Samsung Unveils 8GB Smart Music Phone

Samsung Electronics on Monday unveiled the world’s first 8GB hard-disk embedded smartphone. The phone includes an MP3 player that could compete with Apple’s iPod.

Dubbed the SGH-i310, the model breaks the storage limit in mobile phones. As such, Samsung believes the new handset will change the way people manage and use mobile phones.

The Music Smartphone

Samsung’s three new models that come equipped with a hard disk drive are a 1.5GB HDD-embedded phone, a 3GB HDD-embedded phone and a 3GB HDD music smartphone.

The music smartphone is the centerpiece of the company’s announcement. It offers an MP3 player with a large storage capacity that enables users to carry around 2,000 4MB songs wherever they go.

“We are getting to the point where users’ [digital music] collections are increasing. Certainly the five to eight gigabyte capacity is attractive because you are covering the user’s sweet spot of a thousand songs, more or less,” Jupiter Research Analyst Michael Gartenberg told TechNewsWorld.

Form or Function?

Some question whether delivering this type of functionality — and this type of memory — on a phone will compromise the core telephone features that users prize first and foremost, namely battery life and size.

“If people are going to be listening to music that much, how will that impact the battery life of the phone? Also, when you start reaching that memory capacity, do you make the phone less pocketable as a device? If so, does that become less desirable for consumers?” Gartenberg asked.

Competing With iPod

Samsung’s new model supports enhanced music function with Bluetooth stereo (A2DP), digital power amp and dual speakers. Users can download music using an online music store from their personal computer or directly.

The i310 could compete with Apple’s iPod, but just how successfully a smartphone can become when positioned as a mass market music device remains to be seen. One of Samsung’s challenges could be cost. A 4GB iPod sells for US$249. The i310 could be significantly higher priced.

“While consumers prefer to carry one device, they are willing to carry around multiple devices, particularly if it is cheaper and easier,” Gartenberg noted. “The devil in this device is going to be in those details.”

The Details

Beyond music and voice capabilities, the i310 works as a platform for users by combining a phone, a 2 megapixel digital camera with flash, a microSD slot, document viewer and TV output.

The i310 comes with the latest version of Windows Mobile 5.0 for Smartphones, which allows users to view files and carry their music library with them. Windows Mobile 5.0 enables users to sync playlists, songs, and videos from their personal PCs so that the experience with the i310 is identical to the user’s personal computer, Samsung said.

It also offers a USB 2.0 and Plug & Play feature which allows the phone to be used as a removable hard disk.

The i310 will be shown to the public at CeBIT in Hannover, Germany, from March 9th to March 16th. It will be introduced in the European market during the second half of this year.

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