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Samsung SCH-i730

The Samsung SCH-i730 for Verizon Wireless manages a pretty impressive feat: It shrinks a Windows Mobile-based smart phone into a form factor that actually fits comfortably in your pants pocket and includes broadband wireless, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, a built-in keyboard, and a speedy processor. Despite some irritating quirks in its wireless support, the Samsung i730 stays in the running for the "Treo killer" title.

The Samsung SCH-i730 is much smaller than typical Windows Mobile-based handhelds; only the diminutive I-mate Jam is smaller, but the Jam lacks the i730's keyboard and Wi-Fi support. In fact, other than being slightly thicker, the i730 is virtually identical in size to Palm's popular Treo 650. At 2.28 by 0.97 by 4.49 inches and 6.4 ounces, the i730 is close in size to other Windows Mobile-based smart phones, but it has the touch screen and the full Windows Mobile application compatibility that many smart phones lack.

Thanks to the combination of its operating system and specs, the Samsung SCH-i730 is a processing powerhouse. It sports a 520MHz Intel PXA272 processor, 64MB of internal RAM, 128MB of flash memory (more than 80MB of which is available for program storage), and an SDIO/MMC expansion slot. It runs Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition, which offers a full set of PIM functions as well as Pocket versions of Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel. Music and movie fans will appreciate the inclusion of Windows Media Player 10.0, which supports PlaysForSure WMA files from online music stores such as Napster and Musicmatch and easy syncing of television programs recorded by Windows Media Center PCs. The Samsung i730 also includes a few bonus applications, including Sprite Backup, an excellent program launcher, and Verizon's Wireless Sync push e-mail client. While Microsoft's Windows Mobile push functionality won't be built into devices until we see units featuring Windows Mobile 5.0, Verizon's push e-mail client does the trick. Though some preproduction i730s were shown with a built-in 1.3-megapixel camera, this feature is missing from the initial i730 released by Verizon. It's possible that the camera could appear in a second model or in a version from another carrier, but no camera version has been announced. Nevertheless, we had hoped that a high-end smart phone such as the Samsung i730 would have at least a VGA-quality camera.

The dual-band (CDMA 800/1900) Samsung SCH-i730's phone features worked smoothly in our tests on Verizon's network. Voices sounded clear on both ends of the call when speaking directly into the phone, but conversations were a bit quiet when using the Logitech Mobile Freedom Bluetooth headset. Speakerphone quality, though, is excellent. A nice bonus is the inclusion of VoiceSignal software, which lets you dial by pressing the button on your Bluetooth headset and saying "Call name." Voice and data coverage were excellent, though the lack of analog support means you may have trouble finding a signal in some rural areas. (That said, digital CDMA coverage is more widespread in the United States than GSM.)

The i730 includes a pair of batteries: a 1,100mAh standard battery and a thicker 1,700mAh extended battery. Battery life will vary dramatically depending on how you use the phone. Wi-Fi is a real power hog, and the extended battery will come in handy if you plan to use this feature much. The standard battery is rated at 2.5 hours of talk time, which we surpassed by an extra half hour in our tests. For standby time, it promises 5.4 days; this seems accurate from our testing. The package also includes a stereo headset, a belt holster, and an extremely portable folding USB sync cradle.

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