When the LG Prada hit the scene more than a year ago, touch-screen phones were still a novelty. It stood out from the rest of the crowd with its sleek, minimalist look and designer house backing. Since then, the Apple iPhone has taken the touch-screen crown and has become the phone to beat, with many manufacturers coming out with touch-screen handsets as well. Samsung is no exception and has followed the LG Prada route by partnering with a major designer fashion house--Giorgio Armani--to produce the appropriately named Samsung Armani. The look and feel of the Armani is certainly deserving of such a brand, from its slim and compact body right down to the flashy menu interface. Sadly, its features are rather staid and do not match up to its looks. The Armani will certainly fulfill your desire for an attractive and glamorous phone, but we suggest looking elsewhere for something with a few more features. Also, since you can't buy it with a U.S. carrier, you'll have to cough up around $579 to get your hands on the unlocked version.
The Samsung Armani absolutely epitomizes its namesake. Decked out in a glossy black steel case, the Armani has a very sleek and attractive design that earns its fashion phone branding. It comes in a very fancy black box showcasing it like a piece of jewelry, with a soft microfiber cloth case. Measuring 3.44 inches tall by 2.14 inches wide by 0.41 inch thick, the Armani is one of the more compact touch-screen handsets we've seen and can be easily slipped into a jeans pocket. It's a good thing it comes with a microfiber cloth case, since the glossy black surface does make it prone to fingerprint smudges.
As with most touch-screen handsets, the Armani doesn't have any keypad buttons--all navigation is done via the 2.6-inch diagonal touch-screen display. Though not as wide as the one on the Prada, the display is still a showstopper with 256,000 color support and 240x320 pixel resolution. Images look great, and it really shows off the Armani's glowing menu interface--each menu icon has a subtle gold hue, which fits in with the Armani brand. You can adjust the brightness and font size, but not the backlight time.
Navigating the Armani is actually fairly intuitive as far as touch-screen phones go. You use your fingers to navigate the phone since the phone doesn't come with a stylus. From the home screen, there are two onscreen buttons along the top that lead to the main menu, plus the onscreen dialpad. In the middle, a square button leads to five shortcuts, which correspond to the music player, the contacts list, the messaging menu, the call log, and the main menu. If you have the calendar display toggled on the home screen, you can actually swipe the screen to switch between the calendar and clock display, similar to the Cover Flow technique used to flip through album covers on the iPhone.
Another thing we liked about the touch-screen interface is that it has haptic feedback, meaning the phone provides tiny vibrations when you select something on the screen. The vibrations are especially useful when dialing or texting, as we're able to get some kind of tactile feedback. However, we still wouldn't recommend dialing by feel because of the flat surface of the screen. Texting was also a bit tricky as the Armani doesn't have a virtual QWERTY keyboard, and you have to tap out text messages using the normal T9 or ABC method with the virtual dialpad. This wasn't too bad, since the Armani also provides smart word selection (it guesses the words as you type the letters in), but we would've liked to have seen some kind of QWERTY option at least, even for a phone this size. Our final gripe with the touch screen has to do with the scrolling--it is very touchy and doesn't always respond to us swiping down the side of the screen. Sometimes we were able to scroll, and sometimes we activated something by mistake. This is especially frustrating when scrolling down a long list, for instance in the phone book.