THE GOOD: The Samsung SGH-A777 has a sturdy design with a midrange, multimedia feature set and good call quality.
THE BAD: The Samsung SGH-A777's keypad is slick and the navigation array has an unintuitive design.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The Samsung SGH-A777 is a decent 3G slider phone, but there's not much to distinguish it from comparable devices.
If you're looking for a Samsung 3G slider phone, you'll never be at a loss. Over the past two years the company has pumped out dozens of such handsets–to varying degrees of success. The latest model is the Samsung SGH-A777 for AT&T. Part of Samsung's "Boeing series" (as we call it), the SGH-A777 offers a fairly generic design and a standard, midrange feature set. It's a solid device in most regards, even if its controls and keypad aren't the easiest to use. You can get it for $79.99 with a service contract and a mail-in rebate or for $279.99 if you pay full price.
In most respects the SGH-A777 doesn't strike new ground in cell phone design. It offers a thin profile (4 inches tall by 1.9 inches wide by 0.5 inch deep), clean lines, and a sliding face that hides the alphanumeric keypad. Yet, unlike many of its silver Samsung counterparts, the SGH-A777 comes in red and blue versions. We reviewed the blue handset, but the features are the same on both models.
The SGH-A777 has an average weight for its size (3.4 ounces), but it has a solid, comfortable feeling in the hand, despite the plastic battery cover. The slider mechanism was sturdy, as well, but we didn't like that the handset lacks a firm thumb grip for opening the phone. Unless we pushed on it in just the right place, our finger kept slipping to the navigation controls.
We had issues with the SGH-A777's navigation array. The controls are tactile, but with just a toggle, a central OK button, and two soft keys on the front slider, there are far too few of them. We suppose such an arrangement has a minimalist appeal, but we don't like having to open the phone to access a clear key and the Talk and End/power buttons. The toggle and OK button are large, but the soft keys are a tad thin.
The keypad buttons are spacious, but they're completely flush and somewhat slick. We could dial and text with relative ease, but we would have appreciated some tactile definition between the individual keys. As such, dialing by feel is difficult. The bright backlighting helps in dim situations.
On the right spine you'll find the microSD card slot, a music player key, and a control that opens a pop-up shortcut on the home screen. The toggle also gives one-touch access to user-defined functions. A volume rocker and a proprietary headset jack/charger port sit on the left spine.
The display measures 2 inches and supports 262,000 colors (220×176 pixels). It's a bit small for the phone's size but is serviceable in most respects. Colors are bright, and graphics and photos are sharp. You also can save MP3 files and voice clips as ringtones. You can change the brightness, the backlighting time, and dialing font size, type and color. The menus are available in grid or list styles.
The SGH-A777's phone book holds 1,000 contacts with room in each entry for multiple phone numbers, e-mails, and URLs (the SIM card holds an additional 250 names). You can save callers to groups and you can pair them with a photo or one of 10 72-chord, polyphonic ringtones.
Essential features include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a speakerphone, a voice recorder, a calendar, a task list, a notepad, a calculator, a world clock, a unit and currency converter, a timer, a stopwatch, and a tip calculator. On the higher-end, you get USB mass storage, a YellowPages Mobile app, instant messaging, PC syncing for photos and music, and Web-based POP3 e-mail.
As a 3G UMTS handset, the SGH-A777 supports AT&T's Cellular Video service, which offers streaming-video content, and AT&T Mobile Music, which brings wireless song downloads through partners. The experience with the two applications is similar to that on other AT&T phones; both are minimalist in their designs, but the music player supports a wide variety of file formats (MP3, AAC, eAAC+ and WMA) and it offers useful features, such as album art, playlists, and shuffle and repeat modes. The A777 also has a solid selection of music-related features, such as support for XM Radio Mobile, a Music ID application, a Billboard Mobile channel, music videos, and a community section with access to fan sites and downloads.
The SGH-A777's 1.3-megapixel camera takes pictures in three resolutions (1,280c960, 640×480 and 320×240). Editing features are pretty standard for a 1.3-megapixel shooter; they include three quality settings, brightness and white balance controls, a night mode, a self-timer, a 3x zoom (not available at the highest resolution), three color effects, 20 fun frames, three shutter sounds, and a silent option. What's more: you can use panorama, multishot, and mosaic shot modes. The camcorder takes clips in a 176×144 resolution with sound; editing options are similar to the still camera, if a bit slimmed down. Clips meant for multimedia message are capped at about 3 minutes, but you can shoot for longer in standard mode.
Photo quality was above average for a 1.3-megapixel shooter. Colors were relatively bright and our images were in focus. There was a bit of image noise, but it wasn't overwhelming. Just keep in mind that without a flash you will need sufficient in-room light. The SGH-A777 has a self-portrait mirror, which is located on the back of the slider along with the camera lens. You will to have the phone open to take pictures
You can customize the SGH-A777 with a variety of background colors and wallpapers and you can type a personalized greeting. If you want more options, and additional ringtones, you can download them from AT&T's Media Mall service. The SGH-A777 comes with demo versions of three games: Diner Dash 2, Tetris, Guitar Hero III, and Ms. Pac-Man. You can buy the full versions and additional titles from AT&T. And for even more fun, the SGH-A777 has trial apps for WikiMobile, Mobile Banking, MobiTV, and My-Cast Weather.
We tested the quad-band, dual-mode (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; UMTS 850/1800) Samsung SGH-A777 world phone in San Francisco using AT&T service. Call quality was decent by most accounts. On the upside, the signal was clear and free of static and we didn't encounter any interference from other electronic devices. On the downside, the volume was somewhat low and some of our callers sounded a bit breathy. If you have hearing impairments you should try this phone before buying. Indeed, we had some trouble hearing when we were in very noisy environments.
On their end, callers said we sounded fine most of the time. They could tell we were using a cell phone, but most reported no significant issues. Similar to our experience, a few of our friends had trouble hearing us when we were in noisy places. Speakerphone calls were about the same. We could carry on a conversation as long as we spoke close to the phone. As with regular voice calls, the volume could be louder. On the upside, it is very easy to activate the speakerphone during a call. Bluetooth headset calls were satisfactory.
The SGH-A777 has a rated battery life of 4.5 hours and 12.5 days standby time. It has a tested talk time of 3 hours and 16 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the SGH-A777 has a digital SAR rating of 1.19 watts per kilogram.