Live photos of Samsung F490
- Design, size, controls
- USB, Bluetooth, connectivity
- Memory, memory cards
- Menu and Croix UI
- Call log
- Alarm clock
- File Manager (My files)
- Watching video with the F490
- Picsel Viewer
- USB data cable
- Software CD
- User Guide
The Samsung F490 is simply doomed to get faced off against the Apple iPhone over and over again, thanks to its resembling form-factor, missing hardware keys on the front fascia, touch-sensitive display and pretty much identical dimensions. The iPhone buffs readily put the F490 into the “Clones” trashcan, although in reality it takes no cues from the iPhone in positioning or feature pack. Designing this handset, Samsung wanted to offer a hi-tech device sporting some offbeat smarts. On top of that, the F490 enjoys a touch of fashion, but doesn’t exaggerate it. Why so? Simply because the maker’s portfolio already has the Samsung Armani (P520), which has assumed the role of a fashion-savvy handset, while standing very close to the F490 spec-wise.
It is ironic, but the Samsung F490 along with many impending handsets and previous offerings running this platform is nothing more but Samsung’s reaction to LG’s solutions, specifically the LG Prada. And as far as the Samsung F490 is concerned, its direct competition is the LG KU990, so leave this rivalry with Apple out – these are two totally different phones, with the former having no focus on multimedia, and delivering with its calling features instead. It turns out that the F490 is a feature phone powered by a touch-sensitive display, which unties the maker’s hands in certain ways, and makes for a more fetching device overall.
Techi may find it somewhat interesting, but there are no reasons to believe they will be overly enthusiastic about the F490. This is one of the first models in the family, which will be followed by other offerings employing similar concepts.
The phone measures 115×53.5×11.8 mm and weighs in at 102 grams. Physically, the F490 is a typical plasticky candy-bar phone, with the rear clad in the same materials, although they tried to give it the looks of unpolished metal. But this is only a visual effect – this type of plastic is prone to scuffs and scratches, that tend to keep a low profile as long as they are skin-deep, but will surely surface if there is something serious.
Since the F490 is on the large side, they have managed to fit a 16:9 display on it, sporting the resolution of 240×432 pixels and measuring 3.2 inches from corner to corner and capable of showing up to 262K colors. On top of that, this TFT display is touch-sensitive (Capacitive Touch Screen technology). The picture quality was never an issue with the F490 – colors were quite natural and soft. Unlike other Samsung’s displays with smaller diagonals, this one doesn’t have impressive and flashy colors on offer, but the question is, whether it really needs them.
Samsung-branded offerings also employ the VibeZ feature so as to make the casing vibrate a little, confirming your actions. Unlike the Samsung Armani, the F490 gives you a buzz upon any key press – be it when dialing a phone number our typing out a message. Also, the vibrations going through the display, when tapping numbers and letters, are different but both are tactile.
Now for the shortcomings of the Samsung F490 – there are two of them, both are typical for this technology. The first one is misclicks, when the device responses in an awkward way, typing a couple of letters instead of only one you tapped. And the other letdown manifests itself when you accidentally touch the display’s surface with your palm (basically only counts for people with big hands).
The handset utilizes an 880 mAh Li-Ion battery, rated for 220 hours of standby and 6 hours of talk time. In Moscow the F490 lasted around 2 days (an hour of calls, a couple of messages a day, very little email and up to an hour of music). Those who are into mail and web, will squeeze around a day of operation from the F490. But in general, this handset can stay up and running for 1-2 days, and unfortunately, there is no extra battery cover for this handset. It takes the phone around 2 hours to charge up.
Bluetooth. The model supports various profiles, such as Headset, Handsfree, Serial Port, Dial Up Networking, File Transfer, Object Push, Basic Printing, A2DP. EDR-enabled Bluetooth 2.0 is onboard. The headset management is flawless, everything is standard here.
You won’t be able to use the F490’s Bluetooth connectivity at the same time as USB – it will require you to disable Bluetooth regardless of its status (connected and transferring data or not), which is very awkward.
When connected to a PC via USB, the F490 automatically recharges itself.
For GSM-networks, the F490 comes included with EDGE class 10.
The phone ships with 160 Mb of memory onboard – this storage space, give or take, is available to the user right out of the box. The memory card (hot-swappable) is displayed as a separate section, so you can’t access both memory types at a time. The F490 also comes with a file manager, enabling you to copy files to/from the memory card. In our test the handset had no problems handling a 2 Gb microSD memory card, whereas an 8 Gb unit remained unidentified.
The handset employs a 5 Mpix camera with no autofocus (CMOS). Picture quality is average in daylight, we found nothing to praise in the F490, though. The LED flash helps a little when shooting nearby objects.
