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It Rings, It Shoots, It Stumbles
source: New York Times

You should also know that there's no macro (close-up) mode. Tragically, there's no zoom, either. Oh, there's a digital zoom, but that just means "blowing up your picture so the photo quality deteriorates."

Even so, the camera on the Memoir is almost certainly better than the camera on your current phone. Unfortunately, the phone portion isnít quite so inspiring.

Ever since the iPhone showed it the way, Samsung has seemed obsessed with touch-screen phones. It has not yet learned the lesson, however, that a touch screen doesn't gain you anything unless both it and the underlying software are finely tuned and carefully considered. On the Memoir (which runs the same touch software as its predecessor, the Behold), it's neither.

For example, the whole machine is slow; some of the animations are sluggish and jerky. The screen gives a little buzzy vibration with each finger touch, which is a little gimmicky.

Furthermore, there are at least four places to look for a certain function or program: on the "widgets bar" down the left side of the screen; on the "desktop" (where you can drag about three of your favorite widgets); on the Menu page of programs; in the Applications folder within the Menu page; or inside the Games and Apps folder within that folder. What is this, Windows Mobile?

The Done button sometimes appears at the lower-right of a screen, and other times at the lower-left. Icons on the Widget bar have no text labels, so thereís no way to find out what one is without tapping it - which opens it.

In some programs, turning the phone 90 degrees, so it's horizontal, produces an on-screen, full qwerty keyboard layout, so typing is easy. But there are no typing shortcuts like the ones on the BlackBerry, Treo and iPhone. So you can't type "dont" for "don't," and hitting the Space bar twice doesn't produce a period, space and capitalized next letter. There's a Web browser on this thing, but you may do a lot of waiting for it; the phone lacks Wi-Fi for fast wireless downloads. It's capable of accessing T-Mobile's 3G (meaning high-speed) Internet network, but that's available only in certain cities.

The bigger problem, though, is that you feel as if you're looking at the Web through a keyhole. Each Web page appears at full size on the little phone screen, so you're constantly scrolling around with your finger just to read the end of each sentence. (You can zoom in, but you can't zoom out from that actual-size starting point.) There's no multitouch on this phone, so you can't pinch or spread two fingers to adjust the zoom levels.

The checklist meister at Samsung was certainly working overtime on this baby. It's got basic e-mail, voice dialing, chat and (for $10 a month) a slowish GPS navigation feature that gives you turn-by-turn driving directions.

There's simple music playback, but unfortunately, there's no standard headphone jack, so you canít replace the Memoir's hard plastic earbuds with something more comfortable.

The Memoir also has one of the worst manuals ever written -- one of those pointless documents with explanations like "ISO: allows you to adjust the ISO sensitivity." It has no table of contents, and the index is so feeble that it doesn't even list "e-mail," "flash" or "memory card." As a phone, the Memoir does all right. Sound quality is average and battery life is good (five hours of talk time). Since this is a touch screen, there are no speed-dial keys, although the voice dialing is a consolation. Finally, keep in mind that you're using the T-Mobile cellular network, which means dead spots in your travels.

Let there be no mistake: the Memoir's camera produces some of the best photos in cellphone photography today. Unfortunately, the rest of the machine is a mishmash of unevenly executed features, dumped in willy-nilly. And as any chef can tell you, just throwing in every ingredient on your shelf won't produce a delicious dish.