Samsung's IP-830w handset for Sprint is a serious business device. The "International Smart Device" and "Mobile Intelligent Terminal" monikers emblazoned on the packaging and handset itself are something of a clue to this phone's target market: Business users who travel abroad and need maximum connectivity and productivity wherever they go.
The IP-830w is unique in that it's a Dual-Band CDMA/GSM phone. That's right, it will work on both Sprint's CDMA network and international GSM networks (but not GSM networks in the US). Powered by Windows Mobile 5, the IP-830w is a full-fledged PDA phone with a touchscreen, slide-out QWERTY keyboard, and mobile versions of Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer, and Windows Media Player 10.
Almost a dead ringer for Samsung's i-730 for Verizon, the IP-830w reminds me of one of those oversized, high-end Swiss Army knives with a fold-out "blade" for everything from sawing twigs in half to opening wine bottles to securing Philips-head screws. The IP-830w is a big, thick device that means business. Short of WiFi, it packs just about every feature a business user could ask for. And the lack of WiFi is tempered by access to Sprint's EV-DO data network. But is the IP-830w too much of a good thing rolled into too big a package?
At 114 x 58 x 25mm in size and weighing a whopping 183g (that's nearly six and one half ounces), the IP-830w is a big device. Samsung did a good job of making the phone look good, but they also made no bones about its girth. Buying this phone means you value function at least a little more than form - put it on the counter at your local coffee shop and nobody's going to mistakenly ask, "is that the new KRZR?"
A slider-style PDA phone, the 830w is done up in a nice matte silver and blue finish and features a large stub antenna with a telescoping extension - again, function over form. The front of the handset is dominated by a 2.8" touchscreen with a cluster of controls beneath it: left and right softkeys, messaging and menu keys, and a four-way directional pad with center select button. Beneath these, dedicated call, back, and hang up/cancel buttons are physically set off from the other controls for easier blind access.
The front panel slides up to reveal a backlit QWERTY thumbboard in the standard Windows Mobile layout. The buttons are long and narrow, and the left half of the keyboard slants to the upper right while the right half slants towards the upper left. Such small keys are somewhat difficult to use at first, but they do provide good tactile feedback by way of a solid "click," and I got used to them after a short time. Still, a horizontally-aligned slide-out keyboard like those found on the HTC TyTN and Cingular 8525/8125 PDA phones not only makes for a roomier layout, but it also puts the phone in landscape orientation for typing, which I find to be a more comfortable solution.
The back of the 830w is finished in silver and split between the battery panel and speakerphone grille. Sprint packages the phone with both standard and extended life batteries, each of which easily snaps in and out of the handset and locks into place via a slider button. On the upper right corner of the phone's rear is the stylus holder. The stylus included with the 830w is one of the nicest I've ever used, featuring a ribbed metal shoulder for easy gripping and a telescoping back end that let me adjust the balance of the pointer to my liking - very classy.
A plastic-capped headphone jack is found on the left panel of the phone along with the voicemail button, two-way rocker switch for volume, and a sliding switch that locks the entire device. For some reason (aesthetics, I guess), Samsung made the headphone jack silver and the rest of the side buttons blue. The two-tone color scheme looks okay, but the etched headphone icon is much easier to decipher in its silver plastic than the other buttons are in their blue plastic. The right panel of the 830w is bare save for the SDIO-ready Secure Digital memory card slot.
The top of the IP-830w houses the infrared sensor and a slot for a hand strap. The bottom panel features a single accessory port that's used to connect the included AC charger and USB data cable. A voltage adapter is included for using the handset overseas.
Nobody's going to buy the IP-830w on the basis of its looks; they're going to buy it to stay connected and productive away from the office. That being said, the phone doesn't look bad (well, except maybe for that giant stub antenna). It's just big. And heavy. But it feels good in the hand, both for calls and using the stylus on the touch screen. Use of the QWERTY board while the phone is extended open is a little awkward, as the device becomes top-heavy, but it's not so bad. If you need a powerhouse PDA phone but like the slider style, this Samsung might be the one for you.
