Getting Video on My New Samsung Sync Mobile Phone

In preparing for our recent Faculty Symposium on Digital Trends: The Mobile Classroom, I took a video lecture that I had in AVI (Xvid encoded) format and converted it into several formats to play on portable devices to demo in the presentation. Getting the video on my iPod Video and Playstation Portable was straightforward and familiar. But the phone was new and even though I knew it could be done, it took some experimentation and an inexpensive hardware purchase.

When I bought the phone, I asked the salesperson in the Cingular (now AT&T) store if I could get pictures and video I took with the 2 megapixel camera in the phone off of it with the data cable if I bought it. She said no and that the only way to get things on and off of the phone was to buy their data plan and do a network transfer. Well, I thought this was just a lie in an attempt to upsell me the data services which I refuse to buy. It turns out she was partially correct. The data cable relies on a driver and Samsung media management software for communication with the phone. I can easily transfer music and (possibly video – though I haven’t tried this) through that software over the cable to the phone. But not in the other direction. You can’t even get pictures and video recorded on the phone using the internal camera off the phone with this software and cable! I’m sure this is some asinine DRM-driven policy. Don’t get me started on that.

In any case, the internal memory of the phone is not sufficient for media. I needed to buy a memory card for the phone anyway. It takes a MicroSD (also called TransFlash) card. I found a compatible 1 GB Kingston card on Newegg.com for $12, including an SD adapter. The day after I made the order I got the Newegg newsletter and they were offering the 2 GB card for the same price I had just paid for the 1 GB card – a 2 GB card for $12. Amazing. I also spent $4 on a USB adaptor to make it easy to use any computer to get stuff on and off the phone. microSD cardThese MicroSD cards are ridiculously small. Every time I see it, I can’t help but feel I am in some kind of Star Trek episode. It just amazes me. Take a look at the card next to a dime for comparison. That’s also the standard SD card-sized adapter on the left side of the dime. My hope in buying this hardware was that I could use the MicroSD card to move any kind of media on and off the phone.

Luckily, my hope turned out to be well-founded. Not only can I use the phone to access audio and video on the card, but I can have the built-in camera store any pictures or video taken with it there as well. My next step was to figure out what the native format for video on the phone was and how difficult it would be to convert video to that format. As is usually the case with phones, the documentation was sparse, to say the least. I was able to record video with the internal camera and then transfer that video to my PC where I could analyze it for format, video and audio bitrate, and dimensions. This was an obvious place to start because the phone could, of course, playback a file with those properties. The file was in 3gp format. I was also able to make note of the details of bitrate and dimensions. Luckily, I am familiar with 3gp and I have a couple of utilities for converting video to that format. Before worrying about getting the right settings in detail, I attempted to use presets in the software I had on hand. I tried both Xilisoft Video Converter and Nero Recode (part of Nero Ultra Edition 7). Both Nero Recode and Xilisoft Video Converter made quick work of the encode and, after transferring the file onto the MicroSD card and popping it into the phone, the video played back beautifully.

What’s the use, you might ask? The screen is tiny. For most purposes the video might be too small to really add much, especially for someone without perfect eyesight. I have to say that this argument has some validity. But the image is surprisingly good. The Sync also lets you flip the image and turn the phone sidewise to get a wider screen for the video. All in all, I think it’s a great new mobile technology, with excellent possibilities when it comes to extending the classroom and making learning available when our students both want and need it.

20 Comments so far

  1. Tom on July 1st, 2007

    When playing videos in landscape, the tracking bar is shown over the video. Do you have any idea how to hide it?

  2. Jeff on July 12th, 2007

    Clay, what preset did you use on Nero Recode? There doesn’t seem to be any that refer to the “3gp” format you speak of. Please advise.

  3. Clay on July 12th, 2007

    You’ll need the latest version of Recode. I’m running 2.5.2.0. Select the option to recode videos to Nero Digital. In the bottom right hand corner of the window you will see “Nero Digital Category:”. Choose “3GPP”. That’s all I needed to do to get it to work on my Sync. Lemme know if you still can’t find it and I’ll put up a short Captivate animation showing the process.

  4. Clay on July 23rd, 2007

    I was just trying to do this yesterday. I tried several keys and the video player options, but I wasn’t able to figure out how to do this either. I’ll keep trying and let you know if I figure it out.

  5. Mike on September 10th, 2007

    do you know if there is any other video format that the phone will play?

  6. Clay on September 11th, 2007

    @mike: As far as I know 3gp is the only format supported by Samsung phones. I haven’t tried other formats, though.

  7. Dave on September 30th, 2007

    As far as “formats” go the sync records media files in MPEG4, and stores them in the 3GP container format; it also supports H.263 for playback another popular phone video compression standard. The phone records in variable bit rate however I’ve successfully converted videos using plain old SUPER to do the job. I think i will write a how to and post it on video help, I’ve seen allot of people asking about this lately.

  8. tom on October 21st, 2007

    i might of missed something here…

    I’m just emailed myself a video that i took with the phone.

    it’s on my desktop and now i can’t view it…ie, media player does not recognize it…what
    what software do i need to view this 3gp format…

  9. Clay on October 22nd, 2007

    Hi Tom,

    You can play 3GP files with several media players. I like VLC (http://www.videolan.org/). Quicktime will also play them.

