Review by Sunetra Chakravati,
12/12/2011 3:54:18 PM
Fulfils function as fashion phone with a great display, has a solid music player and a nice assortment of other features including three-megapixel camera and HSDPA support.
None of its features are excellent, and key oversights in user interface design let it down.
Designer phones tend to have good looks, but not a whole lot under the hood. Sadly, the Samsung’s Emporio Armani Night Effect doesn’t seem to have either.
The Night Effect, known more technically as the Samsung M7500, is branded a music phone, with dedicated player buttons on its side. Storage isn’t a selling point though, with only 120MB of internal memory and a provided 1GB microSD card.
There’s also a three-megapixel camera with autofocus and video-calling function, Bluetooth and 3G connectivity, and, in a quirk of design that is sure to polarise consumers, coloured lights that flash when the phone is active.
Considering the sleekness of Samsung’s prior Armani collaboration, the touch-screen P250, the Night Effect is rather more ‘low-rent’ than we would have liked. Apparently, it’s tied to a ‘younger, funkier’ Emporio Armani brand, but it still costs around £330 on prepay. While its front is a shiny, gorgeous panel with a 2.2-inch AMOLED crystal-clear display, which flows elegantly into a flat keypad that is a pleasure to text on, the back is a plastic shell that slid off more than once in our bag.
The phone is also surprisingly chunky considering the amount of power it doesn’t pack. Compared to the two-year-old Sony Ericsson W880i Walkman phone, which has similar specs, it’s roughly 25% longer, thicker and wider; probably to make room for those flashing lights.
As the phone is aimed at logo-happy designer bunnies, you’ll find a total of three Emporio Armani logos emblazoned about the handset. We’re not sold on the flashing logo, which lights up in blue, red or green every time you turn the phone on or off, get a phone call, or ‘wake’ the phone from its display-off mode.
The Effect scored the most points for its music function – 3.5mm headphone jack, good audio quality, dedicated music player buttons, and a set of in-ear headphones (albeit ridiculously short ones). The player automatically mutes for incoming/outgoing phone calls and then automatically phases back in, at the end of the call.
The phone is able to handle most functions while running the music player in the background, but the system isn’t flawless. The shortcuts in the home screen aren’t accessible while the player is running, while the MP3 ringtones are stored in the same folder as actual songs.
This means that playing ‘all tracks’ results in the Samsung- and Emporio Armani-composed ringtones being played as well. What’s more, the only solution is to laboriously create a playlist without those ringtones, or simply delete them entirely. We tried creating a new music-only folder, but that wasn’t even accessible from the player menus.
With three megapixels, auto-focus and video-calling function, the camera is a decent addition on a handset that hasn’t been pushed as a camera-phone. Three megapixels are enough for photos that are only going to be published online, although images were hazy in low-light situations like the pub, even on night mode.
The navigation system is an intuitive side-scrolling menu, with the nice touch of four customisable shortcuts tucked away in the top-left corner of the home screen. However, none of the preset shortcuts lead to the phonebook, and there’s one that alternates the colour of your flashing Emporio Armani logo, which annoyingly can’t be changed. Once you do add the phonebook to your list of must-haves, it still requires a minimum of two clicks to reach, which rapidly became a nuisance.
At least getting online to Vodafone Live was a no-brainer, with a dedicated browser link on the button where the phonebook would be in other phones. Vodafone claims to have the UK’s best mobile broadband coverage, while the phone sports HSDPA support, so web browsing was indeed fast. As the phone isn’t designed with heavy internet use in mind, sites without mobile versions didn’t load very well, while graphic-intensive sites like Google Maps couldn’t be viewed.
The call log shows messaged contacts as well as called contacts. We haven’t seen this before, but it seems rather like a change for change’s sake, as the benefits of such a system – calling someone you’ve just messaged, having a record of who you’ve been messaging – already exist in the messaging menu.
Despite a solid music player, the Samsung Night Effect lacks a real stand-out feature to set it apart from other phones on the market. Its unique selling point, as intended, is the Armani branding.
Samsung is definitely capable of great phones; it is also capable of great phones when working with designer labels. But this isn’t one of them. It feels like there was a distinct lack of usability testing – someone should have noticed the phonebook couldn’t be accessed from the home screen – and unnecessary tweaks to an already viable user interface.