The front of the phone is dominated by the magnificent 2-inch-plus display, which supports a bright and vivid 262,000 colors. It's great for viewing photos, but it's difficult to see in direct sunlight. Below the screen are navigation controls, which consist of a five-way toggle, two soft keys, and the Talk/End/Back buttons. The toggle and menus are easy to use, and you can set the toggle to act as a shortcut to four user-defined functions. Pushing on the thin rubber ridge below the display causes the phone to slide open with a smooth, spring-loaded action. When the screen is up, you can see the ample keypad. Dialing numbers, however, is a bit awkward, since the phone becomes a little top heavy when it's open--your thumb doesn't have much room to maneuver, which is a standard problem with slider-type phones. On the other hand, tapping the five-way navigation control isn't a problem.
Turn the handset around, and suddenly, the phone looks like an Instamatic camera, with a raised 1.5-inch circle to the right that houses the 5.2mm CCD lens (complete with sliding cover) and the LED flash, along with a pair of camera-style logos and beveled features to complete the effect. A dedicated shutter release sits on the left edge of the phone, perfectly positioned for your right index finger when you're holding the phone in the horizontal camera mode.
Besides the dedicated camera key, the phone has a volume up/down rocker on its left edge, flanked by a 2.5mm stereo headphone port and a slot for a mini TransFlash card. Meanwhile, the AC and PictBridge ports (direct-to-printer photo printing) sit on the bottom edge of the handset.The Samsung MM-A800 packs a mixed bag of features, including a 500-entry notebook with five numbers per entry; a vibrate mode; text and multimedia messaging; voice commands and dialing; three-way calling; photo caller ID; a one-minute voice memo recorder; a calendar with daily, weekly, and monthly views; a calculator; a world clock; a memo pad; a countdown timer; an alarm clock; and wireless Web via a WAP 2.0 browser. Not a bad selection, but a few key features are unaccounted for, including a speakerphone, Bluetooth or infrared connectivity (seemingly a no-brainer, considering the phone's advanced features and price), and wireless IM and e-mail; the last two are available as wireless Web links, but we were expecting actual applications with IM and POP/IMAP access. On the upside, the MM-A800 does have the first CDMA version of VoiceSignal's speech-to-text dictation system, which was born earlier this year in the Samsung SGH-P207 for Cingular. We tried the feature out here, and it worked about the same as on the P207.
The built-in camera, on the other hand, is fully loaded. This 2-megapixel gem is the first of its kind in the U.S. market, and its rich, vivid photos are the best we've seen for a camera phone. That said, the phone's 5.2mm CCD lens can't match the lenses of even the cheapest standalone cameras (see Performance). A bevy of picture modes is available, including Portrait, Scenic, Sports, Vivid, and Macro, as well as Monochrome, Sepia, Negative, Emboss, and Sketch color tones; a multishot mode for rapid-fire photos; a 10X zoom; a 5- to 10-second self-timer; picture frames such as Playroom, Star, Beans, and Stones (which, for a change, don't look entirely horrible); and white-balance and light-metering settings. The camera takes portraits when the slider phone is open, but for landscape shots, you need to slide the phone closed in order to take pictures at resolutions of 1 megapixel or more. Ready to print? Just attach the included phone-to-USB cable for direct printing on PictBridge-enabled photo printers. The camera also doubles as a video recorder, capturing 30-second clips in the QCIF videoconferencing format. Video quality was typical for a camera phone--that is, barely watchable, with jumpy frame rates, blocky images, and garbled sound. You can send your videos and images to buddies via MMS or e-mail, save them to the mobile's 53MB of internal memory, then transfer them to your PC with the mini TransFlash card. A 32MB card is included, but the slot accepts cards up to 512MB.