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Samsung P520 Armani - Fortus Mobile Phone Review

Feb 6, 2008
Focus On Style At Expense Of Function

Most mobile phones are clearly statements of "form follows function". While they may be candy bar, flip phones or sliders, they all have to do more or less the same thing. It's a recent trend among phone manufacturers, but one that we're (sadly) growing accustomed to, to try to differentiate a phone based on slapping a label on to it of some fashion designer, trying to make it "look stylish", and charging three to four times what a phone of comparable functions would actually be worth. LG's Prada was the start of this marketing concept, and in spite of negative reviews, it appears that no idea can be so bad it can't bear repetition, particularly when the markup on the phone itself is so high.

If you're guessing that I'm not in the target demographic for "designer phones", you're almost certainly right.

The latest proof that fashion conscious people are expected to go for style over substance is the Samsung Giorgio Armani. A revamped version of their P310 and P300 mobile units, the Armani replaces the oh-so-tacky (and oh-so-useful) regular buttons with a largish touch screen. It's got a bronzeish colored metal bezel and a non-stick coating, and it's styled to go well with "Men's Wear" colors. On the other hand, unless you're planning on showing it off to your mates, once it's in your hand and you're talking on it, hardly anyone will notice the phone at all. It comes with a tooled leather flipcase, and all in all, it's quite slim and trendy looking. Easy to slip into a shirt pocket and all, it won't look quite like a "brick on your belt" that larger smart phones tend to.

In terms of functionality, it's a straight up GSM phone without 3G wireless connectivity. The touch screen gives it an attempt at the iPhone's cachet, but the user interface is nowhere near as responsive as an iPhone. There's a noticeable lag between pushing an icon and having the application run; the clever "pinch" and "spread" maneuvers on the iPhone aren't replicated here. There are two analog buttons for start and end calls on the front, and the right hand side of the mobile has the volume rocker, the on/off button and the new universal power/data connector port (which matches the later Samsung 600 series phones.)

As a phone, sound quality was adequate. Signal strength was good. The touch screen interface, and the integrated software, mostly work. There are some oddities - the calendar and organizer applications don't communicate with each other. The "fingerswipe" to go through menus works, but not always reliably, and like any touch screen device, the front surface requires maniacal rigour in cleaning the fingerprints and grease off of it from routine operations. The user interface is clearly ported from some of Samsung's other touch screen phones - all the menu items still have numerical shortcuts, for a physical keyboard that's no longer present.

In addition to the now obligatory music player, it's got the also-obligatory 3 megapixel digital camera (but no autofucos), using an LED flash. Picture quality was sharp, the flash was better than expected.

While not a horrible device, the Armani costs more than comparably equipped phones; it's roughly on a par in price with the Nokia N95, for example. If you absolutely have to have a masculine looking cellular phone as part of your fashion ensemble, this one will do.
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