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Samsung U900 Soul
I was fascinated by the Soul’s navigation technology the moment I saw it, and even more so when I got the opportunity to test it for the first time. Of course, that was before I tested other handsets such as the LG KF600. But I’m not here to do a comparison of handsets... yet. So here’s what I have to say about the U900 Soul, which is part of Samsung’s Ultra series of handsets.
The U900 Soul slider is definitely a good-looking handset, no argument there. It has a 2.2 inch TFT display with a 240 x 320 pixel resolution and 16 million colors. Its touchscreen navigation pad (oddly called Magical Touch) is a one-inch OLED display with intuitive technology that customizes the pad as per the features selected.
The color scheme can be changed to the user’s preference. The volume and zoom keys are located on the side just above Samsung’s proprietary USB/handsfree slot. The dedicated camera key (it activates the camera only when you’re at the main screen) is located on the other side, just above the microSD card slot.
The keypad is large and easy to use. It has a dedicated video call key and a switch key that allow you to swap between applications. The funny thing is I thought it to be a menu that shows what applications are running in the background as it has an ‘End All’ option at the end. But that simply closes the feature, nothing more. The 5MP camera and flash are located on the rear of the handset, so you’ll have to slide the phone open to access the camera.
Features and Performance
The only thing that places the Soul apart from any other Samsung slider (of which there are plenty) is the navigation pad. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to use, especially is you have pudgy fingers. It’s very responsive and you can adjust the sensitivity as well as the Haptic feedback response. It also allows users to customize the shortcuts for quick access to features.
The U900 is loaded when it comes to connectivity. It’s a 3G-enabled handset with HSDPA speeds, and supports EDGE/GPRS and WAP. Being a higher-end handset, it has Bluetooth with an A2DP profile and USB v2.0 connectivity as well. Here’s what baffled me though: I could connect to the Internet easily using the web browser, BUT for some reason it was really slow. It's a problem with the phone and NOT my service, for when I slipped my SIM into another handset it loaded sites a whole lot faster. I liked the browser's capability to adjust the size of the viewing space, the desktop viewing option, and Smart Fit.
I downloaded Google Maps and Gmail for Mobile over the air but they refused to work. The error message I kept getting said the service required me to have an active data connection and that the network's unavailable. Since the Soul has Shozu preloaded I couldn’t activate my account because of the same Network Unavailable error. I double-checked the settings, made sure I had full reception, and even opened a few sites on the browser to be sure. Everything worked fine, but these applications didn't. I’m still clueless. I spoke to BPL and was assured that everything was fine at their end.
In terms of other features the Soul doesn’t offer much more than what you’d expect from a handset of this sort. It has the usual features, such as a world clock, memo pad, calculator, stopwatch, converter, and RSS feed reader. Samsung’s Mobile tracker application for security comes in useful if you lose or misplace your handset.
I also liked the in-built theme creator that allows users to customize and create a theme from scratch and choose from an array of color schemes and images. Samsung has also preloaded a few games, but unfortunately they're all demos so you'll have to purchase the licenses to enjoy them properly.
When it comes to media the Soul fares quite well. The music player is decently loud and clear. It lacks a manually customizable EQ setting but there are a few basic presets, including a Surround option. The bundled handsfree kit leaves a lot to be desired. For one thing, it doesn’t allow the use of your own earphones as it’s proprietary. Secondly, it didn’t seem to fit comfortably into my ears. The FM radio pickup is okay when stationary but there's too much static while commuting. There's also a voice recorder. For a bit of fun you can use the preloaded photo and video editors to spice up your images.
Watching videos on the 2.2 inch screen is quite a decent experience. No issues here, except that I just could not view any of the 3GP videos I put on the card. I moved the videos to the phone memory, but that didn't help. The Soul does have an option for video tones, in case you’re wondering.
When it comes to the Soul’s 5 megapixel auto-focus camera, the one thing I was really impressed with was the Panorama mode that stitches the images (3-6 shots) together on the fly. The stitching may not be absolutely accurate, but it’s not too bad either. There are options for taking mosaic and multi shots too.
The white balance wasn't too accurate. In a cloudy environment (quite normal in Mumbai these days), if you were to switch the white balance to Cloudy, you’ll end up getting very brownish tones as compared to a more natural look in Auto.
Close ups in Macro mode are not up to the mark. The lens doesn’t seem to be able to focus on the main subject in the shot, and even with the Image Stabilization switched on, it’s still a little difficult to get the focus right.
In Sports mode, the images look weirdly stretched and skewed. Check out the image below for a better idea of what I mean. Just to make things clear, I was in a moving vehicle. I have often taken pictures this way before but I’ve never seen anything like this.
On the whole the camera has plenty of features on offer, and the normal images are not too bad. On a closer look, however, you’ll notice a bit of a patchiness in the colors.
The U900 Soul’s battery life is nothing to write home about. On average you’ll get it to last a day and a half, including calls, messaging and a little media tossed in. With regard strictly to talktime, I managed to get about 2 hours and 45 minutes out of a single full charge. I’m not too impressed.
The U900 Soul is stylish all right, but its price tag of Rs 20,585 means it's targeted at those who prefer style to functionality. The battery life is average and camera quality just okay, but when I consider the annoying connectivity glitches as well (which I’m hoping is limited to this particular piece) I’d give this handset a miss. There are other options in this price range that offer more features and work better.
Samsung U900 Soul
GSM 900/1800/1900, EDGE, 3G, HSDPA
|Physical||105 x 49.5 x 12.9 mm, 112g|
|Display||240 x 320, 16m colors, TFT, 2.2 inch, Touch-sensitive navigation Pad |
|Memory||1285MB internal, microSD for external|
|Media||AAC+, MP3 and WAV, 3GP, Voice Recorder, FM radio|
|Camera||5 megapixel, auto-focus, flash, secondary camera for video calling|
|Connectivity||USB v2.0, Bluetooth with A2DP|
|Battery||2 hrs 45 mins talktime |
|Street Price ||Rs 20,585|