It is a time for rejoicing in North America as Samsung has officially kicked off the era of high-res cameraphones with the brand new Memoir, released on T-Mobile Feb 25, which features an 8 MP camera.
What does this mean for the mobile phone industry? Up until now, phones have featured sub-par cameras with okay quality.
Since the Memoir is sporting a camera with better better megapixel count than my own personal digital still camera, and actually takes better pictures, it means phones and legitimately good point-and-shoot digital cameras can all be merged into one device.
And this is just the beginning. Sony Ericsson is quick on Samsung’s heels by announcing 12 MP Idou, set to be released in the second half of this year. LG is planning one as well. This means we can expect to see a lot more phones with really high camera resolution in the near future.
Of course, megapixel count ain’t everything, and may not even mean much beyond certain point. Though every little bit helps. Your camera phone probably won’t ever be as good as even average DSRL, but that old point-and-shooter you’ve been bringing to trips and parties? That may well be coming with you in your phone very soon, if not now.
In the meantime, the spotlight is all on the Memoir, so let’s focus on that!
I was genuinely excited to see the Memoir show up at my doorstep. The buzz on this new phone has been overwhelming and is a great offering for T-Mobile, which (with the exception of the G1) seems to get passed by on many hyped-up phones.
T-Mobile Samsung Memoir User Interface
The Samsung Memoir features Touchwiz UI. Touchwiz is an easy to use interface which is largely defined by its customizeable drag-and-drop widgets. The widgets are meant to work as convenient shortcuts for the user — pick which widgets would be used the most, and then simply hold your finger over it and drag it onto the main screen and place it wherever you would like.
Examples of widgets include Bluetooth, Web, calendar, voice dial, and SMS, though there are around 15-20 different types of widgets you can choose from. You can use all or none of them, if preferred.
I did not have any problems finding my way around the Memoir because of the Touchwiz. My one frustration is that Touchwiz, without the right OS to back it up, does not have much of a selection of applications. This could potentially be a large concern since many rival manufacturers are announcing methods of downloading apps. I even tried to download Google Maps and discovered this was not possible. While it doesn’t have to be a smartphone, I would find it much more beneficial to have extra options available.
Design of the Samsung Memoir for T-Mobile
In many ways, the Memoir is essentially a Samsung Behold with 3 more megapixels added to the camera. But there are some differences in outward appearance. For instance, the Memoir was designed to look more like a digital camera. Touchscreen phone on front, 8 MP camera on back.
When compared to other touchscreen phones the screen size of the Memoir is average. I sized it up next to the HTC Touch Pro and iPhone 3G, both well-known touchscreen powerhouses. The Memoir’s screen was larger than the Touch Pro but smaller than the iPhone.
Also, the camera lens on the back is a bit bulky. In fact, the Memoir won’t even lay completely flat because of the camera bulging out the back. It’s not a noticeable difference unless the phone is laying on its back.
In addition to the touchscreen, the front of the Memoir offers 3 physical buttons — send, end, and previous.
On the left I find a charger port and expandable memory port.
The right side has the volume, lock, and camera buttons.
Ultimately the phone design is unique in that the back almost doubles as a Samsung digital camera — which is the whole point. The front of the phone itself does look somewhat boxy, with the Behold featuring more of a curvy design than the Memoir.
The Memoir was a bit lighter than I expected, weighing in at 4.4 ounces and is sized up at 4.17″ x 2.11″ x 0.55″.
Features of T-mobile Memoir
Camera — Certainly the camera was the whole focus of the Memoir. The 8 MP camera is no old-school offering. Here is an example of a picture taken with the Memoir camera.
The camera also features a spectacular Xenon flash. Pictures taken in pitch black still turn out really well.
Needless to say I came away very impressed by the quality of the flash. Also, red-eye reduction helps, especially for a guy like myself that wears contacts or glasses.
The camera comes loaded with 16x digital zoom, video recording, auto focus, multi-shot, panoramic mode, self-timer and support for uploading all your pictures directly to Flickr or Snapfish from the phone (without having to email or other apps). Lastly, the camera features antishake — meaning, the camera won’t actually take a picture while the phone is moving. This prevents you from having to retake the same picture over and over again just to get one that isn’t fuzzy.
So, how good is the video recording on such a nice camera? The camcorder takes 30-frames-per-second video plus it has a slow-motion mode to capture 120-frames-per-second video. Not too bad at all, I’d say.
