The second weapon in the F700V’s considerable armoury is its keyboard. It’s hard to believe given how slim this phone is, but stashed away below that lovely screen is a full, QWERTY keyboard. And even more impressive than this is the fact that it’s quite possibly the most practical small keyboard I’ve ever used. It’s better than my TyTN II’s keyboard by quite a considerable margin and the backlit, well-separated rectangular keys make it ridiculously easy to type at speed. I’m sure it’s possible to type quickly with the iPhone’s on-screen keyboard after some practice, but – and you’ll have to trust me on this one – it’s not a patch on this.
Next consider the fact that the F700V has quicker Internet connectivity than the iPhone with HSDPA at up to 3.6Mb/sec, pretty good battery life at around two to three days normal use, POP3 and IMAP support, plus Vodafone’s own £5 per month ‘consumer push’ email option, and it looks as if, surprisingly, we have a potential winner on our hands. The F700V also has Google Maps preinstalled and cocks a snook at the iPhone by including a proper 3.5mm headphone jack (hallelujah!) so you can use any decent set of headphones without needing an adaptor. The phone even comes with an adaptor in the box that turns your own headphones into a hands-free set, but unless you already have a decent pair, the Bose earphones supplied will be perfectly adequate.
What’s slightly less surprising is to find that Samsung’s software design puts a bit of a dent in its iPhone-killing ambitions. It does make a pretty good stab at making its very own touch-screen statement, and to a large extent the software works well – certainly better than the software I’ve used on Samsung phones before – but it’s just not as elegant and intuitive as the iPhone’s.
I liked the fact that clicking the single button on the front takes you to a simple shortcut menu where most main functions are located. It has the same sweep-your-finger scrolling method as the iPhone does both for lists of music and panning around web pages. And there are other nice touches – while playing music, just dragging a digit up and down the screen adjusts the volume. But there are areas of inconsistency. Some buttons are single click while others need pressing twice; it’s hard to get back to the main music screen from the album or track view; and in some views the button on the front doesn’t work at all.
The biggest problem for the F700V is that it simply isn’t as effortless to control as the iPhone. The web browser lets you view pages as they were meant to be seen, for example, but it simply runs too sluggishly to be of any practical use – zooming in and out is a painful affair – while scrolling through lists of options doesn’t feel as precise either. You often over-shoot because you’ve been scrolling too quickly, while clicking links on web pages can be hit and miss.