Sprint's Ambassador Program & The Samsung A920
A little while ago, I had mentioned that Sprint had invited me to be a member of their Ambassador program. Well today, the Samsung A920 phone had finally arrived. So what is the Ambassador program all about? To the best of my knowledge it is Sprint's attempt at guerrilla marketing, targetting the real news makers, bloggers themselves. They equip tech bloggers with a Samsung A920 and unlimited Power Vision (Sprint's net/media bundle) service for 6 months and only ask for simple feedback in return.
The A920 is a flip phone made by Samsung that has some pretty neat features at first glance; Bluetooth, a 1.3MP camera with camcorder functionality, and compatibility with Sprint's 3G network to provide TV, Radio and Music all on one device. Yeah, I know - it sounds too good to be true. In many ways, it is. The phone's UI is horrible. I takes a while of hunting and pecking to get around to accomplishing what you want to do. The default type rate for when you use the keypad to type alphanumberic messages is rather fast, so if you don't hit the 7 key four times fast enough you will end up with a extra P instead of an S. Also, the screen's backlight goes off after a certain time period and if you are typing in a number it won't get the first digit if you started typing when the backlight was off. Bluetooth networking is highly overrated. I couldn't get the phone to sync up with my Mac. The only thing the BT is good for is a wireless headset. Battery life is, as expected, less than stellar.
Not So Bad
I will have to say, however, that the 3G network is fairly fast. The A920 can be used as a modem for your PC (no Mac love here), supporting bandwidth rates of 300 to 800 kilobits per second (still slower than your typical DSL/Cable connection). A standard song download on the Sprint Music Store, which is overpriced as you guessed, takes about 45 seconds. The whole interface is made in Java, so there is no sense of speed here. You have to wait 3-5 seconds for each song before it is played. I will say that the audio quality is great. It has two small speakers right about where the hinge for the phone should be.
The phone comes with a 32MB SanDisk TransFlash memory card, but if you actually have plans of using the A920 as a media device that's the first thing that will have to be upgraded. Also, the headphones jack is a 1/8" jack as found on most phones but this is a bad thing since Sprint wants you to use it as a media device. It should have a 1/4" jack instead or in addition, otherwise users are stuck with the bad quality headset that is included. There is a small whole on the back of the phone for you to attach a lanyard or wrist-restraint thing. However, unlike previous Samsung models, the A920 does not come with this extremely cheap yet ever-so-important-in-those-butterfinger-moments lanyard. The phone is also only dual-band so this is not the phone for the avid traveler.
Lies. All Lies.
Sprint has been pushing their Music Store and "live" TV service as part of Power Vision for a long time. Here are my thoughts. It is useless. First off the "live" TV is just a bunch of clips of random news or whatever that you shouldn't waste your money on. You can watch movie trailers (for some movies, not all) as it says but why is the question that comes to mind. I think I can wait a few hours until classes are over to fire up Front Row and view a movie trailer on my 20" Apple display. The Sprint Music Store gave me a really good laugh. The online interface is horrible and makes finding any decent song a challenge. The list of songs is pretty much sorted by which Artist/label paid the most. For example, rapper T.I. has an album coming out this week and paid Sprint quite a bit to get his name on the mobile network. You can tell. Every menu has some link to his songs or other such content. Did I mention that songs cost 2.50 plus tax! I have one thing to say, iTunes Music Store, 99 cents. Oh and by the way, ringtones cost just as much but expire after 90 days! It is only a matter of time before the Sprint Music Store gets crushed by the competition.
There is also a hyped feature called On Demand that can show "up-to-date information on sports, weather, news, money and movies." The Java interface is bad as well, with images that are visibly compressed and look trashy. Using the web on a cell phone is greatly overrated. Whenever I'm out I have a PDA or laptop with me because of that fact.
I'm sorry for the extreme disorganization of this post, but some of these things just irk me. Sprint's Power Vision, media-rich network and phones like the Samsung A920 are aimed at young people like me. However, Sprint has one thing completely wrong. People like me always have an iPod with them, so using a phone for music is not going to work. The time spent on creating the Sprint Music Store and Radio could have been better spent on creating a superior phone and UI. I think Samsung should take a hint from Nokia next time they attempt to make a cell phone. The only thing good about this phone is that it has a camera and can come in handy when I'm driving around and spot a Murcielago, Enzo, Lingenfelter C6 or other such exotic car in front of me. But then again, most phones these days have cameras. Sprint tries to do too much with Power Vision, while charging excessively. If anyone from RIM, Nokia or Motorola (actually, any non-Sprint company works) wants to supply me with a real cell phone, I will gladly show up Sprint. Think I'm biased? Take a look at some other Sprint Ambassador reviews.