U.S. Cellular doesn't have the biggest selection of smartphones, but it's slowly starting to expand its lineup and the latest addition is the Samsung Exec. The Exec is available now for $99.95 with a two-year contract and after a $70 mail-in rebate. It offers mobile professionals a sleek messaging smartphone with an excellent keyboard, a nice mix of productivity and multimedia features, and decent performance. It's certainly a respectable alternative if you're not a fan of the RIM BlackBerry Tour 9630. That said, if you're not in a rush to get a new device, we think it's worth waiting to see how the upcoming HTC Desire and Samsung Acclaim devices perform. Both phones finally bring the Android experience to U.S. Cellular customers and also promise more power and enhanced features, so although it's tough to wait, you might be rewarded in the end. The Acclaim is expected to ship in July and the Desire is also slated for a summer release.
When we first received the Samsung Exec, we had overwhelming feeling of deja vu and then it dawned on us that we had seen this device before (at least the design, anyway) as the Samsung Code for MetroPCS. The two share the same sleek QWERTY slate design and 2.4-inch QVGA display with Samsung's WizPro home screen. The Exec also has the same navigation controls, but there are some slight differences between the two smartphones.
First, the Exec sports a metallic hunter green color that's subtle enough for the boardroom, but the all-plastic casing makes the phone quite slick and a magnet for fingerprints and smudges. The other variation is that the Exec's keyboard offers a couple of extra shortcut keys on the bottom row; more specifically, you now get quick access buttons for your calendar and screen lock.
U.S. Cellular packages the Samsung Exec with a travel charger, a USB cable, a wired stereo headset, a software CD, and reference material. For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page and for more information about the smartphone's design, please read our full review of the Samsung Code.
Though the Samsung Exec and Code might have similar designs, the Exec has the advantage of running Windows Mobile 6.5 Standard Edition instead of 6.1 like the Code. It's no Windows Phone 7, but you get several more features, including an improved Internet Explorer Mobile browser and Microsoft's My Phone backup service,
Of course, you'll find the other standard Windows Mobile staples, including the full Microsoft Office Mobile Suite and Direct Push technology for real-time e-mail delivery and automatic synchronization with your Outlook calendar, tasks, and contacts via an Exchange Server. The Exec also features Bing search and a handful of productivity tools and services, including a MSN Money, MSN Weather, a PDF viewer, an RSS reader, a voice recorder, a notepad, a calculator, a stopwatch, and a measurement converter. You can, of course, download more apps for your phone via the onboard Windows Marketplace for Mobile.
Aside from Outlook, the Exec also supports POP3 and IMAP accounts and includes a wizard to walk you through the setup process. The smartphone also has a Communities tab on the home screen where you can log into several social networking sites, including Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, and YouTube. However, there are no preloaded instant messaging clients, so you'll need to download them from the Marketplace.
As a phone, the Samsung Exec offers a speakerphone, speed dialing, three-way calling, conference calling, voice dialing, and text and multimedia messaging. The address book is only limited by the available memory and has room in each entry for multiple phone numbers, e-mail addresses, company information, and so forth. For caller ID purposes, you can assign a photo, group ID, or custom ringtone.