The Samsung SGH-D900i is a mid-range, quad-band slider-phone that finds much strength in its simplicity. Designed for professionals and the style-conscious, it fits function with "must-have" features (such as a music player and camera) into one of the slimmest form-factors on the market. Weighing in at 93g, the SGH-D900i has been designed for single-handed use, with its sliding front-panel revealing a spacious keypad with a flick of the thumb. The slightly raised keys on the sides provide quick access to the camera and volume features of this phone, alongside discreet slots for a MicroSD card and Samsung earphones/charger.
Like a Fashion Week catwalk model, the Samsung SGH-D900i garners most of its appeal from being super-skinny, shiny, and appearing to have not much on. Having most of the keys hidden away under its thin, sliding face is a definite aesthetic boon; given that the menu and contacts can be navigated without sliding the phone open, the Samsung SGH-D900i can be appreciated at its smallest the majority of the time. However, the Samsung's sleek lines and mirror-finish have a fatal flaw -- while looking gorgeous in the box, it only takes a few uses to develop a scratch or two and a grubby layer of smudges. Sadly, you cannot imagine the Samsung SGH-D900i ageing gracefully.
Another line-in-the-sand is the Samsung SGH-D900i's interface -- while the menu navigation may be comfortingly familiar to prior Samsung and Sony Ericsson users, it's the call screens that bite our noodle. As soon as you start entering a phone number, it displays an animation of a pen writing it on a pad ye olde way - is it nifty, or just plain kitsch? A similar effect is garnered when you enter numbers during a call. We love the cheery sentiment of Rainbow Brite-esque coloured numbers, but it's a positive that could be better expressed elsewhere. Ditto for the keypad tones -- the moment you work out how to turn them off (and it isn't entirely obvious), you will never choose to turn them on again.
The Samsung SGH-D900i has thrown in its all with its 3MP camera and video recording mode. There are oodles of ways you can get more creative with your photos, beyond changing more conventional shooting options such as ISO and white balance. Included are effects such as sepia and black-and-white, plus the sort of frames that would be at home in a Japanese sticker-photo machine. The camera and video include 4x digital zoom and auto-focus. Thankfully, the quality of the photos can be matched by Samsung's 2-inch, 262k-colour QVGA TFT screen, which is bright and displays crisp images.
Tucked away amidst the Applications are a Music Player, Voice Recorder and FM Radio. All of which are best enjoyed when using the provided Samsung headphones, unless you're one of those types that mercilessly belts tunes on the train, to the chagrin of everyone else. The Music Player supports MP3, AAC, AAC+, and e-AAC+ audio formats and can also play through Bluetooth-enabled speakers.
The Image Editor is another rather whimsical application, which lets you change basic settings such as brightness and contrast in your pictures, as well as built-in add frames, clip art and emoticons. Be warned that this little app adds artefacts as it heavily compresses your photos.
The Samsung SGH-D900i is a quad-band (850/900/1800/1900MHz) GSM phone, which also comes with Bluetooth and USB for transferring files, as well as a WAP browser for Internet connectivity over EDGE and GPRS networks. As this is not a 3G phone, data transfer speeds are ho-hum, so save your high-speed Web aspirations for your PC. The Samsung includes about 67MB of in-built memory, which is enough for an album, or around 140-150 photos. This is expandable with the use of a MicroSD card; a mandatory if you intend to use the Samsung SGH-D900i as a serious music device.
Despite what's been said about the cute-as-cupcakes interface, making calls with the Samsung SGH-D900i is a breeze to do and the call clarity is excellent. However, we found that couldn't change the volume during a call, which on the default volume, was a little harsh on sensitive ears. As for sending SMS and MMS, both are simple to do and the predictive text feature is generally spot on; however, we found using the bottom row of the keypad a little cumbersome to use due to its raised base.
A great draw card is the Samsung SGH-D900i's in-built camera, which although not top-of-the-line at 3MP, is very impressive, even in low and artificial light. With auto-focus, the Samsung provides images with sharp edges, as well as high colour fidelity and saturation. Creative types will marvel at the squillion settings available, including shooting modes, fancy frames and colour effects. And that's all prior to further tinkering via the built-in Image Editor application.
The in-built flash is wonderfully luminous, and will prove to be very useful for close-ups at parties. It can be set to flash in time with the shutter, or as a continuous light, the latter also being very useful for finding your keys in the dark.
As the camera is limited to digital zoom, photos rapidly become fuzzy as you zoom in on a scene. The 4x zoom is also a tad slow, so you are better zooming and cropping your photos after the fact. Given the overall quality of the camera, this is a small niggle amidst a plethora of pluses.
Another strong feature is the Music Player, which despite its simplicity, produces good sound quality via the supplied Samsung headphones and loudness when played via the built-in speaker. Manually adding songs to playlists can be a bit cumbersome, but if you aren't fussy about loading up a few more songs than are required for the train trip home, it's a handy feature.
Despite the talk and standby time being an impressive 3.5 and 240 hours respectively on paper, we found that battery cycles lasted three days on average with light use. Charging takes roughly three hours.
In what is more an observation than a criticism, the Samsung SGH-D900i is a phone with an identity crisis -- ultimately a 2G phone with 3G multimedia aspirations, and a business-styled phone that's not afraid to pen its interface in kiddie colours. Perhaps its aspiration was to please the entire spectrum and in many ways it does -- with its easy-to-use camera and good looks, it's an undoubtedly attractive phone with features that will appeal to all and many. However, unlike its opinionated contemporaries such as the Sony Ericsson Walkman range and Nokia's endless litany of fashion phones, it lacks distinction and personality -- the Samsung SGH-D900i does a couple of core things pretty well, but not well enough to make an exciting name for itself in a crowded 2G market. The Samsung SGH-D900i Ultra Edition 12.9 retails for $599RRP.