Whilst much of the mobile phone world has been going mad for smartphones and packing handsets with in more features that see the consumer edging its way into what was traditionally business territory, Samsung seem to have made a move to diversify. The M7600 Beat DJ is typical of this move, a handset focused on music. We got our hands on the new phone at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona for a First Look.
So rather than follow a traditional design, the Beat DJ gives you a relatively compact phone, with rounded ends, and a 2.8-inch screen in the middle. But this is a full touch device, so everything needs to be controlled via that screen and compared to rival devices sporting larger screens, it does feel a little cramped, especially if you want to run off and do a lot of messaging.
The touch extends to those semi-circular end pieces too and are neatly integrated into the overall control of the various functions available to you, especially when it comes to the music features. The design takes something of a cue from a couple of turntables, which becomes more evident once you start using the thing. The overall effect is that it looks unique, which some may love and others may loathe, and it does look a little odd when you start using it as a phone.
But on the samples we looked at there was nothing you could criticise as being poor quality. The striking electric blue colourway, neatly trimmed with aluminium certainly looked the part, and the neat etching of Audio by Bang & Olufsen ICEpower around this rim let you know that there is something special packed inside.
We didn’t spend much time listening to the audio through headphones during our time with the Beat DJ, but it will be when you plug to the 3.5mm jack in that the B&O hook-up, the SRS virtual surround sound and DNSe technologies really come to the fore. Whilst not plugged in you get stereo speakers which are pretty average fare, loud enough to broadcast your efforts to your mates, but not a long-term listening solution.
We say efforts, because the Beat DJ is not just about listening to music, it’s about making it too (albeit with a caveat). The Beat DJ application lets you pick out a track and remix it yourself. There are a range of options you can plump for, so you can change the tempo, add filters and effects, reverb etc, and even include your own voice samples into the mix. You can just do it live for fun, or you can record your efforts to then use as an alarm or ringtone, but you can’t export the tracks you mash-up, presumably down to rights issues.
You also get a track ID system, which help you identify music and ultimately give you to option to buy it. This is actually powered by Shazam and worked in the slick fashion you'll be familiar with from Shazam, but the integration here is neat.
The Beat DJ application works through the touchscreen and it is simply a case of getting your fingers into the mix, selecting what you want and adjusting accordingly, overlaying filters and effects and seeing what happens. It’s all good fun, is easy and plenty responsive, but you do get the feeling that after the first weekend you’ll not play with it ever again and be stuck with a weird-looking phone.
The Disc user interface for is reminiscent of Coverflow that iPod/iTunes users will be familiar with and whilst it is a welcome edition, it is hardly revolutionary. Outside music we found the menus to be fairly unremarkable, although to be fair, in the time period that we had our hands on the phone, we mostly played with music functions, so a deeper investigation will be needed once we have the phone in for review.
The phone itself isn’t lacking from a technical point of view, packing in HSDPA, GPS and Bluetooth. You also get recordable FM radio too and a 3-megapixel camera around the back.
Dependent on contract
The Samsung M7600 Beat DJ does have unique features that make it stand-out from the crowd, but you have to wonder if too many compromises have been made to reach this result. Surely the software could easily be applied to any touchscreen device? Whilst this isn’t as marketable, it would mean that you didn’t have to compromise elsewhere.
Whilst Sony Ericsson are shouting about Entertainment Unlimited, combining all the great elements in one device, the Samsung Beat DJ seems to be all about music and not much else.
And for us, that is where we think the Beat DJ comes unstuck. It is stepped too far down the path of delivering the DJ theme without the consideration that it is actually a mobile phone, so calling and messaging need to be really slick. Whilst we had a chance to enjoy those music features, the M7600 Beat DJ is one phone that needs a thorough investigation before we can judge whether it will be practical on a day-to-day basis.