Business users will be drawn the IP-830w's plethora of productivity features, anchored by the Windows Mobile 5.2 operating system. Samsung has added two notable custom applications on top of the standard Windows Mobile Office suite, one of which is quite handy while the other doesn't add too much value.
The install of WinMob on the IP-830w features slight improvements on some other versions I've tried - in particular, the auto-complete feature for appointment subjects and locations could prove quite handy. Outlook-style calendar and contact manager programs will be familiar territory for Windows PC users, and while I personally prefer Symbian OS for smartphones, there's no denying the functionality and PC integration capabilities of WinMob.
Samsung added their MITs (Mobile Intelligent Terminal) application to supplement the standard WinMob Today and Start menus. Honestly, I don't see much of a value-add with MITs over the standard configuration, but some users might prefer MITs. Of more value, though, is the inclusion of Picsel Browser with the standard WinMob application suite. Picsel Browser provides a robust, quick-loading way of viewing Web pages and Word and Excel documents. The stylus-driven interface works very well, and the Browser handled complex Web pages with relative ease. Though document editing is left in the capable hands of the PocketPC versions of Word and Excel (though the cramped keyboard makes extensive editing tricky), read-only document viewing is faster and generally more pleasant with Picsel.
Windows Media Player Mobile 10 handles playback of audio and video files and does so with good results. The handset also supports voice commands and voice recordings, and includes remote control software for use of the phone with computers and home entertainment equipment via the infrared port. Even business folk need some down time, and the IP-830w comes with three games - Bubble Breaker, Checkers, and Solitaire - pre-installed.
The Samsung IP-830w does not have a camera. While that might be a big drawback on a consumer handset, odds are that many power users who work in sensitive corporate environments prefer camera-less phones for use in the office.
Samsung built the IP-830w with a generous 2.8" TFT touchscreen capable of 262,000 colors at a resolution 240 x 320 pixels (QVGA). One drawback of Windows Mobile is that it's limited to QVGA resolution while other phones are now creeping into even higher resolution territory. Still, there's plenty of room to keep track of appointments, contacts, emails, and more on this handset. The height of the screen was particularly handy for managing long "Today" lists on the home screen.
While the screen isn't the absolute best and brightest I've ever seen on a Samsung mobile, it generally performed quite well. Text rendered crisply enough for easy reading, and colors were good if not outstanding. Touchscreen functionality was good, and as I mentioned, the included stylus was quite comfortable to hold and use. Customization of the home screen is somewhat limited by the parameters of Windows Mobile, but this is a business phone and it's easier to read lots of information on a blank blue screen than on top of a photo or cartoon character.
I tested the IP-830w on Sprint's CDMA network in the San Francisco Bay Area. Reception and performance were very good, and people on the other end of my calls recorded no complaints. Calls on the built-in speakerphone also registered loud and clear (though I did turn the volume up in handsfree mode) as did ringtones and other audio alerts
Thought he handset is also GSM compatible, it only works with the international 900/1800 bands, and not 850/1900, which are used stateside. As such, I couldn't register the phone on T-Mobile's network to test GSM performance.
Samsung packaged the IP-830w with a wired stereo headset with inline microphone. The headset worked well for both handsfree calling and listening to music and other media over the device. Sprint's EV-DO Vision Network is quick enough to allow for easy streaming and downloading of large media files from the Net, which I took advantage of to grab a few mp3s to playback using Windows Media Player Mobile. The files sounded pretty good through the headset, though the earbuds weren't so comfortable. With a 2.5 to 3.5mm adapter and some quality earphones, this handset would make a great mobile media player for long business trips.
The IP-830w supports Bluetooth 1.1 including standard mono audio. I had no trouble pairing the handset with a Bluetooth earpiece, and achieved good results during voice calls.
