[Review] Samsung Impression (SGH-A877)

OVERVIEW

Debuted at the 2009 CTIA, the Samsung SGH-A877 (aka Samsung Impression) is a much talked about handset. It sports a full QWERTY keyboard with a gorgeous 3.2 inch touchscreen.  The 3 megapixel camera can can take panoramas (at a tiny 416 vertical pixels) and comes with 200MB of built in storage.  For additional storage, the Impression supports external MicroSD cards.

PRICE

In the United States, the Samsung Impression is free with a 2-year contract with AT&T, or $299.99 without. In other parts of the world the price will vary.

THE HARDWARE

  • The phone has a nice 3.2″ AMOLED screen and GPS.
  • It has a MicroSD slot which can hold up to a 16 GB card.  However, some brilliant wiz at Samsung thought it would be smart to hide the slot underneath the battery cover.
  • It features a full QWERTY keyboard and a 3.0 megapixel camera with 3x zoom.
  • It’s not a small phone, but it is very nice to hold in the hand.
  • It has haptic feedback too:  it buzzes when you touch it.
  • It also has a proprietary port for charging, data transfer, etc at the top.
  • It’s a UMTS 3G phone.  It is however quad-band and a “world phone”.

THE SOFTWARE

The software is where the phone starts to fall apart.  It’s not a bad phone, but it has too many bugs for a phone 10 months old.

Bugs:

  • When you use the “zoom” function to zoom into pictures on the internal and MicroSD memory, eventually they show up as just blackness.  I’m guessing it’s a case of too much memory usage, but that means that the software doesn’t get rid of the old zooms.
  • If you do something that takes a while and is full screen (such as copy a folder from the phone’s onboard memory to the MicroSD card) it may freeze up.
  • It has the weirdest problem of not knowing the correct inches>feet conversion.  In my test, it thinks that 12.00004800018 inches are equal to a single foot.
  • Another quirk about this phone is that it has raised power, back, and accept call (is that what those are called?) buttons.

Quirks:

  • The phone actually has a lag time when it first boots up- you can’t open the messaging app for quite a bit.
  • The user interface isn’t consistent- for example, when scrolling in a folder, the folder moves up or down the amount you move your finger.  However, when checking the details on a picture file, when you scroll, it moves up a very large amount.
  • If you touch reply on a text message and keep your finger down, it will send a blank message (the Send button appears where the Reply button was).
  • You can’t delete files from the root directory of the MicroSD card.
  • Although when you slide out the keyboard, the icons change orientation, the background picture does not.

Good Things:

  • The touchscreen can be fairly annoying at times, but overall the screen is fairly accurate.
  • Handwriting recognition!  Yeah!
  • When inside a folder, you can use the volume adjust to scroll.
  • The phone has three fonts:  Sans, a little handwriting-esque thing, and then something that looks almost as bad as my handwriting.
  • It has a nice user interface, and can send MMS messages.
  • It comes with all the features that a dumbphone would have:  alarms, calendars, call lists, tasks, memos, a calculator, a converter, a “world clock” (just a map of the world, and when you tap a country, it gives you the time), a timer, and a stopwatch.
  • Another cool thing about this phone is the ability to set up your own connection settings- for instance, I set up DNS servers to redirect to my phone so I wouldn’t ever be able to use the internet on my phone, and it even lets you pick and choose what apps have what connection profile.
  • It also comes preloaded with trial versions of Ms. Pac-Man, Monopoly, Midnight Pool *2*, Diner Dash *2*, and a full version of Tumbling Dice.  What is Tumbling Dice?  Dice that tumble when you shake the phone.
  • The phone has 3 different keyboards: Slide-out QWERTY, touchscreen QWERTY (to access this, tilt the phone sideways when in touchscreen 123), and a touchscreen version of the classic 123 layout.
  • The audio app is fairly nice:  It can sort by album, artist, or playlist, and when you click on an artist, it sorts the audio files into albums.
  • The photo-viewing app is nice too:  It automatically rotates the picture to your viewing orientation (vertical, horizontal, and upside-down versions of those) and will automatically scroll when you tilt the phone.  It can get annoying, but there is a workaround:  click the Zoom button and don’t zoom in.  It will stop auto-scrolling and auto-rotating.
  • It has a 3 megapixel camera.
  • It has nice animations.

