Text and picture messaging are the Character's communication mainstays, but there's also an app for social networking. For the basics, the Character has a calendar, an alarm clock, a memo pad, a sketch pad, a world clock, a stop watch and timer, a calculator and tip calculator, and a converter.
Bluetooth, speakerphone, and voice commands are also onboard, as is a devicewide search feature that you don't see often except on smartphones. Unfortunately, it would be more useful as a home-screen widget.
The Character is also outfitted with a browser and a basic music player that you can use with the microSD card installed (thumbs-up for being able to add playlists on the fly.) There are also some preloaded apps--like the Easyedge storefront, a backup app, mSpot radio, and a demo version of Pac-Man.
When it comes to the camera, the best we can say is that it's got plenty of shooting options. Onscreen controls flank the viewfinder and let you tap to adjust the resolution, white-balance options, timer presets, shooting modes, brightness, and so on. We also truly appreciate the editing options, including rotating or resizing an image and adding effects. Less impressive is the photo quality itself: indoor images were washed in gray. Outdoor shots were also less vibrant when we compared the captured image with the real-life view. The phone also requires precisely held hands to avoid blurring the photo.
We tested the dual-core (CDMA 800/1900) Samsung Character on U.S. Cellular's roaming network. Call quality was strong and clear overall, with a purr of white noise. On their end, callers said we sounded very clear.
Samsung Character call quality sample
When it came to speakerphone, the microphone was better than the speakers. Call volume dropped in half at our end. Maxing out the volume helped with audibility, but the buzzy sound that distorted our caller's voice at the higher levels became louder as well. We still wouldn't be able to hear in a noisy room, or gather a group around to hear the call. On their end, callers said that with the exception of standard room echo, speakerphone sounded pretty good, perhaps a little softer, but still understandable and clear.
3G performance was OK but not great on the Character, but then again, we did have to test it outside of U.S. Cellular's home network. CNET's mobile-optimized site loaded in about 35 seconds, with sketchy images when available. The New York Times mobile site loaded in about 17 seconds.
The Samsung Character may not have it all, but we will say that it seems to do a good job of keeping its audience in mind with quick ways in and out of the features, and with enough customization (read: widgets) to hold its users' interest. An e-mail app wouldn't hurt, and the social-networking apps aren't as effortless or as powerful as you'd find on a smartphone, but we wouldn't expect them to be. Call quality should satisfy families, and the keyboard is responsive enough to keep heavy texters chatting away. With its reasonable price and good in-hand feel, the Character is a good pick for people shopping for a first cell phone.