- 2448×1360 pixels;
- 2160×1200 pixels;
- 1728×960 pixels;
- 864×480 pixels;
- 432×240 pixels;
- Super Fine;
The entire range employing touch-sensitive displays comes with a Samsung operating system and user interface standing very close to what you currently see with the company’s latest solutions. At the same time, there are a couple of new touches added for touch-screen based devices. They have tailored the interface to make it get along with touch-displays, so the new UI goes by the name of “Croix” (French origins of the word, where it literally means “a cross”). Another model enjoying this user interface is the Samsung U700, the same OS version is installed in the Samsung Armani.
Let’s see how the user can benefit from this particular interface version and what’s so special about it. While in the standby mode all you will see is the clock, but sweep your finger across horizontally to bring up the calendar displaying the current month’s schedule. The bad thing about the pop-up calendar is that you can’t scroll between months, which is especially frustrating when a month is drawing to a close, and obviously you want to check out days to come. Again, this is a just a calendar that has nothing to do with the Organizer’s event, which are not displayed in this pop-up window.
While all lists have their items indexed, you will never be able to utilize shortcut number navigation for lack of a hardware keyboard. The only reason they keep these shortcuts is because of hybrid models with both large touch-sensitive displays and thumbboards, like the Samsung F700.
All menus have the icon bar at the bottom, featuring the OK key, which does the same thing as pressing the display and the Back button, which is really essential on the F490 – if you have a drop-down menu open, the only option for closing it is pushing this key. The fact of the matter is that you can’t go back by just clicking on free space around that menu with the F490. The third key available in the bar calls up the quick access menu.
All applications, whose menus provide you with a number of options, also house removable icon bars with them, which is an extremely convenient layout.
Another positive thing of note is that you can pull up extra tool bars onto the display. When viewing photos, for example, this tool bar displays thumbnails from neighboring files, so that you can select then in one touch. For messaging, these may be extra panels with some particular functions.
Ergonomics-wise, the F490 is not always intuitive, but overall, it is an easy-to-use device. Had the T9 mode been a little better, we would have experienced a considerable boost in texting speed over feature phones, but, regrettably, that’s not the case with the Samsung F490. On the other hand, this offering is very close to the LG Prada spec-wise.
Contacts can be accessed only from the menu; you will see a list that contains all entries from both the SIM-card and phone’s memory. The second tab comprises contact groups, so that you can switch to them in no time. Third tab – contact groups. The list doesn’t feature images assigned to entries.
The field beneath the name is the default number, which can be picked manually from the list of submitted numbers for a particular contact. Quick name search by first letters is supported; there can be up to twenty of those, for any language. Once you tap the entry you will go into a detailed view of the selected entry. There you will see a thumbnail, if any. It can be an image, a photo or a video clip. Each entry can have up to 5 phone numbers of different types (mobile, office, home, fax other), one of them will be main number (by default it is the first one you entered). All fields are hardwired.
The phonebook is capable of holding up to 1000 contacts with filled in data fields. Even if all the available blanks are not used, the cap won’t get any bigger and will still make one thousand. It is possible to specify in the settings where all new numbers should be kept by default. There is also an option for moving entries from the SIM-card, although the reverse action is denied. According to the developers, PC (MS Outlook in particular) is best for data synchronization with the F490. Any contact in the form of SMS/MMS, mail message or other text file can be quickly sent through Bluetooth to another device. There are no problems with sending, and the phonebook entry gets beamed to another device, where it is read without any trouble.
You can create any number of caller groups, assign up to 20 contacts and customize them with a picture and tune.
On an incoming call, the caller ID picture occupies almost the entire screen.
Each of the given lists contain up to 30 phone numbers. There is a combined list of all the last calls with an icon indicating call type. You can quickly switch between the lists. The date and time of the calls are displayed in the extended view for separate entries. Calls from/to one number are grouped up, so that the number standing next to the call specifies total number of calls made. As always, the overall time of the calls and their cost can be viewed in this menu (in the case that the service has been enabled).
For individual numbers you can arrange a black list, which will reject all calls coming from these contacts.
From this menu you can also access the list of numbers you received/sent SMS messages from/to (two list), as well as all email addresses you have used lately.
Much like other makers, over at Samsung they have forgone that artificial division into SMS-MMS types – you just start composing a message, and only then, depending on the contents, it is attributed to SMS or MMS. The menu still holds an option for switching message into MMS mode (for example when you need to send only text, but to an e-mail address, without calling up the bundled client).
