If you’re shopping for a new handset and want a phone that mixes style with a music player and speedy Web browsing in a package that costs $29, look no further than Samsung’s SGH-a737. You’ll appreciate its sturdy sliding action, four fun colors, and ease of use, but don’t expect too much from a product that comes this cheap.
The slim a737 measures 3.9 x 1.9 x 0.6 inches and comes in your choice of red, blue, lime green, and orange. The smooth plastic exterior with rounded edges make it a sleek and attractive handset. At 3.2 ounces, the a737 is comfortable enough to slide in a pocket without feeling extra weight. Six controls are on the front face as well as a five-way navigation pad. The a737 has a smooth, spring-assisted slide, which opens to reveal a black alphanumeric keyboard with accents that match the shell. We particularly liked the well-spaced numeric keypad, which made dialing numbers easy. The phone’s 2.2-inch, 220 x 176-pixel display was bright and readable.
The a737 runs AT&T’s standard operating system that’s available in much of its budget lineup, but the user interface is not as attractive as the Sony Ericsson Z750a. A shortcut button on the side of the phone opens a mini menu with your active apps listed in side-scrolling fashion. This is great for quick access to applications such as your call log, messages, the Web, or your music player. The menu is intuitive and doesn’t take a lot of time to master.
Messsaging and E-mail
You can set up an e-mail account using AT&T’s Mobile E-mail application. The available services include AOL, AIM, AT&T Yahoo, BellSouth, Comcast, Earthlink, Juno, MindSpring, NetZero, Windows Live Mail, and Yahoo Mail. We were easily able to sign into our AIM e-mail account and appreciated the tabbed viewing for our inbox, drafts, sent mail, and other categories. You can also set e-mail alerts, so that you know when new messages arrive. We found the keypad to be comfortable while chatting with our AIM buddy list, but you can also sign into Windows Live and Yahoo accounts. We wish that our buddy list showed more than just our mobile buddies, though.
The Samsung a737 has a dedicated music button on the front that takes you straight to the music player from the home screen. The player handles both side-loaded songs through a microSD Card, as well as downloaded ones from eMusic ($7.49 per month for 5 songs). You can download tracks through Napster as well, but they download to your computer and not to the phone itself; you’ll need to transfer them to the phone manually. The a737 took 11 seconds to download a 1.2MB version of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Born on the Bayou” from eMusic.
Too bad the phone doesn’t come with a standard headphone jack. Instead, it uses Samsung’s proprietary headphones, and they aren’t included. We suggest buying the $14.99 3.5mm adapter from AT&T’s Web site, which will allow you to use your preferred set of headphones. Fortunately, the a737 supports stereo Bluetooth for streaming music. Music sounded fine through wired headphones and great over our Samsung SBH500 stereo Bluetooth headset—we were able to walk 33 feet away from the handset before the audio broke up. The CCR album art was nearly too small to recognize, but we appreciated that we could leave our music running in the background while we used other tasks.
AT&T’s Cellular Video service worked well on the a737, even in EDGE-only areas. Clips loaded in 15 seconds with 3G network coverage, a bit slow but smooth when played back, and voices synced well with audio. However, such services cost a bit more: Unlimited Cellular Video, MEdia Net, and messaging (text, video, picture, and IM) will run you $35 a month.
We wish a shortcut button were included for the 1.3-MP camera as most other budget phones have. Instead, you have to click Options > Camera to launch it. While shots we took in our office were blurry and lacked a firm focus, the photos were brighter than with the Sony Ericsson Z750a’s 2-MP camera. You can store pictures on a microSD Card, which is accessible through an external slot.
The phone also features AT&T Video Share, which lets you send video clips to other Video Share–capable phones ($9.99 per month for 60 minutes, 25 cents for each additional minute). We weren’t able to test this feature, though.
Using AT&T’s HSDPA network, Web pages loaded quickly in the a737’s WAP browser: CNN.com loaded in 3.7 seconds, and NYTimes.com took a slightly longer 8 seconds. The Sony Ericsson Z750a loaded the same sites in 5 seconds and 3 seconds, respectively.
Call quality on the a737 was noticeably muffled while talking to a friend on a landline. The friend also complained of a hissing noise. Then, during another call to a Verizon Wireless subscriber, we noticed they too sounded muffled and heard background wind noise even though they were indoors. While we were outside, they could hear background noises as well. We also experienced a few dropped calls.
Standby time is rated for up to 10 days; talk time, 3 hours. On our tests, the phone nearly lived up to that claim, falling just 15 minutes short. This might be attributable to the 3G radio, which consumes more power than a 2.5G radio.
At $29.99, the Samsung a737 is a decent buy for anyone who needs a basic phone with a few bells and whistles. While it may present itself as a music phone, we were disappointed that it didn’t come with headphones and has a proprietary jack. If you’re in AT&T’s network, want even faster speeds, and don’t mind shelling out another $20, go with the $49.99 Sony Ericsson Z750a, which, though a little bulkier, sports more multimedia features, including an XM and FM Radio, MobiTV support, and slightly faster 3G Web browsing speeds.