THE GOOD: The Samsung SCH-A870 is a lightweight flip phone with a slim profile. It also offers a VGA camera with flash, a speakerphone, Bluetooth, voice dialing, and support for VZ Navigator, Verizon's GPS location service.
THE BAD: The Samsung SCH-A870 takes blurry, washed-out photos.
THE BOTTOM LINE: With an understated design and a solid feature set, the Samsung SCH-A870 is a great midtier offering from Verizon.
The Samsung SCH-A870 is the latest Samsung cell phone in Verizon's lineup, and while it's not a design showcase or a feature-packed wonder, it's a pretty decent midtier cell phone that should satisfy most consumers. We could've done with a better megapixel camera, but with its price range and target market in mind, we think the SCH-A870 is a better-than-average offering from Verizon. It retails for $99.99, but you can get it for only $49.99 with a two-year contract with Verizon Wireless.
While the SCH-A870 is no fashion phone, it's still quite stylish. Wrapped in silver and accented in black, the SCH-A870 is a slim flip phone measuring 3.6 by 1.8 by 0.85 inches and weighing only 3.4 ounces. Its rounded corners make it great to hold in the hand. The phone opens easily and cradles comfortably next to the ear. The SCH-A870 has a small 1-inch-diagonal external screen in the middle of the front flap, which displays battery and signal strength, the date and time, and caller ID, plus it serves as a self-portrait camera viewfinder when the phone is closed. Above the screen is a VGA camera and a flash. On the left spine are a headset jack and a volume rocker, while the right spine is home to a dedicated camera button and a dedicated speakerphone button.
The internal display measures 1.75 inches diagonally and has 65,000-color support. The screen is bright and colorful, and we liked that we could adjust the backlight timer as well as its contrast. Like most Samsung phones, we could adjust the dialing font to two different sizes, four different styles, and to be with or without hyphenation. We generally aren't fans of the Verizon menu system because it takes several steps to get to certain applications such as the camera and the Web browser. However, with a dedicated camera button and a programmable shortcut key, we're willing to forgive that.
Although the navigation controls and number keypad are smooth, they remain slightly textured and raised, so they're easy to use and dial by feel. There are two soft keys, and a five-way toggle that doubles as shortcuts to the Web browser, Verizon's Get It Now menu, the camera/picture menu, and a user-programmable shortcut key. Underneath the controls are the Talk and End/Power keys, a clear button, and the aforementioned number keypad. The backlight timer on the keypad is adjustable.
The SCH-A870 has a 500-entry address book, with room in each entry for five numbers and two e-mail addresses, plus you can assign each entry to a caller group, a picture caller ID, and one of 10 different polyphonic ring tones. Other features include text and multimedia messaging, Bluetooth, speakerphone, voice dialing, instant messaging, wireless Web, e-mail, support for VZ Navigator (Verizon's GPS location service), a calculator, a world clock, a calendar, an alarm clock, a stopwatch, a notepad, and VibeTonz, a feature that'll let the phone vibrate to the beat of the ring tone. It also has a regular vibrate mode and a silent mode.
The VGA camera on the SCH-A870 takes pictures in three different resolutions (640x480, 320x240, 160x120) and has a self-timer of up to 10 seconds, a flash, five different white-balance settings, three quality settings (Fine, Normal, Economy), nine different color settings, and three shutter sound options. Unfortunately, you can't turn the shutter sound off, even if you turn the phone's volume all the way down to silent. While the picture quality is pretty good for a VGA phone, photos still appeared blurry and washed out.
Personalization options come in the form of ring tones, sounds, wallpaper, banners, and themes. You can even download more via Verizon's Get It Now download service. Though the phone supports BREW games, it doesn't come with one preinstalled, so you'll have to download one if you want your video-game fix.
We tested the dual-band trimode (CDMA 800/1900; AMPS) with Verizon Wireless, and we experienced spectacular call quality. Callers couldn't tell we weren't on a landline, and we could hear them loud and clear. Speakerphone quality was similarly impressive, though we did have to raise our voices a little for callers to hear us. We paired the Samsung SCH-A870 with the Plantronics Explorer 350 Bluetooth headset successfully.
The Samsung SCH-A870 has a rated talk time of up to 3 hours and 20 minutes, though we managed to get only 3 hours of talk time in our tests. It has a rated standby time of up to seven days. According to FCC radiation tests, the SCH-A870 has a digital SAR rating of 1.47 watts per kilogram. Previous page