Also known as the UpStage – Samsung's M260 is a two-faced iPhone fighter. There's no news yet as to when the Samsung M260 will arrive in the UK, but as PC Advisor's Samsung M260 review shows, it will be worth the wait.

Mobile phones with multimedia capabilities generally struggle to balance the needs of a conventional handset and those of a music or video player. (click here for Apple iPhone hands on preview)

Visit Mobile Advisor for the latest mobile-phone handset reviews and the best tariffs

The Samsung M260 - or UpStage - responds to this problem by putting phone functions on one side of the device and multimedia functions on the other. This candy bar–style handset, offered to US customers by Sprint Nextel for $150 with a two-year contract, is less just 1cm thick and not much larger than an iPod nano.

Two-faced phone

The phone side of the Samsung M260 – or UpStage if you prefer - has a thin 1.4in colour screen, a directional switch and the usual soft keys for navigating menus, all topping a conventional phone keypad. The Samsung M260 is small but feels solid in the hand.

The Samsung M260's keypad is quite usable and the sound quality of voice calls was generally good. The multimedia side of the device accommodates a 2.1in display and a four-way capacitive touchpad whose central, mechanical play button took some getting used to. The excellent documentation warns users not to try to swipe it in a circle (like an iPod control wheel), but the temptation is strong.

A small Flip button on the Samsung M260's edge permits you to toggle between the two sides, but the prompt for confirmation that you want to stop playing music and start making a phone call gets old fast.

Unfortunately, whenever you have to input text while using the multimedia side (such as when browsing the web), you have to flip over to the Samsung M260's phone side. The device presents Flip as a soft-key option, but the process is tedious anyway.

Your music or Sprint's

The Sprint Music Store (99¢ to buy a track over the air) is prominently featured when you flip to the Samsung M260's music side. You also get a PC Sync button for transferring music from your desktop to a MicroSD Card in the UpStage (the Samsung M260 has a 64MB card, but it can support up to 2GB).

Before using the Samsung M260, you must install the Sprint Music Manager desktop application on your PC and connect the phone using the included USB cable.

The Sprint app is no Windows Media Player or iTunes killer, but it's serviceable enough. You can create playlists on the Samsung M260. You get an earphone adaptor, complete with a microphone, which we far preferred to the mediocre-quality earbuds that come with most music phones.

Battery wallet

The Samsung M260 UpStage's flip case comes with a battery wallet — an innovative embedded battery that recharges along with the phone when the phone is stored in the case. When it's charged, the wallet serves as an extended battery, prolonging the Samsung M260's battery life between charges. In our tests, parking the Samsung M260 in the wallet yielded a very good talk-time battery life of 7 hours, 43 minutes.

The Samsung M260 UpStage is equipped with Bluetooth (for linking to a headset or for using the phone as a PC modem) and a 1.3Mp camera, too.
For video viewing, the Samsung M260's screen is small. But if you're a music lover who isn't especially keen about video, email or messaging, Samsung's approach just might upstage Apple's iPhone. Its US price certainly does.

Samsung M260: Specs

  • Lithium ion rechargeable battery
  • two 2.1in, 176x220-pixel colour displays
  • SMS, MMS, (POP3/IMAP4) email, IM
  • Bluetooth, USB
  • MicroSD
  • touchscreen
  • Extended battery wallet, headphone adaptor, USB cable, getting started guide, microSD card
  • 1-year warranty
  • Lithium ion rechargeable battery
  • two 2.1in, 176x220-pixel colour displays
  • SMS, MMS, (POP3/IMAP4) email, IM
  • Bluetooth, USB
  • MicroSD
  • touchscreen
  • Extended battery wallet, headphone adaptor, USB cable, getting started guide, microSD card
  • 1-year warranty

OUR VERDICT

Music fans seeking a small, chic phone should take a look at Samsung M260's design and - in the US at least - its inexpensive price. See also Nokia N95 review. (click here for Apple iPhone hands on preview)

Find the best price