Samsung’s latest top handset, the Soul SGH U900, follows on from its ‘Ultra’ series of ‘thin-as-they-can-make-’em’ handsets, is a slick slider in a metallic case that just screams classy cool.
Or at least conveys its message in moderated yet forceful tones in keeping with its smart but casual designer suit. This is a stylish handset that will grab the attention of the connoisseur, without troubling the flash man-boys of the wannabe brigade.
Two screens, twice as good?
Samsung has had the good sense to temper the coldness of the metal casing with non-slip rubberised black plastic on the sides, which makes for a pretty good combination of style and function.
At first glance it appears to have two screens – the first a large-ish 34x46mm TFT packing 16million colours. The second is a distinctly more modest 24x22mm screen in the place where you might expect the navigational D-pad to be.
But this screen has hidden depths, because it is the D-pad. It’s touch-sensitive, and displays different functions according to what’s on the main screen. The general menu for example gives you the option of messages, phone profiles, music, internet or menu.
Pressing the Magical Touch touch pad triggers a force feedback buzz, which can be a bit disconcerting at first but soon becomes rather comforting, as it confirms that buttons have been successfully pressed.
You can adjust the force of this haptic feedback and also change the colours of the touchpad screen via a sliding scale – a nice touch that effectively allows you to change the whole look of the phone.
5 megapixel camera
Usefully, the keypad automatically locks when you close the slider, though you can unlock it with a couple of key presses. You’ll need to open it anyway to use the five megapixel camera since the lens is hidden under the slide.
The camera’s activated by the shutter button on the side, though rather annoyingly the volume buttons are directly opposite on the other side and it’s easy to press them by mistake when you’re trying to take a snap. They operate the 4x zoom so it’s all too easy to get not quite the pic you were after.
When in camera mode the Magical Touch buttons are timer (up to ten seconds), flash, macro and exposure value (+ or -2) but there’s a wide range of additional features available with this well-specced camera. These include face detection software, an image stabiliser and WDR (wide dynamic range), all of which can be switched on or off though none of them seemed to have any great effect on the overall quality of the pictures.
Plenty of picture effects
Picture quality is however pretty good, with a fair amount of detail and depth for a cameraphone.
There are also plenty of options to keep photophiles busy, with a range of pic options including multi shot, mosaic shot, single shot and panorama shot, plus effects options including grey, sepia, negative, antique and watercolour. It also shoots video, which isn’t quite as good as the still shots.
You can also add effects to pictures after you’ve taken them, with settings like milky, lighting, crayon pastel and partial blur, plus you can resize, rotate or flip and insert frames and smilies.
Basic music player
While the Soul packs a fairly impressive camera, the music player covers the basics, but not much more. It does however include an onboard ICEpower amplifier provided by stylish Swedish AV specialist Bang & Olufsen.
The supplied earphones though are tinny, with a high-end bias with a lack of bass. There’s no graphic equaliser to help improve the bias and since the Soul doesn’t have a 3.5mm jack plug, you’re pretty much stuck with them, unless you use the Bluetooth A2DP to take the wireless ’phones option. The loudspeaker is also average limited quality mobile fare.
You’ll need the headphones however for the radio aerial. The onboard FM radio will search for stations either automatically or manually and includes RDS, so it can identify most of the main stations for you when you come across them and you can save up to 21 of them as favourites.
A stylish mobile phone
There’s a very generous 100MB of memory on board for pics, tunes and video, and if you need to, you can augment this with a MicroSD card, though there’s none provided.
The online browser is fine, though free of any innovations, and there’s HSDPA data connectivity with up to 7.2Mbps download speed if your network can handle it. Oh, and there’s an extra camera on the front for video calling too. Other stuff includes an RSS reader, a document viewer for Microsoft Office, PowerPoint and PictBridge for linking directly to a printer.
There’s not much to complain about, except for the minor gripes already mentioned, although it has to be said that the battery life isn’t great, especially if you make much use of the camera, and it’s tri rather than quad band, which could make a difference to frequent travellers.
Like LG’s Chocolate, the Soul is very much a winner in the style stakes, even if technology-wise it doesn’t really break any new ground. But new technology isn’t necessarily what makes a phone hot, and with its stylish good looks, distinctive touch pad and quality camera, it’s got plenty to recommend it.
: T-Mobile, O2, Orange
Ease of use