Mobile : Expert Review: m330 Cell Phone

THE GOOD: The Samsung SPH-M330 has easy-to-use controls, functional features, and decent call quality.

THE BAD: The Samsung SPH-M330's plastic construction feels rather flimsy and the display has a low resolution.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The Samsung SPH-M330 isn't for the active user, but it's good for infrequent callers who want a few extra features.

Sprint's Samsung SPH-M330 is the next step above the Samsung SPH-M240. It's also designed mainly for basic communication, but the M330 adds Bluetooth and a VGA camera. The result is a functional handset with an unremarkable design. Call quality is decent, and the M330 is free with service.

The M330 has a standard slider design. The white color and checked pattern on the rear cover are unique, but the overall shape and dimensions (3.37 inches by 1.78 inches by 0.59 inch) are commonplace. At 3.17 ounces, the phone feels a tad wispy in the hand, and we're not sure that the plastic skin would withstand a lot of blows. The slider mechanism feels sturdy, however, and the sliding face clicks into place at either end.

The 2-inch display supports 65,000 colors. Pixel resolution is pretty low (160×120) so you won't find the brightest colors or the sharpest graphics. The menu interface is easy to use, though it comes only in a list design. You can change the brightness, the backlighting time, and the dialing font size.

The navigation array has a spacious, comfortable design. You'll find a four-way toggle with a central OK button, two soft keys, a dedicated speakerphone button, a back control, and the Talk and End/power keys. Not all of the controls are raised, but we didn't have a problem with misdials or navigating by feel. As with many slider phones, the keypad buttons are almost flush, but they have a pleasant rubbery feel. We could dial and text quickly and comfortably. The backlighting could be brighter, though.

On the left spine you'll find a 2.5mm headset jack and the tactile volume rocker. Over on the right spine are the Micro-USB port and the camera shutter. The camera lens sits on the rear of the phone next to the single speaker. The M330 lacks a self-portrait mirror and flash, but that's not unusual on a VGA camera phone.

The M330 has a 500-contact phone book with room in each entry for six phone number types, an e-mail address, an instant-message handle, a URL, a street address, a birthday, a job title, a company name, and notes. You can assign callers to groups and you can pair them with a photo and one of 20 polyphonic ringtones.

Essential features include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a speakerphone, an alarm clock, a calculator, a calendar, a memo pad, and a world clock. You'll also find Bluetooth, a file manager, instant messaging, voice dialing, and a voice memo recorder.

The VGA camera takes pictures in three resolutions and three quality settings. Other editing options include a self-timer, four color tones, a brightness meter, five white-balance settings, and a night mode. The M330's camera does not record video. When finished with your shots you can save them to the phone (internal shared memory is limited to 12MB), transfer them off the phone via Bluetooth or a multimedia message, order prints from a third-party vendor, or use Sprint's PictBridge service to send them to a compatible printer. Photo quality was relatively clear for a VGA shooter.

The M330's camera lacks a flash.

The M330 has decent photo quality for a VGA shooter.

You can personalize the M330 with a variety of screensavers, greetings, and design schemes. More options and additional ringtones are available from Sprint via the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. The M330 comes with demo versions of three games: American Idol, Asphalt 4: Elite Racer, and The Price is Right.

We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900) Samsung SPH-M330 in San Francisco. Call quality was better than on the M240. There was less static and interference and the volume was louder. Our callers sounded natural and we had little trouble hearing and understanding in most environments. The only issue that we noticed was that the phone picks up a bit of wind noise.

Callers were similarly positive. They also mentioned some wind noise, and they could tell that we were using a cell phone, but most conversations transpired without incident. Speakerphone calls were satisfactory, as well. The volume could get quite loud and the audio was clear even at the highest levels. Bluetooth headset calls also were fine.

The M330 has a rated battery life of 6.3 hours talk time. Our tests showed a talk time of 5 hours and 40 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the M330 has a digital SAR of 1.22 watts per kilogram.

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