The phone memory can hold up to as many as 500 messages; the handset supports EMS standard compatible with Nokia Smart Messaging. While choosing recipient, you can either select a telephone number from your contacts or pick one from the call lists or groups. All messages are manageable, this means you are at liberty to move a certain number to your black list, in order to make sure all messages coming from that phone number will be deleted automatically; possibility for moving messages to any own folder is also at your disposal. For e-mail you can move not only addresses to the blacklist, but unwanted subjects as well.
There are no size restrictions as far as received messages go, though an outgoing message’s size is limited to 295 KB. As for additional services available with the F490, message rejection and message retrieval type options are onboard. All messages are stored in general dynamic memory, the same goes for e-mails.
Also there is a useful function for sending SOS-messages – when activated, should you find yourself in an emergency, after pressing the volume key four times, the message ซI am in emergency. Please help meป will be sent to contacts submitted earlier, all incoming calls from these numbers upon sending the emergency message will be picked up automatically. Recipients (not more than 5), as well as the number of Repeats may be set up manually, while the text of the SOS-message is not customizable.
The phone’s memory can store as many as 100 events of one type – meeting. There are other event types as well, like anniversary and holiday, with the maximum capability of 100 events (2×5). The F490’s to-do list can also hold up to 20 entries.
Day and time as well as end time of an event are indicated for each entry. Alert signal and its duration can be adjusted to your liking; repeatable events are available for setting up (repeat time is also manageable as well as the exceptions). The weekly and the monthly calendar views are very convenient with each type of the event having its own color.
Speaking of the organizer’s shortcomings, I cannot overlook the fact that when typing date and time for an event, the end time doesn’t change, which badly hurts its ease of use – other manufacturers make the due time shift automatically (by default any event takes one hour).
Voice recorder. You can record up to several hours of voice memos with the number of files being unlimited. Basically, limitations on recording duration are set by the user himself, though length of a single recording cannot exceed 1 hour. All the files are stored in a separate folder in the memory bank. The recorder performs well during lectures, conferences and presentations – I could even say that it is a partial substitute for a digital tape recorder.
While browsing, you will see four directional arrows for moving around web-pages. The usability of this solution is questionable – basically, browsing is not the forte of the F490, despite its pretty decent browser application.
The handset comes equipped with four alarm clocks, each of them can go off on certain weekdays. You can also pick one of five tunes, or turn to MP3 tracks. In settings it is possible to enable auto power-up when any event triggers.
That’s the place to search for all files such as music, pictures, video and sounds. Any uploaded file gets stored here. The disadvantage is that files sometimes are not displayed in the list immediately - in that case you will need to leave the menu and enter it again.
Traditionally this item boasts a standard set of options inside like password protection of selected sections. Keypad light – there are three options at your disposal, one of them is Night mode, implying that backlighting will be active only between 5:00 PM and 9:00 AM and disabled during daytime. If you come to think of it, this feature is nothing more but an illusive replacement for ambient light indicator, which Motorola’s handsets are armed with.
The player’s interface theme is keyed to the F490’s looks. The point where the lines cross houses the Play/Stop button, drag the horizontal bar to the right to jump to the place within the track that you need. And the vertical bar stands for the volume level. There are two more bars for calling up the settings menu (equalizers, loop, rating) and the track list menu. While the player looks quirky at first, you come to grips with it in a dozen of minutes. As for the rest, it is a typical latest-gen Samsung player.
The integrated mp3 player, supporting random, sequential and cyclic playback, is available with the phone. Mp3 files can be uploaded onto the handset both directly over Bluetooth and through the sync application or Windows Media Player. There are no limitations on tags and names of music files. Bitrates are not something that really matters either – the handset easily deals with all available formats and supports WMA, AAC, eAAC, eAAC+.
The bundled headset has a socket for plugging in custom earphones and ensures pretty good sound quality overall. Generally speaking, as a music-minded solution, the F490 comes close to Sony Ericsson’s Walkman range, especially as far as the first generation is concerned. The music key makes Walkman-branded handsets comes across our minds, as it allows the user to launch and minimize the player with one press. While at the standby screen, if you have the music player minimized, you will see its controls and current track title right on the display.
While in the loudspeaker mode, the F490 is not the best performer we have seen – it plays somewhat distorted sound and obviously lacks power, even though the sound doesn’t seem to be muffled.
The F490’s music quality with custom headphones plugged in is pretty good, although it ends up behind other Samsung-branded models – there is no point in considering it a music-minded solution, even though it packs a 3.5 mm audio input.
Some words about how the F490 fares on the video front – thankfully, its widescreen gives it all it takes for a decent experience. The phone supports mpeg4, H.263 and H.264, which allows you to drag and drop movies onto the memory card. In fact, maximum file size is unlimited, at least in our tests we used 600-700 Mb movies and experienced no hardships with them.
