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A phone for Page 3 wannabes

July 17, 2003

If Samsung's ads were for real, I would be doing a Neo act. For I have been using the chaebol's V200 mobile phone.

For those who came in late, the V200 phone is the one that Samsung used in the movie Matrix Reloaded as a promo. It has the scene in which protagonist Neo, after fighting with a pole, shrugs off a few dozen clones out to exterminate him.

Neo's antics and the world he fights may be getting a little jaded, but the Samsung V200 phone itself is quite a neat piece. It's small, compact and packs some useful features.

It features GPRS (general packet radio service), an always-on data service boasting good speeds in test conditions, a cleverly designed phone camera and a decent-sized screen.

The V200 has all the advantages -- and disadvantages -- of a flip-open phone. (Remember how cool they were when the first such Motorola handsets came out a few years back?) It is compact, light (weighs less than 100 gm) and allows for a bigger screen on a phone whose dimensions are smaller than conventional phones.

A small display on top of the phone (behind the screen) allows you to see who's calling without opening the phone. The phone comes with an antenna, which I personally like given the horror stories floating around on how brains get fried with the microwave radiation from cellphones.

The coolest feature of the V200 is its camera that the phone's maker claims is the best in its class. The camera has a 640x480 resolution, which is where most low-end digital cameras begin.

So, don't expect stunning pictures, but in sunlight your results can be good. The clever design of the camera --mounted on a 180-degree rotating part on the hinge of phone -- makes taking pictures easy.

Most other camera phones have their camera lenses mounted on the back of the handset. This means that you cannot click yourself or, if you still try, you aim and click blind hoping you are in the frame.

In the V200, you just twist the camera lens towards the face of the phone, see yourself and your friend on the screen and click. The pictures can be transferred to a PC with a cable or through the IR port.

The V200 supports multimedia messaging services and GPRS. I didn't have a chance to try either of the features, but others who have think they are useful.

I did, however, try out plain old circuit-switched data and found the speeds adequate while downloading mail on a coach hurtling at 100 kmph. The display on the phone is excellent, with 65,000 colours and a larger resolution than the previous versions of the phone.

The downsides of the V200 are a battery that runs out of juice fairly fast and problems with entering text while messaging.

I had to charge the battery every day I used it -- perhaps, because I was clicking pictures and playing games once a while, and, of course, making a goodly amount of calls.

Messaging using the predictive text feature is a nightmare, as it does not allow you to add special words as in Nokia phones so you have to come out of predictive and into normal text and to change the case of each mode is a different button. Quite painful, if you're an SMS-addict.

The phone allows you to store multiple phone numbers under a single name, but when you receive a call, it does not indicate which of the three numbers the call came from.

This may seem a small irritant, but you could end up making a wrong call or two while returning a missed call. Finally, the phone does not support Bluetooth and voice-activated dialling.

The V200 is priced clearly at the upper end of the market at Rs 29,200 a piece. But if you are a budget-indifferent gizmo-lover, you may want to try this Samsung phone that is a rage this summer in Europe. Especially, if you are the Page 3 kinds -- wannabe or arrived -- and want to wow your fellow party animals.

Josey Puliyenthuruthel works with content company perZuade. His views are personal and may not be endorsed by his employers, the company's investors, customers or vendors.)

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