OTHER THOUGHTS

The Impression has a thing called “TouchWiz”- a little dock on the side which docks “widgets”.  These widgets are:  Analog Clock, Digital Clock, Dual Clock, Speed Dial, Favorite Contacts, AT&T Navigator (if you buy the phone from AT&T), Media Mall, MEdia Net, Today, Calendar, Favorite, Photo, Birthday, Profile, Bluetooth, Calculator, and Yahoo Search.  You can drag these to the main screen.  The reason I didn’t mention these is because the dock is collapsible, and I’ve had it minimized for the time I’ve had the phone.  It also has a proprietary headphone/USB/charging port, but to use the USB you don’t even need to install Samsung’s software: Windows (at least Win7) detects it and adds it to My Computer.

FINAL RATINGS

A fairly nice phone for a good price.

The trials are fun.

Two QWERTYs and a 123 keyboard, all with T9 optional.

Nice screen.

Nice camera.

Nice audio app.

Haptic feedback is handy because it is nice to know when you’ve touched something.

Quite a few bugs.

Why does messaging have a startup time?

User interfaces needs to be made more consistent.

Why are the power buttons raised?

The zoom function in the picture viewer is annoying.

For a US market phone, they don’t seem very interested in the correct conversion units.

FINAL VERDICT

The Samsung Impression is either a giant dumbphone that’s really smart, or a smartphone that’s really dumb. Since – technically speaking – it isn’t a smartphone, lets say it is a smart dumbphone. In my opinion, this smart dumbphone is a great phone which suffers from being rushed to production. The software has too many bugs for my taste, and the MicroSD card slot is stuffed underneath the case, which is very annoying.  Overall, it’s a nice phone, but I’d wait for a software update.

LINKS OF INTEREST

http://www.samsung.com/us/consumer/mobile/mobile-phones/at-t-phones/SGH-A877RBAATT/index.idx?pagetype=prd_detail

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13 comments

  1. Pingback: How to root Samsung Galaxy S4 (GT-I9505, LTE ) on Android Jelly Bean

  2. JR

    hey thx 4 posting this, the auto scrolling photos have been driving me nuts. even samsung couldnt help me on that.  it would have been nice if there was a way to turn off that autoscroll.  but your suggestion works.

  3. Jabtano

    it’s not bad really, i hit the banner link on the front page of dottech. just to see what AT&T had to offer on it. but then I do generally click on the banner adds here cause they help to pay the bills.

  4. leland

    Asraf, you forgot on of the oldest smart phone OS’s which was Palm and now we also have the latest WebOS from Palm. If only Palm would add a card slot it would be an interesting phone.

    Locutus, thanks for this review of a smart dumbphone. I like that phrase. I currently have an LG enV2 from Verizon which falls in the same category. Nice thing about Verizon is you can take the phone in whenever you want and tech support will update the firmware for you which AT&T is not so good at.

  5. OldElmerFudd

    Really nice review, Locutus.

    I was an early adopter of Blackberry after a long run with Palm OS units. Finally got tired of the whole business and now I just use a little Samsung flip phone. Don’t even bother with internet access/texting. (I found out ATT was charging me for it anyway, until I put a halt to that!)

    Keep up the good work.

  6. Samuel

    @Locutus: The smartphone name is a bit hard to define really. It’s supose to define any phone that runs a striped down PC OS (like in the case of Windows mobile, or iPhone OS (and thats what it’s called Ashraf). Then it was changed (though this change really came before the iPhone OS) to any phone with PC like abilities, and then to it’s current version which is that it’s any phone not running a carrier or phone maker OS.

    Seems like an OK phone but I’m good with my Alias 2.

  7. Ian

    Nice review Locutus. I got my phone about a month ago and haven’t run into any true bugs during the normal use of the phone. My only complain is the extremely hard to push lock key on the side of the phone, design could have been better. At least you definitely don’t have to worry about calls being answered in your pocket!

    For all you modders out there, an incredible forum with lots of tips/support such as how to upload your own games and apps, check out:
    http://www.samsung-impression.org
    Highly recommended.

  8. Locutus
    Author/

    @Ashraf: Yeah, that’s why I called it a smart dumbphone. I really wish it was a true smartphone. And actually, the full keyboard doesn’t get as much use as I thought it would. I usually wind up using the touchscreen QWERTY.

  9. Ashraf
    Mr. Boss

    Nice review! I am envious of your full keyboard.

    BTW as far as I know – technically speaking – only phones with Blackberry OS, Apple OS (or whatever the iPhone OS is called), Windows Mobile, Symbian, and Andriod are “smartphones”.