First Looks: Samsung Ultra Music F300

Sensitive New Age Gadget

Sensitive New Age Gadget

First you are greeted by a conventional-looking mobile phone, but when you flip it around, a familiar MP3 interface stares intently at you. What we're talking here is the dual-face F300 mobile phone from Samsung, featuring a candy-bar form factor mobile phone on one face and a MP3 player on another, all in an ultra slim body. If this mobile could be be a human for a day, it would probably be a very sensitive individual, because you would have a sweet talker on one side and a very good listening ear on the other.

Beautiful Split Personality

As far as first impressions goes, the new Samsung F300 wins hearts over by having a slender body that only measures a cool 9.4mm thick. Despite being remarkably slim, Samsung found ample room to cram in all the components necessary to give the F300 its unique character, which is quite an engineering feat - it's no wonder Beyonce agreed to be the launch face behind promotional activities of the F300.

Having two functions on two separate faces means the F300 had to have two separate LCDs if it didn't want to get marked down for user friendliness. That said, although there are two displays, the one on the mobile phone face is surprisingly the smaller of the two; it's so small that typing messages with it is challenging and there's no workaround for this at all. There is however, a 'Phone-MP3' button located on the side for users to switch between screens for reading messages, for example, but that's pretty much all you can port over for easy viewing.

In keeping with traditions, keys of the F300 are very well spaced out for breezy typing. An interesting function the F300 boasts is "Whisper", which is basically a fancy term coined by Samsung for a higher microphone gain. Its usefulness will probably be appreciated in places like hospital wards, church and other places where talking out loud is typically frowned upon. The flip side to this function, if not deactivated, is an almost unbearable loudness as all background noises will be picked up and amplified.

Given its slim profile, it wouldn't be surprising to find curious users pondering over the issue of the battery and battery life. When used on its own, the F300 lasted just under a day, which is to be expected really. Happily however, the bundled leather case holds an auxilliary battery pack and that, together with the non-removable battery within the F300, gave us four days of usage comfortably.

Déjà Vu

Over at the MP3 face, the F300 gave us a much larger screen, telling us indirectly that mobile telephony was second priority in the design of the F300. A larger screen is necessary for users to rotate through its multimedia functions, namely music player, camera, album, FM radio and voice recorder. Controls are touch-sensitive except for the Play/Pause button. It didn't take long for the F300 to impress when used as a MP3 player. In fact, we would go as far to say that the F300 handles and feels more like a dedicated MP3 player that just happens to have mobile phone functions built in rather than the other way around. There was no crackling even when volume was pushed to the max while the interface was responsive to inputs. In addition, the 2.0-megapixel camera took pictures that were more than decent for sharing and keepsake. Both 3G and Wi-Fi are not supported, thus the occasional web browsing can only be had via EDGE.

In Conclusion

As a mobile phone for people who message frequently, the F300 doesn't really make a whole lot of sense. However, when the F300 is used as a MP3 player first and mobile phone second, you'll have all the reasons you need to consider buying one. Other than the small screen on the mobile phone face, we lament the fact that the F300 requires a SIM card to be inserted before it can be used as a MP3 player. Otherwise, the Samsung Ultra Music F300 is, ironically, a good MP3 player with average mobile phone attributes.