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Samsung E730 Review

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The Samsung E730 was released early last year but only reached our shores I believe around November. It was released along with its little brother, the E720. This phone IMO looks better and is more worth the money (although the E720 has better video quality). The SE W550i on the other hand shares an almost identical specs with this phone, the E730 loses on mem space but exchanges that with better looks and a smaller footprint. The phone looks great in a professional yet sexy way.  The features and GUI is the one that IMO killed the overall value of the phone (which I will discuss later on).
This is the first time I ever used a Samsung phone (I have already tried Nokia, SE, and Panasonic). Although Samsung is a part of the "Big Three" when it comes to cellphones, the said brand isn't all that popular in our country (Philippines). You'll probably find more folks using Sony-Ericsson (w/c is only ranked 5th) here than Samsung and Motorola combined. I spent like a week reading thru numerous review websites and user opinions but non of those things that I read prepared me for the experience that I had with this phone. That is the main reason why I decided to review this phone to fill in the holes and answer most of your questions that often times are not answered by most review websites.
This review is meant for those folks who are planning on purchasing this phone. It may make or break your decision. If you want to read on other review websites for complete specs, sample pics/vids, and/or second opinion, the list below are some of the best sites that I recommend. You can also click the picture on the left to visit the official E730 page.

iMobile Review ("there was very little I could find wrong with the handset")

Mobile-Review ("one of the most interesting models of the season")

Cnet ("the E730 might be a tough sell for Samsung with upcoming competition")

Exterior Looks & Functionality: 8.5

The phone AFAIK was released only in two colors, Black (w/c comes in two flavors: Glossy and Matte) and Silver. There are a couple of red and green colored ones that I saw on the net, I'm not sure if they're modded or not though. I purchased the glossy black version w/c looks tremendously sexy. The phone's length is only as long as my middle finger, while its width is half of its length (and I'm not a tall guy <only 5'7">, so just imagine that) so placing it inside my shirt's pocket is not a problem. Most folks will even not notice that you're holding a cellphone in your hand because you can almost cover it with your palm and fingers.
The majority of the "flip" contains the glossy portion with the exception of its side and the upper half that surrounds the camera. The downside of having the glossy finish is that its a finger print magnet. Wiping it using a soft cloth or just your fingers usually does the trick though. The rest of the phone's body is made of smooth plastic with an engraved Samsung logo at the rear portion. There's no battery cover that you need to slide out or remove here. The battery itself serves as the rear part of the phone. So if you cause your phone to get a big scratch at the said portion, replacing the battery should do the trick and make your phone look new again. And yes, for those of you guys/gals who like using finger/hand straps, this phone supports it. Just make sure that you guys purchase a non scratching one because that may cause damage to the phone's camera, glossy top, and/or ext display. That's actually the main reason why I don't use the finger strap that came with the phone because it contains a metallic piece. Although its pretty smooth, I don't trust it well enough not to scratch my phone.
The flip host the 65k OLED (Organic-LED) screen that is still highly readable even under direct sunlight and doesn't dim or fade at any given angle. The screen itself has a silver frame with a reflective Samsung logo at the bottom that changes colors depending on how light strikes on it. The upper third portion of the screen has the usual information that you'd expect from an external display, all of w/c are only blue in color: signal strength, battery life, time, unread SMS icon, etc. The rest of the screen below is where the rest of the informations are going to be displayed like the ext wallpaper (80x64 res max / also displays the Date at the bottom portion), caller I.D. (80x50res max / displays a 3d like handset icon that moves from side to side when no picture is assigned to a caller), SMS envelope icon with a number at its side that signifies the number of unread messages or a "full" label when your inbox memory is already full etc. The quality of the pictures are great but it seems like the screen is a bit picky when it comes to colors. There are pictures that will look fine on the internal display but will either look faded or over saturated on the ext display. With my experience, blue colors gets washed out while yellow/orange gets over saturated. And unlike most of the pics that you see scattered on the internet, displaying a full screen pic on the ext display is not possible. And the phone IMO does a good job of resizing pics that exceed the max allowable resolution. Most pics will not have noticeable distortion when downsized to the max resolution that the external screen supports. It is still best however to use the recommended max pic size that I mentioned above for best quality. 
At the bottom of the ext display is the multimedia buttons (rwd, play/pause, fwd). This is where Samsung boast its phone's multimedia capabilities. Holding down the play button for 2secs will display an animated disc with options to either open up the audio player (by pressing the rwd button) or the radio (by pressing the fwd button). Using the audio player displays a visualization like what you see on the pic on the left. As cool as it looks, the visualization doesn't have any connection to the music that is currently playing. Its just a pre-generated animation that repeats itself ... w/c is a neat trick that can often times fool folks who is not paying that much attention to the movement of the peak meter. You however do not have the option of selecting the color of the visualization. The color is usually blue, as most of you folks might have noticed on pics from the internet. But in reality the color automatically switches to different colors like orange, green, blue, etc (changes colors every half a sec or so). That effect IMO made the visualization look cheap on the ext display.

