Upgrading to the Samsung M520 on Sprint

hpim4486So I needed to upgrade my phone bad. I’d been using my archaic Sanyo PM-8200 since like ’05. I was the only one of my friends who couldn’t set bluetooth a polyphonic version of Katie Perry’s I Kissed a Girl and use it as my ringtone. And that just wasn’t acceptable.

In all fairness, I loved the PM8200. It was little and sturdy and did absolutely everything I wanted my phone to do. It made calls and took low quality pictures. Sprint coverage was sometimes lacking in Southern Oregon, but I can’t complain, and that old-school pull-out antenna is classy.

After learning about Sprint’s $150 upgrade rebate with a contract of at least 2 years, I decided it was about time to get something more modern, better looking, and capable of handling new conveniences like bluetooth.

It’s important to note that I did NOT want a smartphone. I’m sure if I was willing to pay a higher bill I’d love to have one, but I’m going to try holding out for a little while longer. I’ve got a notebook, an iPod, and a TomTom, so I think I’ll be able to manage.

As far as the phone selection goes, Sprint seemed somewhat limited. I would have preferred a simple flat phone, but the only contender (the Sanyo S1) didn’t have a camera. My choice eventually came down to the Katana LX, or the Samsung M520. Both looked sleak, but I wanted to try something other than a flip phone. Although it had less battery life, the Samsung featured a memory card slot, weighed less, and included more features I would wind up not using. It’s just nice to know that they are there.

On to the actual phone. It’s got a sleek metallic dark silver topside and the usual silver plastic body. The inner keypad and buttons are grey/silver. The Samsung and Sprint logos are backed by a sweet beetleback reflective surface. Most of this phone is a screen surface, which does get smudgy and fingerprinty after a while. A quick wipe will generally clean up the problem.

The hand-drawn neon cycling home screen menu is attractive and unique. The date and time are visible, although a little bit small. The phone uses a “missed alerts” notification system to log all of your missed calls, messages, texts, etc. The small ring of LED lights around the OK button light up when you’ve missed something. The main screen is plenty bright – I keep mine on the lowest setting, and in the dark it’s almost uncomfortable. On top of this, while charging at night beside my bed, the damn thing keeps it’s backlight on and illuminates half of my room.

The sound quality and reception are a noticeable improvement over the PM-8200, but that’s to be expected.

hpim4489The quality of the camera, overall, is a big step up from what I’d been using. I have noticed though, that ergonomically it’s much harder to prep and take a photo than on my older Sanyo phone. This results in many a blurry photo. After steadying my hand a bit and getting used to the different button placement, I’m sure this camera will work just fine for novelty photos, and 1.3 megapixels is enough for even some decent photography, although it may be considered impolite to quality-demanding viewers.

I was hoping that it would be possible to transfer photos via bluetooth, but to my dismay I was only able to access the “saved to phone” directory, and could not access the bulk of my pictures in my phone’s album. Looks like I’ll be popping out the Micro SD card more than I was planning to.

For those of you with data plans, there are some nice features accessible right from the main menu – like on demand weather, movie times, and headlines. Email connectivity, Sprint TV and the Sprint Music store. Just be careful not to rack up a huge bill if you’re paying by the KB…

hpim4485The keypad is crisp and responsive, although it feels a little cramped in the slide-out portion. The buttons could probably be a little bigger, and moved farther from underneath the ledge of the upper portion. Two thumb texting still works comfortably though. Some of the predictive text “innovations” are annoying, and the options available to tailor your text input are limited and confusing. Regardless, it’s nice to have your own word dictionary and such.

Although the outer buttons will lock when the slider is closed, I’ve found my self inadvertently calling people from inside my pocket on more than a few occasions while sitting in class.

The phone itself is quite light, but feels solid. Sliding action is smooth, and it could probably be dropped a few more times than the iPhone.

Navigation is easy enough once you get used to it. This phone also utilizes a nifty “App Manager” which lets you send any running application to the background, so you can have the music player open, play tetris, and then answer a text all at the same time. A little stack icon on the main screen lets you know the number of apps running in the background.

As the world turns to smart phones, the CDMA phone has to step it up, and the Samsung M520 does a good job of keeping it simple while still offering the sleek looks and available features that should set the standard of a straight up phone, which is just what I wanted to keep in my pocket.

EDIT: September 2011

More than 2 years later, this slider bites the dust. I pull it out of my pocket one day and the screen is completely white. The phone still functions, but the ribbon cable connecting the screen is likely having problems. Apparently, this is common among slider phones since that connection is jostled about every time you open and close it.

After a rather difficult dis-assembly, I determined the ribbon cable was indeed the problem and a replacement would be the same price as a whole new phone. R.I.P. Samsung, time to upgrade!

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