Samsung Galaxy Note. First Look
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Puma goes mobile
The number of customized phones has soared lately, however they don't bring much of anything to the table, except for a couple of new icons and wallpapers, plus a new brand plate on the front. Apparently, that's not quite what most of us are after, and after playing around with these phones for ten minutes or so you get a strong feeling that you've been hustled somehow. However some major manufacturers are also known for churning out run-of-the-mill customized phones, such as Samsung's Adidas miCoach with its pretty minimalistic design and cheap materials, yet decent feature-pack that included a lot of sport-oriented features (a whole bunch of services, workout diary, cardio-sensor and so on). In this case, the miCoach's functionality partly made up for its lackluster looks, hence its small, yet loyal user base. By and large, that's about the best any model of this breed can only hope for, as for the most part they are used by sports aficionados or the most brand-loyal consumers. Furthermore, no matter how much you are into Adidas or any other brand, it's still advisable to have a phone that fits your age, social status and daily routine.
That's why I didn't make much of Sagem's Puma-branded gimmick at first - honestly, its first images that had leaked into the Web, made me yawn and not much else. Solar battery on the back, Puma's trademark on the front - flat-out boring. Even at the MWC 2010 it was covered by a piece of cloth, so that few could actually get a good look at it. In fact, I even got my hands on the Puma phone by a lucky coincidence, only to fall in love with it at the very same moment.
So, the Puma's main UI color is red. Why? No clue, but I happened to notice that Puma's sneakers often used this exact color. On the face of it, the phone looks like your ordinary candybar-shaped phone with a touchscreen with Puma's logo towards the top end of the front fascia (next to the earpiece grill) and a solar cell panel on the underside, coupled with another logo of Puma. The casing feels very much like Samsung's latest and greatest phone - the Puma is coated in smooth glossy plastic, and boasts decent build quality. The images below won't tell you much, but the Puma phone looks very ordinary, yet transforms into an eye-catching toy once you turn it on.
It packs a 2.8 inch display (with only QVGA resolution - 240x320 pixels) in a 102x56x13 mm casing that weighs only 115 grams. Among all other things there are a 3.2 MP camera and HSDPA support for faster data transfers, hence a forward-facing camera for videoconferencing. But let's move on to the really interesting part - what the Puma phone offers in the software department.
The screen greets you with a couple of service messages, one of which states what Dylan just went out of a walk. Who's Dylan? It's a real puma - 75 cm tall, 2.4 meters long and it weighs 84 kg! As you might have already guessed, it's merely a soothing video clip starring a real-life puma. In fact, all leaflets emphasize that each phone contains a puma and that's pretty much how things stand with the Puma phone.
Next up is the home screen, which is appears to contain only the image of a dial, but pressing it brings up a keypad. But there is more to it - you can slide the screen left and right to access the phone book and call log. The menu structure is very intuitive and it doesn't fall flat what it comes to visual appeal or usability with its large icons. For example the sun shows much many minutes, or SMS you squeezed out of your phone using the built-in solar battery. While the latter doesn't make that much of a difference, it manages to emphasize the phone's focus on "green" technologies, which is admittedly Europe's latest craze. The icon in the form of a Puma-branded bag features new apps from Puma, news, discounts, stores and other useful information.
The player app features a vinyl placeholder than can be replaced with album art. By the way you can spin it with bare fingertips, mimicking what DJs usually do when creating a mix. Again, it's a minor thing, but the Puma phones is brimming with these small, yet appealing extras. Each section boasts a well thought-out and intuitive design, which is not what you'd usually expet from Sagem - apparently people from Puma lent them a hand here.
The phone's sporty features are housed in a separate menu - there you'll find all tools you'll ever need to measure your speed, distance covered an so on, with all these widgets powered by the bundled GPS receiver. On top of that there is a stopwatch, a pedometer and a digital compass, plus standard navigation functionality. The phone comes boxed with a special arm band that comes in handy when you want to listen to some of the tunes stored on the Puma phone while exercising.
As far as other bits and pieces go, there is the "red carpet" feature that allows you to adjust all vital features of the phone from virtually any place in the handset. All you need to do is tap and drag the red flap in the corner to open this menu. By the way, all effects found in the Puma phone are pretty eye-candy, plus its UI is fairly speedy.
Now, without further ado - let's talk a bit more about how much it's going to set you back. Unfortunately, while 400 Euro, which is pretty much the ceiling for mobile phones. The Puma phone is set to land in most European markets in April. From the functionality standpoint, is it worth four hundred Euros? Definitely not. However it has got its own fortes and some Puma aficionado could easily shell out this much for a phone this unpretentious. The most important thing, however, is that it's very intuitive and easy to manage. And honestly, I didn't see it coming - the Puma phone really turned out to be a very pleasant phone to use, what can I say.
Eldar Murtazin (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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