The volume control is on the left side of the phone w/c can be used to increase/decrease the speaker volume when you have a call or using the mp3/FM tuner functions. 
On top of the ext. display is where the camera is positioned. It is however not protected in any way and the glass that protects the lens is not dugged in the phone so its very prone to dirt, finger prints, or even scratches. There's a small LED sitting below the camera. It helps a bit on low light situations but the LED is too weak IMO to be much of a help on objects more than a foot away from the lens. Of course this camera has a dedicated button that you need to hold down to enable the ext display for taking self-portraits (w/c can also be used to lock the multimedia keys when using the audio functions). The quality of the self-portrait screen is very good given the correct lighting conditions. You can then use the multimedia buttons to switch from camera or video mode, zoom in/out, and increase/decrease the brightness.
All of this however was pulled down by a 3sec display limitation that shuts the screen off (except the upper third portion unless disabled from the options) after the said given time. Yes ... you read it right. The reason for this is not really clear since Samsung could have at least given us the option to set the time before shutdown. The only thing that most users can think of is its Samsung's way of conserving battery charge w/c is a bit of an issue with this phone. We can however re-enable the main ext display for another 3secs by holding down the volume key for approx 2 secs.
The headphone port is protected by a sliding plastic cover w/c is a great feature IMO. A lot better than the usual rubber or exposed port that we have with most phones. The battery cover at the bottom is also excellent because the tip is covered with hard plastic that doesn't get deformed over time like the K700i's.

One cool thing about this phone is that you can use the USB cable (w/c in my case came with the package) to charge your phone. You however have to install the drivers, otherwise the phone will not allow you to charge via USB. I just cross my fingers that constant connecting/disconnecting of the batt charger and USB cable that plugs into the same port will not shorten the said port's lifespan.
Here now are some of my minor gripes. First, The camera and the volume buttons should have been positioned a bit higher. You will most of the time find yourself reaching for the buttons (unless you have really long ones) than looking for them. Next, the camera cannot be cancelled and the LED cannot be enabled by holding down on the camera and volume buttons respectively on some firmware versions. I mean the LED light I would probably understand, but forgetting about the camera cancel button (while in self-portrait mode) on earlier firmware versions is just unacceptable IMO. Opening up the flip just to exit out of the self-portrait mode is frustrating to say the least. And for my biggest gripe ... the flip stopper w/c is located in between the hinge is made out of plastic. This generates a small light scratch on each side of the camera. I'm aware its a common problem with clamshell phones but having a scratch around or near the hinge is better than having them in front of the flip itself. using a smoother plastic or maybe hard rubber could have fixed this issue.

Interior Looks & Functionality: 9
The good looking innards of this phone will greet you when you open the flip. First things first though, the flip opens up really smoothly. No squeeking sounds here. The angle of the screen when open is perfect for viewing and its very rare that you'll find yourself trying to correct the angle to get the most out of the screen. Positioning the flip exactly 90deg for taking self portrait/videos from a distance is not possible. Don't despair though, using a higher/lower angle (depending of course how the phone is oriented) will enable you to place the phone on a table and shoot away. If adjusting the flip 'till it sticks is not your thing however, you can always just lay the phone down on its side and take "portrait" oriented shots.
The main display is also covered by a silver frame with a Samsung logo at the bottom. The quality of the screen is pretty much what you'd expect from Samsung. The screen is capable of displaying 256k colors (TFT) with a resolution of 176x220 w/c is pretty impressive for a clamshell phone since there are a lot of phone's using lower resolution on a much bigger screen. And although the screen size is on the small side, the quality pretty much makes up for it. The screen is still visible even under direct sunlight but still dims/fades when viewed from the top/bottom part.
Right above the screen is the speaker w/c is IMO better than the other phones that I used before because there are 2 output holes w/c reduces that chance of mis-aligning the phone against your ears. And if you're wondering if its loud, well this is the same built-in speaker that the phone uses to play audio ... so it is loud.

The buttons doesn't have any space in between them and have just the right size even for folks with (quite) big fingers. The numbers 2, 5, 8, and 0 are graced by a glossy silver metal frame w/c can also be found on the middle "ok/i" button. The buttons are pretty silent when pressed, though there's still a light "click" sound that will confirm that the phone has recognized your command. Personally, I think this is the most comfortable buttons I have ever used because you can easily slide your fingers to the other keys (since they do not have any space in between them)  and press 'em with ease. The "C" (clear) button however IMO might take some getting used to since its positioned right above the number "2". Most phones have this on either the left or right side of the pad. The buttons bdway are lit up with white LED w/c are very readable on extremely dim lighting situations. The "ok/i" button however doesn't light up since its made of a silver plate.
There are very few available shortcut keys inside of this phone. With the exception of the usual mute/vibrate key, speed dial buttons, and directional arrow key shortcuts ... the only other key that you can use for quick access are the volume keys that adjust not only the key volume, but the folder tone loudness as well (w/c weirdly enough is not mentioned on the manual).

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