I'll keep this short and to the point: Samsung's Memoir is one of the
best cameraphones out there, but it's no replacement for a stand-alone
camera. An 8 megapixel cameraphone for T-Mobile,
Memoir is now available online and in T-Mo stores for $249.99 on a
two-year contract. I've had a review sample for a few days now, and
have been taking lots of photos, hammering on the Web browser, and
making calls on it ... in that order.
Memoir's calling card is its 8MP camera with auto focus and Xenon
flash. Both in terms of specs and image quality, Memoir is the best
cameraphone you can currently get on an American carrier, but it's not
good enough to take the place of your standalone digital camera. Why?
Soft images and a tendency towards slightly odd looking colors that I
think are the result of an over-reliance on noise reduction during
automatic post-processing. And while Memoir has a Xenon flash instead
of the usual LED "flash light," if you hold it next to a
run-of-the-mill $200 digital camera and pop both flashes, you'll notice
a glaring difference; Memoir's Xenon flash is a bit underpowered.
Without the flash on, Memoir's low-light camera performance is pretty
medicore, as well.
Memoir Photo Sample 1 (Pots in a kitchen, semi-low light, no flash):
snaps better photos (and takes better video) than its predecessor, the
five-megapixel Behold, another Samsung & T-Mobile affair. In terms
of image quality, Memoir's more or less on par with the Motorola
MOTOZINE ZN5, another 5MP shooter available on T-Mo. If you can live
with fewer megapixels and fewer bells and whistles - on the phone in
general and specific to camera features - the ZN5 is a better value.
$250 on contract for a Memoir is more than an iPhone and the same price
as the RIM BlackBerry 8900, which T-Mobile absolutely cannot keep in
stock. I'm not saying Memoir is or isn't worth its hefty price tag;
I'm just saying the price tag is rather hefty.
Beyond all those megapixels, you get a touchscreen phone with 3G
data connectivity (but no WiFi), a full HTML Web browser, and A-GPS
with Telanv's navigation software pre-loaded. Memoir works just fine
as a phone - voice quality was good but not stellar - and works pretty
well as a Web browser. Samsung's HTML browser isn't quite best in
class, but for a non-smartphone it's actually pretty good. The plastic
resistive touchscreen isn't on par with the current crop of capacative
models, but it works pretty well for general use once you get used to
its "grippy" texture.
Memoir Photo Sample 2 (My friend's dog, Max):
Memoir's Achille's Heel, though, is its user interface/operating
system combination. Samsung's "TouchWiz" UI just isn't that great.
The fonts and icons look old and dated, the animations are more
intrusive than fun, and the whole thing feels just a bit sluggish.
While TouchWiz's sidebar tray of widgets has potential - and Memoir
ships with a few new widgets including a handy home screen weather app
- Apple, Google, HTC (working within the limitations of Windows Mobile)
and now Palm have taken the mobile phone UI (and operating system) to a
new level and Samsung's just not there. Take a look at any of the Palm
Pre/WebOS demos floating around the Web and then take a look at
TouchWiz; there's no comparison in terms of either functionality or
look at feel.
Memoir Photo Sample 3 (Night shot at close range with flash):
Memoir Photo Sample 4 (Outdoors, good light):
Memoir can rightfully claim the title of "Best Cameraphone on a US
Carrier" in my book, at least for now. But what's that title really
worth? Memoir the camera isn't on par with similarly spec'd or priced
standalone cameras. Memoir the phone leaves a lot to be desired when
pitted head-to-head with the iPhones, BlackBerries, G1s, and Touch Pros
(and, soon, Pres) that occupy the same $199 and up price category. Two
hundred and fifty bucks will buy you a lot of smartphone - or a lot of
standalone digital camera - these days, so before shelling out for a
Memoir it's well worth considering just how much the convenience of an
"all in one cameraphone" is really worth to you.