It's a shame that the QWERTY keyboard on the 830w is so awkward to use, because between Outlook, MSN Messenger, and Sprint's EV-DO network, it's got all the tools to be a powerhouse messaging phone. Actually, MSN Messenger leaves a generous amount of white space on the screen for some strange reason, and some users might want support for more IM protocols.
Still, both MSN Messenger and Outlook perform well. Outlook supports multiple email accounts via ActiveSync, as well as Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Domino servers, including push email. The UI isn't my favorite, and Blackberry devices aren't supported, but once again the familiarity of Windows and Outlook is sure to appeal to many a user and corporate IT department.
The handset also supports SMS and MMS messaging, though the lack of a camera means that images attached to messages can only be uploaded from memory. The roomy screen does make for easy viewing of long missives, which is nice, and between Mobile Office and Picsel Browser, you'll be hard pressed to wind up with an email attachment that can't be viewed on the go.
Internet access on the IP-830w is handled by Sprint's EV-DO Power Vision Network in the US, and GSM/GPRS data networks abroad. Though the omission of an 802.11 WiFi radio for WLAN access might seem odd for such a full-featured business device, an SDIO adapter can be plugged into the memory card slot for WiFi access.
Sprint Power Vision is speedy enough, however, that so long as you're within an EV-DO coverage area you likely won't miss WiFi very much at all. Though the device sometimes balked at reconnecting to the Net after long periods of sleep, once I got online I enjoyed very fast speeds for browsing and downloading files. Unless I was purposely conducted head-to-head tests with my home cable modem, I really didn't notice much lag during typical online tasks using Power Vision on the IP-830w.
Unlike Sprint's consumer Power Vision handsets, the IP-830w does not come loaded with software to access Sprint's TV, Music Store, and other media offerings. The Windows Mobile OS allows for regular Web access via Internet Explorer, and the aforementioned Picsel Browser offers an alternate - and, in my opinion, better - Web experience than IE.
Connectivity for the international traveler is probably the IP-830w's main selling point. There are sleeker smartphones and more powerful smartphones, but none offer the 830w's dual CDMA/GSM connectivity. If you don't travel abroad very often, there's no need for this feature. But if you're a heavy mobile data user who makes frequent trips to Europe, this handset will give you the dual benefits of EV-DO data in the states and GSM/GRPS roaming abroad. No other single device can offer that.
Samsung packages the IP-830w with a USB 2.0 data cable for PC syncing via ActiveSync as well as for use of the phone as a laptop cellular modem. A somewhat odd note is that the phone does not support USB charging, but the USB data cable has an in-line jack for the AC adapter, making simultaneous syncing and charging possible. Syncing and tethering are also supported by the phone's available Bluetooth 1.1 profiles.
Samsung's IP-830w smartphone for Sprint is a heavy-duty business devices - both literally and figuratively speaking. The 830w is not the sleekest Windows Mobile device on the market - not by a longshot - and it's not the most powerful, either. But it is the only one to offer the globetrotting business executive the flexibility of CDMA and GSM network connectivity.
If you don't mind the overall size and heft of the device, lack of WiFi support and rather unwieldy keyboard, there is plenty going for the IP-830w. That might sound like a backhanded compliment, and in a way it is. The smartphone market is so crowded these days that every little flaw in a device is easily magnified. If you want high speed EV-DO and global roaming capabilities, the 830w is a great device with a few quirky flaws that you can probably get over. If you want the perfect smartphone for use in the states, the Cingular 8125 and 8525 are both Windows Mobile 5 handsets with superior ergonomics and WiFi support, while the T-Mobile Dash and Nokia E61/62 offer alternate smartphone platforms in thinner, lighter form factors.
Do I recommend the IP-830w? Yes, I do. But only if its particular blend of form and function fits your needs. There are plenty of smartphones out there these days, so there's no reason to get one that's a bad fit for you.