The Samsung Impression is one of the many phones AT&T dropped a few weeks back that features a full QWERTY keyboard. The Impression stands out from the rest as a full touchscreen device that uses an AMOLED display. The phone mimics many smart phone features, and has a very polished UI that reacts smoothly to the user’s command. It's honestly a great feature phone, yet the experience using it left me feeling I was using a very limited smart phone, which might be the point. As a result, I was left comparing the Impression to the iPhone, not because the iPhone is so great, but simply because the iPhone is the direct competitor for the Impression, especially at the $199 price tag. Users who are looking at the Impression need to think long a hard and analyze their needs before buying this device.
Design, Styling and UI
The device is smooth and curved. It feels good in the hand and weighs enough to give the impression of quality. The subtle chrome accents make the Impression stand out, and small features, like a proximity sensor to turn off the display when near your face, add to the overall quality of the Impression.
TouchWiz on the Samsung Impression is fast and fun to use. Dragging widgets onto the background from the side dock was fun, and the variety of widgets kept me entertained. My favorite is the widget to cycle through pictures and assign the phone a new background. It eliminates so many steps that other phones have you go through. There’s also a dedicated Bluetooth widget that makes for easy pairing, and even gives a cool graphical representation of nearby devices, making selection quick and easy. The media player was simple enough, and the microSD card expansion slot allows for 16GB of additional storage, one-upping the iPhone there.
Whatever else this phone offers, the first thing you notice, and the biggest selling point, is the AMOLED display. It looks absolutely gorgeous in any light, including direct sunlight. The colors are vibrant and it makes details on the screen pop out. The display is a 3.2” wide TFT touchscreen and offers 256K color support at the resolution of 240 X 400. The display is the real draw to this device. AMOLED is brighter, has better viewing angles, and consumes less power than previous generations of displays.
The actual touchscreen is capacitive, and offers the user haptic feedback whenever they make a selection or scroll through menus. The one issue I have with the screen is the thin plastic they use as the main touch surface: it scratches way too easily from objects that aren’t even sharp enough to scratch other phone screens. If you buy this phone, get a screen cover.
The Impression is a good phone. Call quality was excellent on both ends. The signal usually remained strong in my area, never dropping below 3 bars, and the reception was clear and sounded good. The speakerphone on the Impression also worked well. Using it on the road, the caller was still able to hear me, and I could hear and understand them well.
The Internet and Browser
AT&T’s MEdiaNet browser and 3G connection were relatively fast. The browser gives a good imitation of the full web, and pages load quickly; usually in about 30 seconds. Not bad for a device without WiFi (which reminds me, come on Samsung/AT&T, you can’t give us such a nice feature phone and then refuse us WiFi). The browser can be used with either the QWERTY keyboard, or a full touchscreen keyboard that pops up when you close the device. Both keyboards worked well (but more on that later). The accelerometer made browsing in either portrait or landscape possible, but something about the browser, especially compared to the iPhone’s, just didn’t seem as refined. The experience of web browsing wasn’t bad, and considering I’m used to using the Samsung Instinct (which many of the phone’s features and programs seem to imitate), the Impression was a step above what I’ve experienced.
I’ll admit, the 3.0MP camera is good for a camera in a cell phone. It takes high-quality photos that aren’t too soft because of noise-reduction, and the colors are vibrant on the AMOLED display. The phone also features a decent suite of photo editing and enhancing features that, to be honest, were surprisingly easy to use. When I needed to crop an image, or change it to sepia tone post shutter snap, it was simple to do so, and I was able to accomplish whatever I needed in a few clicks of the screen. It almost borders on too much as I realized that most of these camera features are things I’ll never use or need as long as I have a point and shoot and iPhoto. The 3.0MP camera runs into the same problem that every other camera phone does: it can’t replace a good point and shoot. Yet these photo editing features are certainly a step in that direction. I’m sure one day, they’ll manage to cram enough sensors into a camera phone, and then it will be useful to have a full photo editing suite in your phone, but until then, this camera still remains a last resort for taking drunken party photos.
The QWERTY and Touchscreen Keyboards
The second main feature of this device is the full size QWERTY keyboard that slides out from behind the display. The keys are widely spaced and large, offering a soft click when pressed. I was able to type messages out quickly and accurately. The only issue I had was the keyboard felt too soft on the clicks, and sometime I wasn’t ever sure if I pressed it.
The touchscreen keyboard can be T9 or full QWERTY depending on if the phone is in portrait or landscape. It was accurate enough and sometimes was easier to use than the physical keyboard. The haptic response let me know when I clicked the keys, though the letter that you press is displayed to the side, along with the letter next to it, so it’s sometimes confusing on which letter you pressed, if you see it at all.
The talk time of this phone ended up being around 3 hours straight or so, and I still haven’t been able to run down the battery just having it on standby. The advertised standby is about 250 hours, or about 10 days, which seems to be accurate enough.
The Impression seems to be suffering from an identity crisis. It has many of the features that make smart phones desirable, such as the full QWERT keyboard, GPS, and a touchscreen display. However, in the recent transition to feature phones, the main target consumer seems to be, well I don’t know. The Impression is priced the same as the iPhone 8GB, and it seems that whoever would buy the Impression for it’s features would be better off just making the jump to the iPhone and the smart phone category as a whole. The full QWERTY keyboard and AMOLED display don’t make enough of a difference in the day to day use of the device to make a stark differentiation between the Impression and the iPhone. $199 is too much for this device, as full-featured, functional, and pleasant to use as it is.
The questions to ask yourself if considering this phone are these: Do you need it right now? If you do, is the AMOLED display, full QWERTY keyboard and the $199 price tag worth the sacrifice of not having WiFi, the ability to sync up calendars and contacts, or having a full web browsing experience? In my opinion, no. This phone wants so desperately to be a smart phone, but too many “feature phone” features prevent it from being anything but another victim of iPhone envy. Once the price drops, this phone will be a fantastic device to use, but at the current price, you’re better off waiting.
Final Score: 7.5/10 (Once the price drops, 8.5)