Sprint PCS continues to be a frontrunner in the US market when it comes to new handset offerings as evidenced by being the only carrier offering handsets with 15-second video-clip recording and playback functionality. Currently, Sprint PCS is offering three video-enabled handsets: the VM4500 by Sanyo, the VM4050 by Toshiba, and the recently released VM-A680 by Samsung.
Mobile Tech News received a VM-680 from Sprint PCS recently and has had the opportunity to run it through its paces and get some hands-on time with the new video- clip feature.
Upon first opening the clamshell-design handset, the 65K color screen really creates an inviting experience. The icon indicators across the top show signal strength, message status, position location, ringer volume, PCS connection status, and battery strength. Below the icon line sits whatever screen saver you choose. I tried several different videos I'd taken as screen savers. Although no audio accompanies a video screen saver, it's fun to open the phone and have a personal video playing. On the bottom of the screen sits the time, day of week and date. On the left side of the handset is a volume key and the right side there is a camera key.
The key pad has the typical Samsung layout with the navigator key centered in the top surrounded by the OK, TALK, BACK, END and MENU keys in that order from top left to top right. In the middle of the navigation keys sits a blue camera button. The remainder of the keypad includes the general 10 digit keys plus a *Shift key to toggle back and forth between lower and upper case with ease (nice addition) and a # Space key (also for ease in text messaging). Pressing Menu brings up Call History, Phone Book, Messaging, Picture/Video, Downloads, Web, Tools, and Settings. Tools offers a scheduler, world time, alarm clock, task list, memo pad, calculator and countdown.
The A680 offers the usual voicemail, call waiting, call forwarding and three-way calling. The A680 also has voice command for making a call by speaking a name into the handset which has been pre-tagged to a specific number. Sprint PCS charges a monthly fee for their PCS Voice Command(sm) service. In general, I was very pleased with the audio quality when listening to phone calls and when listening to video clips.
The A680 has 640x480 resolution, auto-focus and 10x digital zoom as well as a movie light allowing a constant bright light to illuminate images. The Camera menu has flash, self timer, fun frames, multi-shot, color tones, brightness, white balance, my pictures and camcorder. The self-timer offers 5 or 10 second options. Fun frames has a wide variety of ways to personalize your photos via various hats, balloons, etc. Multi-shot offers a rapid-fire 3 shot progressive photo shoot. Color tones offers auto, monochrome, sepia, warm, cool, fog, antique, and negative options. Brightness allows manual light from -5 to +5. White balance offers auto, sunny, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent, and manual choices.
The real news regarding the A680 is, of course, the 15-second video clip feature. I just finished recording a video clip of my flower garden to email to my sister (a California gardener). The ability to share your current life with someone far away in almost real-time provides the opportunity to genuinely enhance relationship connectivity (pardon the pun).
I'll walk you through my garden video clip to show you how easy it can be. First, I opened the phone, then hit the Camera button (yup, that's the big blue one right in the middle of the 4-way navigation key with the picture of the camera on it), then hit 2 for camcorder, aimed and hit Record. Before recording, however, I had the chance to manually adjust the following options: silent movie, movie light, self timer, color tones, brightness, or white balance. After recording, I previewed it by hitting Play. Then under Options, I selected Send. I could then enter a mobile number, email address or select from an entry in my Phone Book. I entered in my sister's mobile number, my email address and hit OK. Next I got a screen offering the addition of a voice or text message. I opted out and just hit Send and off it went! Once successfully delivered, a box appeared on the screen saying "Information - your message has been successfully delivered." In general, it took a minute or two to transmit a video clip.
I then went to my PC, retrieved my email, opened the video clip and the PCS Vision Share page appeared. showing the first frame of the video. I then hit Play Video. and a browser page opened with the video set to go. I waited about 10 seconds and the video played with the option of replaying it as many times as I wanted or to save it to my hard drive. The size of the picture was approximately 3/4" x 1".
In general, the VM-680 has very nice visual appeal and good ergonomic design. This handset weighs in at a tiny 95 grams and measures 3.27" x 1.82" x 0.93". The large LCD screen is 1.8" and has a resolution of 128x160. The smaller external LCD screen measures 0.93" x 0.93". Both screens support 65K color and feature Samsung's TFT technology for cutting glare. The A680 also offers customizable photo caller ID for downloading an image to link to a photo for identifying a caller.
The battery life on this phone is surprising considering the power consumption needed for video. It offers up to 3.2 hours of continuous talk and the extended rechargeable Lilon battery offers 4.4 hours continuous talk.
If you've been having fun sending pics via email to other camera handsets and/or PCS's you will really want to upgrade to a video handset. The option of video and audio really enhances the experience. This is a fast and very user friendly way to record and document something easily and quickly for business or for pleasure.
This phone integrates good basic voice functionality with video in a very small size. It offers ease of use along with its high-tech looks and features. It continues to amaze me at how much computing power can be put in such a small device. It you're looking for a great phone with picture and video capability in a super small form factor, this handset's for you!
Sprint PCS is offering the VM-A680 for $149.99 after $160.00 instant savings with in-store purchase and activation of a new line of service on a Sprint PCS Service Plan with Vision. Two-year Sprint PCS Advantage Agreement required. This special offer ends July 3, 2004.