updated 01:10 pm EDT, Sat August 4, 2007
Telus m620 Hands On
Electronista just yesterday picked up its test model of the Telus Samsung m620, and we're putting the phone through its initial paces as we speak. While it's too early to provide a definitive review, our early look at the phone suggests that Americans familiar with the device as the Sprint UpStage might be surprised to find that the software isn't just the Sprint interface with a different carrier badge; Telus clearly wants subscribers using its Mobile Music (subscription store) and Mobile Radio (Internet streaming of XM Satellite Radio stations) rather than just buying songs or sideloading their own. So far, the concept is smart: the selection of radio stations is smaller, but an unlimited music store subscription means you can download as many tracks as you like anywhere you can get EVDO coverage -- a concept that works better than subscriptions on computers, where metered Internet access and storage space are less pressing issues than on a phone.
Our first impressions of the hardware are good, but still mixed. The m620 is small but easy to grip, and it's thin enough for smaller pockets without the impression that it might break in an accident. Many of Samsung's claims about having good controls on either side of the device are validated in practice: the directional pad and keys on the front are large enough that accidental presses would be difficult, and having the large screen plus touchpad on the back are a useful compromise between the small screens and controls of most phones and the full control but larger bulk of a smartphone.
The bundled "battery wallet," which Samsung claims adds up to 6.3 hours, is perhaps one of the more intelligent bundled accessories we've seen to date; it gives the user a good case and an extended battery straight out of the box without adding much bulk. The combination still fits quite snugly and could easily be carried around by most people.
We can already say, however, that there are a few caveats that may prove to be serious issues in the long run. Besides the potential irritation of having to flip the phone to enter text on a website or add a contact, we also have concerns about the responsiveness of the custom Telus interface and the sensitivity of the touchpad. Whether or not the m620 also fares well as a media phone in the wake of the iPhone and in the context of other phones is also debatable, as it's clear there are some areas where Samsung has done little to change the phone experience despite the benefit of a new control scheme.
Look for answers to these questions when our final review appears within the next several days.
Taking a call
Listening to Telus Mobile Radio