power Vision has many obvious strengths, however it's also the A920's main weakness. Being so tied to Sprint, taking advantage of the A920's full capabilities requires an additional subscription charge on top of the monthly service plan. Sprint TV, Media Player, On Demand, Mobile IM, and virtually anything else requiring online interaction will need to be charged for data rates. Granted there are reasonable data plans available, for the casual user, the monthly fee may not justify the extra multimedia enhancements, and may turn the A920 into a mediocre device without all the extras.
Regardless without the subscriptions, the A920 is still strong in imaging, audio, and entertainment. Able to use Bluetooth technology to transfer files to and from a PC, tech-savvy consumers can download multimedia files and transfer them wirelessly for free instead of from Sprint.
As Sprint's flagship music phone, the A920 will not be cheap. Running at about $200 with a service plan or $350 without, the price may be a limiting factor. However for a robust MP3 music phone with a high-quality camera and broadband capabilities, the A920 is a no-brainer for Sprint's Power Vision network.
Agree or disagree? We'd love to hear your thoughts. Share your experience and leave a comment below. ♦
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Great phone, But Sprint Sucks
I just purchased the A920, and it's so new that I can't even get a case for it because they don't make one yet!
I researched for some time and was torn between the A920 and A940. The A920 won. For starters it's a beautiful phone. It has great features as well. The A940's final straw for me was the rotating ear piece. After looking at them in the stores and noticing they seemed to wear quickly I decided on this phone.
The MP3 player is great. Acceptable sound coming from your cell phone. It also has two speakers on each side for a stereo sound. The phone uses a TransFlash card, really tiny thing, as memory. Only goes up to 512-megabytes, but I understand SanDisk will release up to 2-gigabytes later in the year. The screen display is wonderful. Lots of colors. The camera is decent but not for your home photo album collection. But a neat tool.
I tried the game mode just briefly -- Ms. Pac Man and Too Fast Too Furious -- and they look great. Now controlling the game was another thing. The games can be purchased from Sprint. That I understand, still can't understand the ringer thing though.
I find the phone to be user friendly. I didn't have many problems getting it set up to my liking. I've had a great signal since I've had it. Calls are fine. Overall a great phone. I love it. Now if Sprint would just stop trying to drain our wallets of our hard earned cash with all their extras then this phone would almost be perfect.
There are so many buttons it's hard to answer the phone and hold it without hitting a volume key or something. I guess I'll re adjust.
Oh, and Sprint -- good old Sprint. They push their Sprint Power Vision. Watch TV with your phone for only $25 a month... wow, I thought So I'm sitting here with my first month free Power Vision and realize what Sprint does not tell you in the fine print, (because I looked) that you have to pay $5 to $10 extra for the channel you want.
So if you want Fox News, Sirius, and Weather Channel you have to pay $25 plus the other monthly fees for the channels. So you're looking at $40 plus extra a month. That's just three channels. I figured Sprint would sell out its customers like that. Not to mention if you discontinue your Power Vision that you can't pay to upload extra ring tones.
Thank goodness I found a program to let me upload my own for free. Why should you have to pay for a quick jingle? Especially since this phone is an MP3 player and cannot use the MP3's as rings. Typical. There's that #1 customer satisfaction from Sprint. I won't mention the other problems I had with Sprint.Was this review helpful to you?
42 out of 44 people found this review helpful.
Sprint Service Makes It 10x Worse
I've had this phone since April 2006, and it's an okay phone. The fact that its Sprint makes it 10 times worse than it really is. Also, if you don't want to pay a fortune for a phone, then it's quiet boring. With Sprint, they make you pay a $15 minimum for Power Vision service. Plus, if you want free instant messenger, you have to pay $3 for that, etc. Sprint is just one mess full of extra, unnecessary charges. Anyway, getting back to the phone...
- Sleek look.
- Battery life... pretty good.
- User friendly -- the menu is organized and doesn't take that long to get used to.
- Lots of features.
- Reception -- so much fluctuation, its aggravating because it will go from like four to zero bars while you're on the phone, then you'll drop the call and milliseconds later it will go back to several bars.
- It's for Sprint.
- Costly features (but that's just Sprint in general).
- Volume rocker gets jammed.
- Ringtones are bad and annoying.
- Backgrounds could be better.
Overall, the good outweighs the bad, but I wouldn't recommend the phone only because it's for Sprint service. Trust me, don't get Sprint.Was this review helpful to you?
22 out of 25 people found this review helpful.
Great Phone, Bad Sprint Service
Yet again, I'm amazed by how companies will push something just to get it done. Don't get me wrong, I love my new phone; however I do not love the problems it's given me already.
I got this phone for the amazing streaming, Bluetooth capabilities and amazing sound for MP3s. And it hasn't let me down on those.
I work at a Sprint store and so I don't have to make the trip every time something is wrong, but I do have to give up my business phone to get it checked out. So far, our tech has seen my phone four times -- mostly for Vision (the web) problems.
Oh and as far as the vision pack goes for the phone, what's the point in getting the high-end phones without it? Why pay at least $200 for something that's going to do the same things a regular picture phone would do? The vision is another story... I wish they would have held onto this one just a little bit longer and worked out the bugs.Was this review helpful to you?
18 out of 23 people found this review helpful.
Bad Camera, Bluetooth Problems
The A920's media player is decent, but I find this irritating -- my Bluetooth headset won't play one channel of sound. I think you need the stereo headset to listen to the media player.
The A920's camera takes lousy images -- the quality is just horrible, far worse than the LG MM535, especially for outside shots.Was this review helpful to you?
12 out of 17 people found this review helpful.
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