Samsung F490 review. Introduction
You don’t need to be a prophet to be able to tell that for most mobile phone vendors, this year will be the year that they are able to start really competing with the iPhone.
Each one of them is reacting to the success of Apple in one way or another, and presenting their own version of “iPhone killer/wannabe” to the market.
Even if competing with the iPhone isn’t the company’s intention, the users will do it for them anyway, drawing comparisons between the iPhone and any phone at least a bit similar to it – especially the ones with a touchscreen.
A number of people had seen Samsung’s new model – SGH- F490, as a competitor to Apple’s product right from the start.
Frankly, that number includes us as well; the first impressions were just like that. However, after learning more about Samsung F490 phone, we can say with confidence that these two handsets won’t be competing for a multiple reasons.
Samsung SGH-F490 beats the iPhone in most areas, with the exceptions of Net browsing and WiFi. The “phone” part of it is much better, probably because of Samsung’s experience; the camera is more powerful, the Bluetooth connection is fully functioning, and there’s a tactile feedback from the touchscreen.
However, the main things that ensured the success of the iPhone are missing –
- the “WOW” factor that came with a truly new interface and captured the imagination of both users and media, giving the iPhone hundreds of millions worth of media exposure
- the army of dedicated fans, who are blind to all flaws of the product, merely because it’s the creation of their idol
Thus, we won’t even try to compare the two models, but simply review the new phone like any other, ignoring its similarity to the American bestseller.
Samsung F490 review. Look&Feel, materials and controls
Samsung SGH-F490 phone looks unusual and attracts attention.
All of the front surface is covered in a glossy, reflective glass and lacks any mechanical controls whatsoever. The three keys at the bottom seem to be touch-sensitive.
Fortunately, Samsung hasn’t got rid of all traditional controls in F490; several buttons are located on the side surfaces of the phone. Traces remain on the front surface from touching; the good thing is, it’s as easy to clean, as it is to get it dirty.
The external case of the phone is made from plastic, and the black cover has a texture reminding of rough metal.
The camera lens, the little mirror for self-portraits, and the lens flash are located on the back, in a small deepening near the battery cover. Dust accumulates inside said deepening; what’s more, when you are holding the phone in your hand, your index finger often travels there, further dirtying the lens.
Samsung SGH-F490 review. Display
The 3.2” display of SGH-F490 is the biggest of all mobile phones at the moment. Like expected from Samsung, the colors and the viewing angle are both good.
The readability in sunlight leaves more to be desired; the cause of this isn’t only the specs of the display matrix, but also the glossy surface, which glitters a lot under the direct sunlight.
Samsung F490. Functionality
Samsung SGH-F490 is built on the same software platform like Armani P520 phone – that’s the new Samsung Croix interface.
It isn’t so much different from the usual Samsung platform, with it’s intersecting lines in the menu that draw a cross which helps slightly when using the phone.
The new Samsung F490 music player, while being optimized for touchscreen control, isn’t very convenient; however, by connecting your own headphones (fortunately, there’s a 3.5 mm jack right there on the case), you can enjoy music of pretty decent quality. You will be able to talk to someone by putting the phone to your mouth, and hear the speaker in the headphones.
The business functionality of this model does not differ from the most high end handsets coming from Samsung.
For users of Google services, the Samsung F490 has a separate menu with three choices: Google Search, Gmail and Google Maps. Unfortunately, these aren’t separate applications, but merely links to the their websites that are opened using the built-in browser.
The latter is quite functional, letting you view websites in portrait and landscape modes, zoom in and out, browse in the usual “desktop”, or the mobile views (putting all website into a single column).
There’s also an option to open a full site map; visually, it reminds a lot of Nokia phone browser in the Series 60. Samsung also managed to add a pretty convenient scrolling control on top of all this – something that had proven to be a problem for most touchscreen models, but more on this later.
Few words about Samsung F490 camera. Until Samsung come up with a similar touchscreen camera phone, SGH F490 is positioned to compete compete with LG Viewty KU990.
Frankly speaking, if you look at the specs, the quality of photos and speed of the camera, you can surely say that there can not be any competition here, because Samsung F490 loses on all fronts. It could be expected: after all, Samsung F490 is not a dedicated camera phone, and the 5 megapixel resolution is nothing more but a marketing gimmick.
The lack of Java support is the drawback of this phone. If we remember the Armani phone, which didn’t have Java support either, we can make a conclusion that the company’s engineers haven’t yet solved the problem of controlling Java applications without the usual hardware keypad.
Theoretically, watching videos on such a large screen should be quite comfortable. Unfortunately the company hasn’t yet released a version of Samsung Media Studio for this model, which could convert video clips to it’s non-standard 240x432px resolution.
As soon a good software solution for that purpose is available, it should work great as a media player.
Samsung SGH F490. ergonomics
Looking at the big picture, with all its combined features, all should be well with the ease of use of Samsung F490 phone.
The touchscreen works perfectly, the vibration feedback can not only be turned off, but it’s intensity can also customized according to your needs, the interface software is well optimized to work with the touchscreen, and so on.
However, it has one big drawback.
The problem lies in the fact that the screen is automatically locked during phone calls (which is logical, as its done to avoid accidental clicks) – however, the touch sensitive keys are blocked too, and you need to unblock them in order to end the call.
Still, this is merely half of the problem. During an incoming call, the screen is locked as well, and you need to unlock it just to answer the call.
As a result, all these paranoid key locks can drive you crazy, as you can’t turn them off.
This seems rather incomplete: perhaps they shouldn’t have removed all of the traditional mechanical keys on the front, or, found a new solution to this problem. As it is, the phone is only recommended to calm and composed people.
Samsung F490 review. Conclusions
One cannot say that with SGH – F490, Samsung created an unsuccessful model: it’s interesting and attracts attention, pleasant to use, and functional. However, it still lacks something – perhaps the “wow” effect that the iPhone has.
On the other hand, the parameters of the camera don’t give this model a chance to compete with the Viewty. This way, while trying to kill two rabbits with one stone and make a phone that could compete with all others at the same time, Samsung created a phone that can’t compete at all.
Of course, Samsung F490 will get its share of users, but just how many, is a big question.
The survey that the company held at the MWC 2008 about Samsung F490 model should give you a pretty good idea.
The visitors of the Samsung booth had to answer a number of questions about the features of the phone, choosing between “like” and “dislike”.
The majority of people voted “like” on almost all features, but still, most answers to the last question (“What would you rather choose, F490 or an iPhone?”) were not in favor of the Samsung phone.
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