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Until recently, phone buyers in the United States had to splurge on an expensive unlocked handset to get one with a camera offering more than 5 megapixels. Enter the Samsung Memoir, a touch-screen smart phone with an 8-megapixel camera available at a carrier-subsidized price ($250 with a two-year contract from T-Mobile). This is T-Mobile's third high-end camera phone; last year the provider released the 5-megapixel Motorola Motozine ZN5 and the Samsung Behold. But while the Memoir's camera certainly impresses, other aspects of the phone could be stronger.
At first glance the Memoir resembles a stand-alone digital camera more than a mobile phone. Measuring 4.1 by 2.1 by 0.5 inches, the Memoir fits easily into a pocket. Dressed in black plastic with silver trim and a leatherlike grip, it is quite light at only 4.4 ounces, but its build feels a bit chintzy.
The Memoir's design is very similar to that of the Behold. A gorgeous, 2.6-inch full LCD touch screen occupies the majority of the handset's face. Three physical buttons (Talk, Back, and End) reside below the screen, and the camera lens and flash sit on the other side. On the left spine are a microSD slot and a proprietary headphone jack; on the right spine you find a volume rocker, a dedicated camera button, and a lock button.
The Memoir's headline feature, of course, is its 8-megapixel camera, with 16X digital zoom and a Xenon flash. The camera has seven resolution settings, four image effects (black and white, sepia, negative, and watercolor), light metering, adjustable ISO, and a self-timer. It also offers three fun shooting modes (continuous, panorama, and mosaic), as well as a smile-shot mode that will take another picture if the subject is frowning.
The phone has 180MB of internal memory and a microSD slot for expanding the storage up to 16GB, so you have plenty of space for pictures. And don't worry if you happen to run out of memory: You can upload your photos directly to online services such as Flickr, the Kodak gallery, Photobucket, or Snapfish.
A Xenon flash, a feature we also saw on the Motozine ZN5, emits a stronger burst of light than an LED flash and is therefore ideal for indoor or dim-light environments. My indoor shots, however, were less than impressive. Even with the flash on, my pictures appeared dark, with some noise and blur. Photos taken outdoors in bright sunlight, on the other hand, were stunning, with bright and accurate colors and sharp detail. The only issue outdoors was the screen: Since its glossy face gave off a lot of glare, reviewing my photos after taking them was difficult.
The camera's touch menu is intuitive, and I liked being able to flick through my photos à la the iPhone. The Memoir uses Samsung's TouchWiz interface, also seen on the Behold and Omnia. Like the Behold, the Memoir is very responsive and user-friendly. The Today screen--the Memoir's home screen--has a widget bar running along its left side. You can arrange the widgets in any order, as well as drag one into the main part of the screen to launch its respective app. To end the application, you slide the widget back onto the bar. Available widgets include a calendar, a phone book, a music player, and a clock.
Other than rearranging widgets and removing them, you don't have a lot of room for customization; you can't add new widgets to the bar or buy new programs (there is no app store), which is disappointing. The Memoir has no Wi-Fi connectivity, either, which is unfortunate--sometimes, loading pages over T-Mobile's 3G network seemed slow.
Call quality over T-Mobile's 3G network was a mixed bag. I heard a faint hiss in the background of all of my calls. Parties on the other end of the line reported the same, but the majority didn't find it distracting. Voices sounded natural and clear enough, for the most part. One of my calls to a landline, however, was dropped--never a good sign.
Like the Behold, the Memoir doesn't come loaded with the Samsung TouchPlayer, an impressive media player that we tested on the Omnia. Instead, the Memoir offers a no-frills music player that supports album art and playlists, and has shuffle and repeat modes plus six equalizer settings. And like the Omnia, the Memoir is missing a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, so you can't charge the phone and listen to music at the same time. On the upside, transferring music from your PC to the Memoir via the USB cable is a simple drag-and-drop process.
Camera-phone fans will love the Memoir, but I'm not so sure about everyone else. Its average multimedia features won't impress audiophiles, and its lack of Wi-Fi and an app store won't satisfy those folks craving a handset with smart-phone capabilities. But it does deliver what it promises: a feature-rich camera with above-average quality.
Camera-phone fans will love the Memoir, but its lack of Wi-Fi and mediocre multimedia features disappoint.
- Excellent camera features
- Intuitive touch interface
- No Wi-Fi
- Mixed call quality
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