But the biggest letdown here is also one of the best things about the F490 – its display. Sounds awkward, right? However, if your video is 240×320 pixels big, it won’t occupy the entire display, since the handset can’t fit the picture into the screen size, leaving black stripes on all sides. Where the Apple Touch excels, the F490 can’t make a movie look good. You can also opt for bigger video resolutions, but at the cost of having occasional freeze-ups and blockiness. The F490 is a contradictory device that has all the makings of a video-savvy solution, yet doesn’t provide a top-notch implementation for this department.
Putting it short, Picsel Viewer is an application that opens MS Office files (for instance, MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint), Adobe Acrobat (PDF), picture and video formats on the phone. The attraction of this technology is its speed, when a 20 MB PDF file takes a couple of seconds to open, then you can quickly page through it, zoom in/out and rotate pages. No editing abilities here, only viewing is available with the F490, but that is pretty much enough already, especially considering there is no need in extra conversions.
In terms of positioning and spec sheet, the only direct rival to the Samsung F490 one can think of is the LG KU990. Previously we already said that the Samsung Armani is the maker’s reaction to the LG Prada (LE850), meaning that Samsung has assumed the role of the runner-up, which is otherwise very uncommon for it. The company enters the market much later, and, often, with solutions mimicking the competition, yet still somewhat weaker overall. Nevertheless, on many markets the brand of Samsung has more value to it, making up for missing features this way.
Let’s take a look how the Samsung F490 and the LG KU990 compare to each other spec-wise:
|Samsung F490||LG KU990|
|Size, weight (mm, g)||115×53.5×11.8, 102||103.5×54.4×14.8, 112|
|Display||3.2 inches, 240×432 pixels, TFT, 262K, touch-sensitive||3 inches, 400×240 pixels, TFT, 262K, touch-sensitive|
|Camera||5 Mpix, no auto-focus||5 Mpix, auto-focus|
|MP3 player||Yes||Yes, plus a remote in the sales package|
|microSD||Hot-swap||Slot perched under the battery|
|Browser||Advanced feature pack||Basic functionality, looks pretty mediocre|
|Price||350-370 Euro||360-390 Euro|
For the LG Prada and Samsung Armani the problem of choice was all about brand preferences, rather than feature packs, in this case it is exactly the opposite. Given the KU990’s and the F490’s pretty much equal price tags, the LG phone seems to be the winner thanks to its superior camera, FM-radio and slightly more powerful standard applications. On top of that, its display can be handled either with a finger or a stylus, which is the next step in the development of capacitive touch screens.
On balance, while the KU990 and the F490 are in the same boat for ergonomics- and feel-wise, the former manages to come out on top, and with prices tags like these, the choice isn’t all that difficult to make – the LG Viewty is better than its vis-a-vis almost on every single front, which is an extremely rare occasion as far as Samsung is concerned.
At the beginning of this write-up we made a note that the Apple iPhone exercises a different philosophy, which doesn’t allow for a direct comparison with the Samsung F490. However, since 400-430 Euro will buy you one of these here in Russia (unofficial supplies), the iPhone gets to be a real alternative to the Samsung F490 and the LG Viewty. The good thing about it is that it is very heavy on multimedia, specifically video and music, plus it has a neater interface, on the downside, the iPhone simply doesn’t deliver as far as the standard phone features go (calls, SMS). Thinking of it from the standpoint of fashion, Samsung’s offspring, and, let’s be honest, LG too, are totally trumped by the iPhone. So, while these phones are very different essence-wise, we would recommend going for the Apple iPhone as a reasonable choice for pretty much the same money.
The reception quality was never an issue with the Samsung F490, as it was in line with other offerings available in this class. Our ring tones had average volume or a tad lower than that – we would miss our calls even with the Armani in our pocket often enough. The vibro alert was moderate strength-wise, retaining no edge over other Samsung-branded solutions.
The handset retails for 370 Euro, which is around 90-100 Euro off the Samsung F700’s price. I, for one, suggest picking the senior solution only in case you crave for a thumbboard – as for the rest, these two are very resembling.
Like we said at the beginning, the F490 represents an attempt to come up with a touch-sensitive phone aimed at impulse-drive purchases. And it is a good shot, yet by no means perfect. Solutions like this can’t be vastly popular, for they target only a particular niche. The F490 will enjoy reasonable sales on the market, but with no hopes for becoming a best seller, though. Being pushed by the LG Viewty and having to cope with the Apple iPhone (even though it is not official in most regions), the F490 won’t be able to display its full potential. So, the best way to look at it is one of the first Croix OS based phones – the impending solutions are going to be much more interesting.