Samsungs newest PDA/phone combination, the dual-band Samsung SPH-i330 ($500 street), is markedly sleeker and more refined than its predecessor, the well-received Samsung SPH-i300. The i330 is dark gray and silver, weighs 5.8 ounces, and measures 5.8 by 2.5 by 0.8 inches (HWD) but feels smaller because of its comfortable sculpted design. The unit has 16MB of user RAM but no integrated QWERTY keyboard and no slot for removable media. It gains points for its tri-band radio (analog, CDMA digital, and 1xRTT)—an important feature for business users—its integration with the Palm OS 3.5 Address Book, and its bundled accessories that include a second battery, a spare stylus, and the most cleverly-designed case we have seen for a combo device.
Samsung rates the standard battery for 2.5 hours of talk time and four days of standby. The extended battery adds 0.6 ounces to the i330 but increases talk time to 5 hours and standby to six days, another important asset for business users. You can charge both batteries simultaneously in the standard docking cradle/charger. The travel charger costs an additional $40.
The i330 is a pleasure to use as a PDA and for voice calls. Its even reasonably good for accessing the Internet. (We tested our unit on the Sprint PCS Vision network.) The device is not so large and clunky that youll look or feel odd holding it to your ear. The 2.4- by 1.6-inch (HW), 256-color touch screen is average. Visibility in daylight is acceptable, but the display is brighter when viewed indoors using the backlight.
The integrated speakerphone turns on with the tap of an icon during voice calls. We like the voice quality for both sides of a speakerphone conversation, but the speakers power is greater than the microphones sensitivity, so you cant speak from as far away as you can hear. Because of this, we wouldnt recommend placing the device in the middle of a table for a group conference call.
You can tap on entries in the Palm address book to make calls, and you can access the normal Palm applications during voice calls If the phone number of the incoming call matches an address-book entry, the callers name and number displays. For data entry, youre limited to the Graffiti area or the tiny Palm virtual keyboard, so the i330 isnt as convenient as some of the Handspring Treo communicators with their real keyboards, which work better for SMS messages and e-mail.
The Handspring Blazer browser is good, but whatever the browser, youre always better off using information services and Web sites specifically formatted for portable devices. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to collapse the Graffiti area for added screen room; you would have to convert the Palm applications to be aware of the extra room, but more real estate could be particularly helpful with the browser.
The market for phone-PDA combinations is growing slowly as manufacturers balance the inevitable compromises. Like the new Kyocera 7135 smartphone, the Samsung SPH-i330s dual-band support is a clear advantage over single-band–only CDMA models like the Audiovox 2032 and Handspring Treo 300. As with most combo devices, the i330s lack of a removable media slot means that you wont use this device for listening to MP3s or viewing digital images. For cell phone and Palm OS PDA users who dont mind this, the Samsung i330 is a reasonable choice.