The Samsung Impression is one of the most talked about messaging phones of the year. It brings to the table a spacious 3.2” AMOLED touch screen, a comfortable and nicely spaced sliding QWERTY keyboard, and a fairly comprehensive feature set with an engaging media experience. The Samsung messaging phone isn’t perfect, and I had some complaints, but overall it left me with a strong first impression (I couldn’t help myself).
The Samsung Impression is a looker. It’s slightly curved all around, and appears sleek and modern. The device’s casing is a deep metallic blue, that in darker lighting, appears almost black. Although the casing is plastic, the phone has a noticeable heft (5.3oz that is also sure to remind you that it’s in your pocket). The heft, however, is a good thing – the Impression feels sturdy and well crafted, and felt great in my hand. With its slightly curved earpiece, it even felt nice up to the ear – an accolade that I wouldn’t give to many phones.
The front of the Impression has only three buttons, including a Send, End/Power, and Back/Clear button. They have a nice feel, and are not too big and not too small. On the left of the phone is a volume rocker key as well a button that brings up a menu for quick access to frequented applications. On the right of the phone is a screen lock and unlock key, as well as a large and easy to find camera button. On the top is a proprietary USB/charging/headphone port. There is no headphone jack of any kind on the Impression. Instead, you must purchase a headphone adapter separately or pick up a pair of Bluetooth headphones (the Impression supports Stereo Bluetooth V2.0). On the back of the phone lies a 3.0 megapixel camera surrounded by a silver trapezoid (think back to first grade).
The 3.2” inch AMOLED touch screen impresses. It’s sharp, bright, and vibrant. It looked great indoors, even better with the lights off, and still was visible in direct sunlight, although it appeared somewhat washed out.
A gorgeous QWERTY keyboard slides out from the side of the phone. The keys are amply spaced and very nicely contoured, and feel slightly rubberized instead of pure plastic, making them feel great to the touch. Typing on the Impression was a pleasure. Oh, and the keys also give off a soothing blue glow.
The Impression’s lock button is small and is somewhat hard to find and push. Given that it is probably the most frequently used button on the phone, and you have to hold it for a couple seconds to unlock the screen, this became more of an annoyance than you might think. Despite the inconveniences of the lock button, the Impression was easy to navigate and intuitive.
Although the Impression’s screen is smaller than other touch phones on the market, it didn’t have a noticeable effect on usability. The Impression’s screen is resistive touch, meaning a slight bit of pressure must be applied. The screen was responsive to my touch, and I had no trouble selecting smaller icons or menu items with my index finger. You can also use a stylus or pen. Performing any action on the touch screen is rewarded with a slight vibrate (strength can be set to your personal preference) that I actually found to be quite satisfying.
The Impression uses Samsung’s TouchWiz interface. On the left of the home screen is a collapsible navigation bar with shortcut icons and customizable widgets. Icons and widgets can be dragged to the home screen to become permanent shortcuts or customizable widgets. The menu at the bottom of the screen provides access to the on-screen dial pad, contacts, and a full menu. Launching the menu brings up an icon grid, with colorful lists of applications and settings as you navigate deeper.
The Dial menu icon launches a nice, big on-screen dial. From this screen you can also get to voicemail, switch to vibrate mode, access contacts, or send a text message. Pushing the send key opens a list of recent calls. Selecting a call reveals more information about that call, including time of the call and talk time. You can also send a text to the caller, launch Video Share with the caller, or block the caller’s number. Up to 2,000 contacts can be stored in the Impression’s phone book, with additional space for four phone numbers, an email address, a nickname, a street address, URL, birthday, company and job title, and notes.
The Impression supports text and media messaging, and also provides mobile access to AOL, Yahoo!, and Windows Live instant messengers. The Impression’s QWERTY made any and all messaging on-the-go a great experience. The phone provides access to AT&T’s Mobile Email service, but disappointingly only a limited list of email providers is supported (including Yahoo!, AOL, and AIM) – with no access to POP or IMAP accounts.
The Impression offers a surprisingly good web browsing experience. Page loads were pretty snappy over AT&T’s 3G network, with mobile versions of CNN and Google loading in just a couple seconds. The browser is also well designed, with easy access to all the features you would expect to make browsing quick and easy. You can also toggle between a desktop and mobile view, as well as make the browser full screen, hiding the menu keys and address bar for more screen real-estate. Flash video is even supported. The Impression, however, sometimes had trouble correctly rendering more complex, full web pages and even when fully zoomed out, some web pages didn’t fit fully on the screen. These couple gripes are easily forgotten though.
Although the microSD slot is located behind the Impression’s back cover, hopefully with support for up to a 16GB card and the ability to sync over USB, you won’t need to get at it very often. The music player is pretty standard, with the usual emphasis on album art and standard functionality such as the ability to create playlists, and turn on shuffle or repeat mode. The Impression supports MP3, WMA, and ACC formats. The Impression is also supports AT&T Video Share (stream video to friends live), Mobile Music (download music on the fly), and AT&T’s streaming video service (watch full episodes of popular TV shows, music videos, and other entertainment).
The lack of a flash or portrait mirror is unfortunate, but the Impression took some pretty decent pictures in a number of lighting conditions. Photos can be taken in any of five image resolutions, ranging from 400X220 to 2048×1536. There are a nice number of options including the ability to change white balance, change the scene (Portrait, Landscape, Night, Sports, Sunset, and Text), add effects such Sepia or Watercolor, and a number of others. Photos already taken can also be edited with options ranging from cropping to adding effects.
The camcorder can record in either 320X240 or 176X144 resolutions. Video quality was decent – certainly good enough for a quick YouTube video or an iReport if you happen to find yourself in the right place at the right time.
Profiles supported by the Impression include Headset, Handsfree, Stereo V2.0, Serial Port, FTP, DUN, Basic Printing, and Obex.
The Impression comes loaded with a calendar, alarm clock, task list, calculator, memo pad, world clock, a stopwatch and timer, currency and unit converter, and a speakerphone. The Impression also supports AT&T Navigator for GPS directions. The Impression also supports a number of subscription-based applications, including MobiTV, XM radio, MusicID, and Mobile Banking. Games are also available, and the device comes with several games installed that you can demo before purchasing. Voice dial or voice command functionality on the Impression is conspicuously missing.
The Samsung Impression suffers from a couple minor drawbacks including a frustratingly engineered lock key, limited email support, the lack of voice command and a camera flash, and no headphone jack. These issues aside, the Samsung Impression…well, impresses. The QWERTY keyboard is among the best on any comparable messaging phone, the touch screen is sharp and vibrant, and the device is responsive to the touch and intuitively navigated.