Though the ticker display won't be for everybody, we do think it serves a useful purpose rather than being just a novelty item.
Ticker display aside, the Samsung Continuum has a feature set very similar to that of the Samsung Fascinate and other Galaxy S series models. The smartphone ships running Android 2.1, which is disappointing, since Android 2.3 is expected to be released soon. The handset will be upgradable to Android 2.2, though a specific time frame for an update was not given. The Continuum supports a number of Google services, including Gmail, Google Talk, and YouTube, but like the Fascinate, its default search engine is set to Bing, not Google.
As a little background, Microsoft and Verizon signed a five-year deal back in January to make Bing the default search engine on some but not all of Verizon's phones. So far, Samsung's smartphones have been subject to this deal. We have no real problems with Bing, but we'd still like the option to choose. For now, if you want to use Google search, there are a couple of workarounds to do so. One option is to use Voice Search (already on the device), which searches with Google; another is to navigate to Google using the phone's Web browser. We should also note that though the Continuum comes with Bing Maps, you can download Google Maps from the Android Market.
Other apps preloaded on the smartphone by Verizon and Samsung include VZ Navigator, V Cast Music and Videos, NFL Mobile, Blockbuster Mobile, Skype Mobile, Amazon Kindle for Android, Twidroyd, ThinkFree Office, and Write and Go. Unfortunately, you can't remove these apps, but on the upside, you can install third-party applications. Just be aware that until the Android 2.2 update, you can only save apps to the phone's main memory (2GB) and not to an SD card.
The Continuum also features a speakerphone, speed dial, voice commands, conference calling, visual voice mail, and text and multimedia messaging with threaded chat view. Bluetooth, 3G, GPS, and integrated Wi-Fi are all onboard, and the smartphone can be used as a mobile hot spot for up to five devices with the addition of a Mobile Broadband plan, which runs $20 per month and has a 2GB data cap (overage fees are 5 cents per MB).
Messaging and social networking are easily handled on the smartphone with support for Gmail, POP3 and IMAP accounts, Microsoft Exchange, Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. The system will do its best to merge the address book data from the multiple accounts, but more often than not you'll find that you have to go back and link some contacts together, as we did after syncing up our Gmail, Outlook, Facebook, and Twitter accounts. The smartphone also offers a unified inbox and calendar, though you can choose to keep your accounts separate if you prefer.
Compared with some of the other Android devices, the Samsung Continuum (and Galaxy S series in general) offers a more attractive and advanced media player. Some of the perks include a Cover Flow-like user interface, 5.1-channel surround sound, DivX video playback, and DLNA support. The Continuum will also support the Samsung Media Hub video store for TV show and movie rentals and purchases.
Like the rest of the Galaxy S series, the Continuum has a 5-megapixel camera with an LED flash and HD video capture. There are a host of editing options, from white balance and ISO settings to effects to blink detection. Picture quality was great. Photos were sharp with very little noise, and colors were also rich. The flash could sometimes blow out the image, however. Video quality was quite good. HD clips came out clear and didn't have that hazy effect that we've seen from some other camera phones.
We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900; EV-DO Rev. A) Samsung Continuum in New York using Verizon service, and call quality was mostly good. On our side of the conversation, the audio was generally clear, but we did have a few instances when callers sounded muffled and we had to ask them to repeat themselves. Meanwhile, friends had positive things to say about the call quality, with no reports of any background noise or voice distortion.
Samsung Continuum call quality sample
Speakerphone quality was better than average. Though calls sounded a tad hollow, the quality was better than most, and there was adequate volume for holding conversations in noisier environments. We also had no problem pairing the smartphone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset or the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones.
Verizon's network provided reliable 3G coverage throughout Manhattan. CNET's full site came up in 19 seconds; CNN's and ESPN's mobile sites loaded in 5 seconds. YouTube videos took a couple of seconds to load, with HQ videos taking several seconds longer, but the wait was minimal and clips played back without interruption and with synchronized picture and audio.
The Continuum is powered by a Samsung's 1GHz Hummingbird processor, and we found general performance on the smartphone to be quite responsive. It didn't have quite the zippiness of the Fascinate; there was an extra pause when launching applications, but, overall, the phone was able to keep up with our demands and ran smoothly. We were able to play games such as Angry Birds and watch videos without any hiccups or interruptions.
The Samsung Continuum ships with a 1,500mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 7 hours and up to 13 days of standby time. The Continuum beat the rated talk time by half an hour in our battery drain tests. In general, we were able to get about a day's use from the smartphone before needing to recharge it. This was with moderate Web use and with ticker settings modified to show just a couple of RSS feeds and Facebook updates. According to FCC radiation tests, the Continuum has a digital SAR rating of 0.70 watts per kilogram and a Hearing Aid Compatibility Rating of M4.