The SCH-A970's other highlight is the 2-megapixel camera and camcorder. When the flip is open in the normal position (as it would be to make calls), simply press the shutter button on the right end of the hinge to access the camera. Additionally, you can press and hold for the camcorder. You can take pictures in seven resolutions: 1,600x1,200, 1,280x960, 1,024x768, 800x600, 640x480, 320x240, and 128x160. Other options rival those on a stand-alone camera. The 2X optical zoom is a welcome camera phone advancement, and other camera features include a flash; a self-timer; two multishot modes (in a series or divided into frames); several color effects; five picture modes, including a macro setting; white-balance adjustments; three quality settings; and light-metering options. As we mentioned earlier, the side-mounted camera lens has its advantages, but it presents a learning curve as well. If you take a picture with the display in the standard flip position, it is difficult frame your shots due to the quirky orientation of the lens. To compensate, we suggest you always take pictures with the display flipped 90 degrees. After saving a shot, swiveling the cover to normal position automatically takes you the picture message menu--a nice touch. Video clips with sound are limited to the available memory (more than an hour at the longest), but they are of alarmingly poor quality. You can save your work to the phone's 60MB of memory or to the 512MB TransFlash card (not included).
You can personalize the A970 with a variety of wallpaper, color themes, and sounds. If you want more options or ring tones, you can download them form Verizon's Get It Now service via the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. Sorry, gamers, the phone does not come with any titles; if you want them, you'll have to buy them.We tested the dual-band (CDMA 900/1900; 1xEV-DO) Samsung SCH-A970 in the Chicago area. Call quality was excellent, with callers sounding loud and clear. Friends on the other end said we sounded just as clear. The speakerphone, however, isn't terribly loud and is subject to a bit of distortion. On the upside, it can be turned off before making a call.
Chicago is one of Verizon's EV-DO coverage areas, but reception wasn't consistent. While riding the El train in downtown Chicago, the phone often slipped in and out of EV-DO coverage and into the pokier 1xRTT network, slowing the time it took to send picture messages or inhibiting the ability to get V Cast content. When coverage was strong, however, performance was generally solid. Sending picture messages is noticeably quick--about 30 seconds to e-mail a 300K photo--and larger video and ring tone downloads took about two minutes. The audio quality of V Cast content isn't bad, but the speaker isn't loud enough for using outdoors. In those cases, it's best to use a stereo headset. Video quality is decent, though not quite TV quality. We noticed some slight pixelation but nothing serious. Colors are vivid and true, video/audio sync largely intact, and videos rarely paused for rebuffering. If you press the top navigation key during video playback, you can view clips in wide-screen mode.
If you had any thoughts about ditching your digital camera upon hearing the words 2 megapixels, think again. Although the larger print size will be a blessing to those who like to tinker with their photos, we found the picture quality to be disappointing, with washed-out colors and a lack of sharpness. And because of the long lag between the time you press the button to take a picture and the actual taking of the shot, you have to hold your hand perfectly still to avoid getting a blurred image. Because of this lag time, it's best to activate the shutter sound effect. Otherwise, you'll have no idea when or if you've taken a picture.
As for battery life, we matched the promised talk time of 3.5 hours from the lithium-ion battery. Samsung rates the standby time at 14 days; we got a respectable 11.5 days in our tests. According to FCC radiation tests, the SCH-A970 has a digital SAR rating of 1.45 watts per kilogram.
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