But before you get too excited, there are a few catches. Beyond a short preview, songs cost a staggering $2.50 each, and there's no way to buy in bulk. And unless you buy one of the Power Vision packages listed above, you'll be charged for airtime as well as the tunes themselves. Also, while you can buy songs for use on your PC (at the same price), they're in WMA format and aren't playable on your phone. You can back up songs from your phone on a PC, but they aren't playable there. On the upside, Sprint's Music Store can play nonprotected songs in the supported formats. Since the MM-A900 lacks an external memory-card slot, all music downloads are stored on the integrated 50MB of shared memory. That will give you enough songs for commuting but not for a longer trip. If you're hoping for more space, you may want to consider Sprint's other music phones such as the Samsung MM-A940 and the Samsung MM-A920.
The 1.3-megapixel camera takes pictures in four resolutions: 1,280x960, 800x600, 640x480, and 240x320. Other options include three image-quality settings, a flash, a self-timer, portrait and landscape modes, 10 fun frames, brightness and white-balance controls, eight color tones, and four shutter sounds, as well as a silent option. You also get a 5X zoom, but it's usable at only the lower resolutions. Like music files, all pictures are stored on the phone, but a nifty status bar tells you how much space is remaining. Image quality was admirable, with distinct colors. Unlike with the MM-A940, pictures were rarely blurry, but they tended to look washed-out.
After you take a picture, a useful menu provides access to plenty of options, including sending your shot in a multimedia message, uploading it to Sprint's online album service, or assigning it to a contact for photo caller ID. Alternatively, you can use the included USB cable to send photos to a computer or to a photo printer with Sprint's PictBridge service. There's even an option if you're away from home. After uploading a picture to your online album, you can send them to be printed at a local retailer such as Ritz Camera or Longs Drugs (see Sprint for a complete list). We give kudos to Sprint for making it easy to do something with camera phone photos.
The camcorder records videos with sound in two settings: 30 seconds for multimedia messages and up to about an hour in Long mode. You can use the flash as light for filming in dark situations, and you can access a fair number of editing options that are similar to those on the still camera.
You can personalize the Samsung MM-A900 with a variety of screensavers; clock styles; wallpaper; and tones for messages, alarms, and calendar alerts. If you want more options or more ring tones, you can download them from Sprint via the WAP 2.0 wireless browser. You get five Java (J2ME) games demos: 2Fast2Furious, Block Breaker, Ms. Pac-Man, Tetris, and World Poker. Sprint never gives you full versions of games, which is again the case with the MM-A900. One feature we like is a glossary of the possible screens icons that indicate the phone's status. Usually, you have to dig through the manual for such information, so it's a welcome addition.We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900; EV-DO) Samsung MM-A900 in San Francisco using Sprint's service and had little problems getting a signal. Call quality was decent overall, but we noticed background hiss at times, and callers could tell we were using a cell phone. Also, while volume was higher when compared to the Motorola Razr, voices on our end occasionally sounded a bit hollow. Criticisms aside, we encountered no interference from electronic devices, and when we placed calls with the speakerphone, we were quite pleased with the clarity and volume. Though we wish the speakerphone were easier to activate, we like that we could close the phone without ending the call. When we used the MM-A900 with the Bluetooth Plantronics Explorer 320 headset, we had acceptable clarity overall, with no issues in the pairing process.
Music quality was surprisingly good through the stereo speakers on the front flap. Sure, it won't compare to that of a stand-alone MP3 player, but songs came through loud and clear. With the phone, open the speakers away from you, so sound quality will diminish somewhat. We tried downloading "Forever Young" by Youth Group and "Don't Cha" by the Pussycat Dolls. Each song took about 1 minute, 30 seconds to download to the phone. We'd like to see quicker downloads, but we're happy to be able to download songs on the go. Fortunately, when activating the player, it just takes a few seconds to start up.
EV-DO coverage was good within the city, even in buildings, but understandably grew spotty in outlying areas. Streaming video clips downloaded in just a few seconds, but playing quality didn't quite compare with that of Sprint's Samsung MM-A940. The phone didn't freeze or restart, but the clips tended toward pixelated and grainy. Still, they're a huge improvement over Sprint's 2.5G 1xRTT network. Remember that this is a cell phone, and the display can't compare to your living room television. Browsing was fast for the most part, but it was noticeably slow in some instances. For example, when using the on-demand GPS mapping application, it took up to 10 seconds to pan between map sections.
The Samsung MM-A900 has a rated talk time of three hours. That's low off the bat, and we got just 2.75 hours in our tests. For standby time, we came away with a solid 10 days. According to FCC radiation tests, the MM-A900 has a digital SAR rating of 0.9 watt per kilogram.
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