Samsung F300

Once upon a time Samsung made clamshells, then it made clamshells and sliders, and the comfort zone for its designers appeared to be ring-fenced. But in the last 12 months a whole collection of interesting ideas have been emerging from Samsung R&D – not just the Ultras, but also the likes of the P310 and the X830. Now here’s another twist, a phone with a unique dual face construction that obviously borrows some of the styling ideas from the iPod.

So it does not have a standard battery-cover back. Instead each side features a display and a number of keys; one side is a standard phone (tiny display, classic numerical keypad) and the other has a notably larger display with a touch sensitive navigation key and a confirming centre — just like in some MP3 players. And indeed it is called the “F300 Ultra Music”.

The ‘Ultra’ bit denotes the thinness – 9.4mm. It’s pleasantly small all round (103.5x 44mm, 79g without its case), the construction is very good (no creaks), and it is made of high-quality materials with that slight rubbery feel that comes across as very professional.

Other extras include a second battery build into the leather case (yep, there’s a leather case) in the style of the P310. The main battery incidentally is built into the phone so it can only be replaced in a specialised service shop. There’s an FM radio (no RDS though) and a voice recorder.

It’s not perfect, of course. The combined earphones/charger/data cable connector is not standard miniUSB but Samsung’s own. The slider switch which locks the keys on one side when you’re using the other is small and hard to move. Overall, the controls are not so user-friendly. The ‘phone’ side has a rather sad two-line display.

And the music player is rather disappointing. Repeat, Shuffle, equalizer and stereo widening are all provided, there’s an automatic most-frequently-played playlist and you can create your own as well, and you can sort music files in many ways. But there are too many submenus with options, the sensor keys are uncomfortable to master (it’s especially tricky to name your own playlists), and you can’t do two multimedia tasks at the same time (for example, it is not possible to listen to music and browse images from the Album simultaneously).

The phone takes music files from either the 100MB internal memory or from a microSD memory card (but only if files are located in a folder called “Music”, otherwise it will not find them).

• Full marks for effort, but why no much corner-cutting?

Size: 103.5x44x9.4mm
Weight: 77g
Display: TFT, 256K colours, 176×220 pixels (multimedia): TFT, 65K colours, 176×65 pixels (phone)
Camera: 2MP, 1600×1200 pixels, video (QVGA)
Connectivity: Triband GSM, Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP, USB 2.0
Battery: Standby pp to 155h, Talk time up to 2.5h
Features: Full-featured music player, FM radio, Organiser, Voice memo