Here are some of the pics I took with the Memoir; one of the pics of me was taken in complete darkness, but I’m sure you’ll figure out which one it is. (click on thumbnails to see full sized image)
The pics of the mountains were shot in landscape scene, whereas the pics of me were shot in portrait scene (the one of me on the left looks a little creepy). There are several different scenes for different styles of photography.
This next pic is a zoomed-in version of the first pic I showed off.
One hesitation I have about the Memoir’s camera is that it’s a bit on the slow side. It takes 3-4 seconds to start up, and 6-7 seconds between taking pictures. Also, the shutter lag is somewhat slow as well; I noticed that when taking pictures it took a couple seconds to actually take it after pressing the button. A couple times I attempted to press the shutter a second time because I thought I hadn’t pressed it well enough.
Is the camera good enough to get rid of your digital camera? The jury’s still out on that one. It’s a great camera but, any way you look at it, it still is a camera in a phone, and will have its limitations as a result. The technology will improve over time, and phone cameras will continue to get better and closer to digital camera quality. The Memoir is certainly a good start.
Multimedia — Another strong point of the Memoir is its multimedia capabilities. In fact, there is a widget specifically made for the media player that you can put on the main screen, rather than having you going through the main menu.
I watched Ice Age on the Memoir with no complications. While the movie itself didn’t cover the entire screen, it was still refreshing to be able to watch a movie with the .avi format on a non-smartphone. Very convenient for keeping the kids busy or relaxing when the kids are asleep. Or if no kids are involved whatsoever. We’re not picky!
Speaker sound quality was excellent when watching the movie, and I did not require headphones to aid the sound.
Keyboard — Choose to have the QWERTY style in landscape mode or alphanumeric style when in portrait.
Email — The Memoir supports T-Mobile’s Mobile Email application, which gives access to Gmail, Yahoo, Windows Live, AOL, and support for many smaller companies such as Juno and Earthlink. I must emphasize that this does not provide push email; rather, it is a style of pull email that notifies you when a new message has popped in your inbox, at which point you hit the link to the Email app. Really it just adds an extra step to retrieving your email.
The Memoir will not support corporate email.
Internet — The internet browser on the Samsung Memoir is actually a HTML browser. I was able to look up several websites and have them look almost identical to how they would appear on Firefox or IE. It was nice to be able to switch from landscape to portrait if the website looked better that way; the only negative about browsing on the Memoir is that with the screen being smaller, not the entire website will fit. This is something easy to get used to for a tech geek such as myself, however, that uses mobile internet as much as I use it on my computer.
Fortunately T-Mobile chose to add 3G service into the Memoir to allow for faster internet and email downloading, but unfortunately for me my local area does not have T-Mobile 3G yet. Thus I could only judge internet speeds by T-Mobile’s EDGE network. It still wasn’t terrible, but I would love to hear comments from anyone who does live in a 3G area.
GPS — Since the Memoir has a-GPS built in, it is easy to get Telenav set up on the phone. I was able to utilize the Navigation system and get step-by-step directions spoken to me as I drove around to different places.
Memory — The Memoir holds 100 MB internal memory and has support for up to 16 GB external memory via MicroSD. There is a 1 GB MicroSD card included in the box, but if you are buying the phone mainly for the camera, I strongly recommend getting a larger card to hold more high-res pics and videos as well as put a little music on there if you want.
Performance of Samsung Memoir
Battery life — On a standard battery the phone is rated to get 5.5 hours of talk time and up to 300 hours standby. I would say that is a rather accurate estimation, as the 3G network and high-res camera will suck up a lot of juice. Again, if you are using the camera religiously, get a car charger just in case; chances are you’re going to need it often.
3G – The jury’s still out on this one as I did not have the opportunity to play around with the 3G network. EDGE worked decently, as expected.
Sound quality – I love the speaker on the Memoir. The calls I made came out very well and quite clear.
Touchwiz UI — It does take a little getting used to the new UI. It performs well, with only a slight half-second delay between screens. I do wish that Touchwiz offered more widgets, perhaps as a downloadable update. But that’s really my only complaint.
Overall I was impressed by the Samsung Memoir. The camera is of course the most notable feature and, with it being better than my own digital camera, made my mouth water. The thing is, though, that Samsung did not just slap a phone onto a camera; I feel that Samsung did a great job fusing two of their best consumer electronics together into one. It really isn’t a surprise though, since Samsung has already done this on several phones prior to the Memoir and has had plenty of time to get it right.
The Memoir is now available on T-Mobile for $249.99 with two-year agreement. For a phone and 8 MP digital camera together, that’s still a pretty good price. Please let us know your thoughts on the Memoir in our comments section!
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