"SCH-A950 Review- Phone Misses the Mark. Software is poorly implemented."1.0 starson by matthoff
Pros: Stereo Speakers, 1.3MP camera, Nice looking, basic calling functions work
Cons: MP3 software, interconnectivity, overall usability, user interface, bluetooth support lacking
Summary: Samsung SCH-A950 Review by Matt Hoffman
The Samsung SCH-A950 is one of the worst implemented pieces of technology I have seen in recent years. The hardware has a whole list of nice features including stereo speakers, 1.5 megapixel camera, and bluetooth, but the software has been hobbled and poorly implemented by Verizon and Samsung.
As a phone, it works fine. It receives calls, it makes calls. Reception is acceptable (though not as good as the Samsung SCH-A530). The antenna is buried in the head of the phone which can be cool unless you hold the phone too high up and block the signal. This review will concentrate on those features which separate this phone from the run-of-the-mill $50/free cell phones.
The user interface is very minimal with pull down menus instead of a graphical user interface. Many of the menu items are not in logical places. For instance, the menu for playing mp3 files is buried two levels down under a menu called, for no logical reason, "Get It Now". The user must go to this illogically named menu then into a submenu called "Get Tones & Tunes" then into a sub sub menu called "My MP3s". Alternately, you can go into the main menus, then into "Settings and Tools" and then to "Tools" and then to "MP3 Player". The MP3 playing feature is essentially hidden from the user on a phone that Samsung calls the "MP3 Maestro". There is a button on the outside of the phone that can be held down for two seconds to play MP3 files, and it allows you to use the jog wheel to select and play a single song. A single song only, you can't pick multiple songs and the "MP3 Maestro" does not have play lists(more about this horrendous oversight later).
Most of the inherent bluetooth features in this phone have been permanently disabled. You can use bluetooth to connect a mono-headset to the A950. That's it. There is no support for Modem Functionality, Serial Port Emulation, Phonebook Synching, Calendar Synching, or File Transfer for MP3 files (remember, this is the MP3 Maestro!) or imagery.
So if bluetooth can't be used for these basic functions, then surely you can just hook a USB cable to the A950 and transfer data.....nope, that is not supported either. Samsung does not sell USB cables or provide drivers for Verizon phones. Verizon has not provided them either. This leaves the owner without the ability to use any form of direct connectivity to move files or to synch the phone with a computer.
The A950 does support a Transflash/SDMicro card from SanDisk. You can put up to 512MB in the phone and a reader for the card can be purchased for your computer for under $30.00. This is the only method for moving MP3 files to the phone. You insert the card in the phone to initialize it, then remove it and put it in your computer, drag the mp3 files to the virtual disk volume, remove the card, and then insert the card back in the phone. The Transflash/SDMicro card is a tiny, fragile device about the size of the fingernail on your pinky finger. It is not intended for repeated removal and insertion. If you are like most people, you will want to change the tunes in your phone quite often --perhaps you want to listen to a daily podcast on the phone. This little card or the spring-loaded receptacle in the A950 is going to fail after a period of time.
From SanDisk's own web site describing their Transflash product:
"Semi-removable Memory Module...Due to the ultra small size of the Sandisk Transflash, it is not intended to be handled or removed on a frequent basis."
When the card fails due to excessive insertion and removal, the user is going to have to shell out $70 for another one. Sandisk wouldn't be obligated to replace it under warranty since, by definition, the card is being used improperly. If the receptacle in the A950 fails after the first year of repeated use, the user is going to have to pay for an expensive repair and be without a cell phone during the time the phone is repaired. Better sign up for an extended warranty.
The SCH-A950, "Mp3 Maestro" does not have software for managing MP3 files! There is no way to create, manage, or store play lists, view songs based on artist or genre, or shuffle play. When you finally do discover the buried menu for playing MP3 files, you will be presented with a single list of file names, each of which has a checkbox next to it. You must scroll down this list to choose which song/s to play and then hit the play button. Also, since this selection function is only available from the inside screen, you can not use the jog wheel to scroll. You must hit the down button over and over and over.
Again, there is no way to store this list of songs. If a call comes in while your laboriously selected group of tunes is playing, MP3 playback ceases as one would expect. However, once the call ends, there is no way to continue playing your list of songs! You must go back into the buried menu, select the songs one by one all over again and then hit the play button.
The 1.5 megapixel camera does a nice job of taking pictures and video. There are a variety of comparisons that can be made between the A950's camera and those in other phones, but cameras in most cell phones are their for taking quick snaps, not for professional photography. The A950 makes very nice still photographs and Verizon's system of mailing these images to another phone or to an Internet address also works well. However, without direct computer connectivity, the user is still in the position of having to remove and insert the fragile Transflash/SDMicro card to move these files to his/her computer. The only alternative is to mail the files to your computer.
Overall the SCH-A950 is an attractive-looking phone with a list of nice features. The devil is in the details however, and this phone completely fails when the details are examined. For reasons known only to Verizon and Samsung, the A950's software has been poorly implemented and key features that the hardware is capable of providing are not implemented in the phone's software. No doubt that Verizon has a long list of reasons for hobbling the phone. They clearly want to force their customers to use the pay as you go system of video and still image file transfer instead of allowing direct connectivity. They have an obligation to game providers to prevent users from transferring games between phones, though this could be done without eliminating the transfer of MP3 files, address book synching, etc. Perhaps they have some sort of paranoia about cell phone viruses, though these are almost unheard of. In any case, there is no excuse for the poor MP3 software implementation. Samsung and Verizon should be embarrassed to call this phone the "MP3 Maestro".
[Edited by: admin to remove email address]