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Feb 10 2009

Review: Samsung's Rant

This mobile device is easy to handle and has a bevy of options.

The Rant SPH-m540 is the latest in a series of slide-out QWERTY messaging devices from Samsung. It is an excellent upgrade from the Rumor, with a nice, simple design. But given the new touch-screens on the market, it’s not got much of a “wow” factor, either.

End-User Advantages

The Samsung Rant measures 4.5 inches by 2 inches by 7 inches, about the same size as most messaging devices, although at 4.6 ounces it’s a tad heavier than I’d like. The slide-out QWERTY keyboard has a nice rubber feel and is big enough for my oversized fingers. In fact, I’d say my typing experience with the Rant far outranks any other phone I’ve used. The 172x220, 260k color TFT screen resolution is a bit course but rotates with little hesitation when you turn the phone sideways to access the keyboard.

The audio/visual package includes a 2-megapixel camera that, when combined with a software package called PictBridge, allows you to easily print any pictures you take. The camera also acts as a camcorder, and with Samsung’s Night Shot feature can capture video even in low-light conditions. On the audio side, you can listen to your favorite MP3 songs through headphones that use a standard jack (unlike some other Samsung models, which require a proprietary connection).

The Rant SPH-m540 is available on the Sprint network. If you’re not sure where you are — or more important, where you’re going — the Rant can tell you. Combined with Sprint’s GPS navigation services, the phone can provide voice-guided direction to your destination.

Why It Works for IT

While the Samsung Rant is not quite a true smartphone, it has many features you’d expect from one. Just about every kind of instant messaging technology is available, including AOL, Yahoo and Windows Live. Both IMAP and POP3 e-mail connections are supported; and with Sprint’s work e-mail, you can even connect the phone to corporate e-mail.

Battery life is more than adequate. The phone needed a charge only every other day, and the 5.6-hour advertised talk time seems right on the money. It did seem to take a while to charge the lithium ion battery (almost four hours on a USB charger), although if you can remember to charge it at night, that shouldn’t be an issue.

Samsung has included the mobile Java Runtime environment for applications programming. However, most of the applications I found were games, which are great for passing the time while waiting at an airport but not for getting work done.

As is standard with most advanced mobile devices, Bluetooth 2.0 is included to connect you to your car’s audio system, to your computer or to your earpiece. The Rant does not include Wi-Fi, but this hasn’t proved to be a disadvantage. (I’m sure that will change when we all have more unified communication environments at our workplaces, but for now it’s not that important.)

Normally I would not mention the user’s guide that comes with a mobile device, but given the size of the Rant manual, I feel I have to. It’s 213 pages long — longer (I think) than my Volkswagen Passat user’s guide. That’s a lot of information, and it gives you an idea of the number of options available with the Rant.


The Samsung Rant SPH-m540 is not a traditional smartphone with a Palm, Windows or BlackBerry operating system. It does provide excellent text capabilities and voice quality, but if you’re looking for easy access to corporate applications or secure e-mail, there are better options available.

The Rant is on the Sprint network, and while some people love that, I’m just not in the Sprint camp. I’ve never had luck in the Midwest with the Sprint network, and that tends to turn me off from any phone limited just to Sprint.

The screen and browser simply failed to wow me. The fonts weren’t very smooth and a number of the pages looked blurry, so the screen was very hard to read at times. Compared with a standard cell phone, it’s certainly better, but I’ve become very accustomed to higher-resolution smartphones.

The Samsung proprietary jack is the 2.5 millimeter headphone jack, which just isn’t as popular as the standard 3.5mm jack with which most folks are familiar. That said, if you do a lot of MP3 listening, you probably already own a 2.5mm-jack headphone set or have a converter.

Last, I had some difficulty connecting to my corporate e-mail account. My workplace does not allow the IMAP or POP3 protocols (par for the course these days), and I had trouble with the Sprint work e-mail functionality. However, connecting to my Hotmail, Yahoo and Gmail accounts was not an issue, so it could just be where I work. (And yes, I have way too many e-mail accounts, but who doesn’t?)


Dr. Jeffrey Sheen is the lead enterprise analyst for Grange Mutual Casualty Group of Columbus, Ohio.

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