  10. MattB on November 8th, 2007

    Nice article. What carrier are you using? Verizon? I don’t have a USB cable (yet) but using Bluetooth and Samsung PC Studio 3 I can copy photos back to the computer. From past experience, I’ve found Verizon cripples handy features like that so they can gouge you every step of the way.

    Anyway, the main reason I’m commenting is that I’m looking for a reasonable way to read text or html files stored on the phone. I copied a text file on and I can open it but the built-in viewer doesn’t seem to be able to wrap text for the small screen, and scrolling is slow and awkward making reading a text file nearly impossible. Has anyone figured that out? I have tried pointing the browser to a file:// url and couldn;t get that to work either.
    Thanks!

  11. Clay on November 9th, 2007

    Hi Matt,

    Thanks for the comment. You ask an interesting question. I guess I never considered the possibility of reading eBooks on the Sync. The screen is soooo small, it just doesn’t seem like something I would want to try. But I got curious when you asked about it.

    Because I had trouble initially getting files on and off the phone using the USB cable (my carrier is AT&T, by the way) I purchased a 1 GB TransFlash (MicroSD) card and have been using that to store pictures I snap and to hold music and video for playback on the phone. So I tried putting a plain text file on the card to see if I could see and open it from the File Browser. It turns out that I do see the text file and, when I select it, it opens in software called the Picsel File Viewer. The text renders very nicely onscreen, but it is tiny, tiny, tiny. You can zoom in and pan around but this is just a terrible reading experience. The screen on the sync is just too small to make this worthwhile in my opinion. As I’ve written elsewhere on this blog, I’ve used my PSP and even an iPod to read eBooks, but nothing beats the dedicated Sony PRS-500 eBook reader for a solid eBook reading experience.

  12. Clay on November 9th, 2007

    Hi again Matt,

    I did a bit more experimenting and I came up with a nice solution that made text onscreen actually readable. You were on the right track when you mention that you tried to open the text file you copied over with the browser. Here’s what I did:

    I took a Word document (but it could have been any text format) and save the file from Word as HTML Filtered. The “Filtered” option in Word 2007 strips out all the nast Microsoft specifice code that might not render properly in the Sync’s browser. I then copied the file to my MicroSD card and popped it into the phone. I navigated to the file using “My Stuff” file browser and opened the file. Because it was an HTML file it opened directly in the browser. This result had two consequences that were an improvement over the Picsel file viewer. First, the text was sized properly for reading on the small screen, and second, the text flowed vertically properly and wrapped nicely so that no side-to-side scrolling was necessary.

    The end result was that this method certainly makes the Sync a viable eBook reader. All you need to do is take a text file and convert it to HTML. Thanks again for the original question, Matt. I never would have tried this out if you hadn’t asked it. I think I’ll promote this discussion to a full fledged post now.

    –Clay

  13. O on December 8th, 2007

    Hey Matt,
    I’m illiterate when it comes to most technology. I bought my card, and put a couple of videos in it. When I went to the video section on my phone they didn’t show up, do you know what might be wrong? By the way I have a Razor v3 thanks.

  14. Henry on September 12th, 2008

    Hey I tried Xilisoft Video Converter, but struggled to get it working properly. I spent the best part of an hour trying to get it to work, and ended it up having to send it back.

  15. Bad Mobile on December 4th, 2008

    Ditto with the Xilisoft. Stuck with Quicktime in the end.

  16. Jhonnie on January 25th, 2009

    hi clay! i found this blog googling for info of the sync im planning tu buy (i know now it’s kinda old but i liked the reviews it got) for a2dp playback about all day long. i’m a tech service guy and i spent hours in the office just doing nothing but listening music with my treo 680 but the battery life of the mine is just crappy using a2dp. i want to know if you have used the yours for this purpose and how is your experience with the battery life with bluetooth on. thanks a lot!

  17. Clay on January 26th, 2009

    Hi Jhonnie, I suspect the battery life will be similar to your Treo, though I haven’t used a bluetooth headset with my sync at all. I thought about getting the standard stereo headset for the phone, but the cost was equal to the shipping and I already have an iPod…. Sorry I can’t give more info. If you get the phone and use it with a2dp playback, it’d be great know how it works and if battery life is better than the Treo. Stop back if you have a minute and let me know!

  18. Marg on January 28th, 2009

    I found this on an at&t support site regarding the Samsung Sync and converting video:
    “Try using Super. You can download the free program here: http://codecs.com/download/SUPER.htm

    It’s a little confusing to use, but I found that it works to use the 3GP setting for Nokia/NEC/Siemens.”
    I’ve tried it and it converts the videos beautifully. The AAC LC Audio Codec works fine to get quality audio.

  19. Clay on January 28th, 2009

    Thanks, Marg. I agree that SUPER does a good job encoding into multiple formats including 3gp. Here’s more info at VideoHelp if anyone is interested: http://www.videohelp.com/tools/SUPER

    Unfortunately, the user interface is pretty bad; nevertheless, once you figure it out it’s a great tool.

  20. Jhonnie on January 29th, 2009

    Thanks for the response Clay! I will be looking forward to find the info, if not, then I think I’m gonna take the risk and I will make an extended review so all the people whom visits your blog looking for it would be happy. Thanks again! Have a Nice Day!!!