In addition to voice calls, text messages are a flagship form of communication. Using the predictive text is easier than pecking out each letter at a time. Boost Mobile gives the Factor a feature boost with its Java app that pulls down Web mail (IMAP and POP3) from the likes of your Gmail, Yahoo, and AOL inboxes.
There's a WAP browser you can use if you've got a data plan, and Bluetooth for everyone. There are also the essential tools, of course, like an alarm, a calendar, a calculator, a world clock, and a memo pad. You'll also find a voice recorder and voice commands (powered by Nuance).
Photos are downright blurry and grainy on the Factor's VGA camera. Brighter colors come through better, but photos are cast with a blue hue. The options menu will let you tweak some settings. For instance, you can shoot in five modes, including multishot and night mode. There are three photo resolutions, the highest being 480 by 640 pixels. Six white balance presets may help adjust the lighting and end color fidelity. Also included are three quality settings, two shutter sounds, and an optional grid. Photo effects were turned off on our test phone.
After snapping a photo, you can send it via text or e-mail, add it to a slideshow, or assign it as a contact's photo ID. Unfortunately, you cannot send photos via Bluetooth. The Factor has 128MB of RAM.
The Factor comes with a Pac-Man demo game that offers engaging gameplay. Additional games, wallpaper, and ringtones are available in the Boost Mobile storefront--you'll need to use the browser (and data) to reach the online store.
We tested the Samsung Factor (CDMA 800/1900) in San Francisco using Boost Mobile's service (Boost is a Sprint prepaid brand). Call clarity was remarkably clear for both sides, with no background crackles, fuzziness, or interference. If we fell silent, neither our friends nor we would have known that we were on a call. Voice quality was less pitch-perfect in tests. On our end, callers sounded good, but a little quiet and thick-tongued, as if they had a lisp; our callers said that we sounded slightly muffled.
Speakerphone calls were good overall. Volume could have been louder on our end, and the voice became even more muffled. However, our caller was intelligible to our ears, echo was minimal, and the line was otherwise clear. On their end, callers pronounced speakerphone workable as well, and said we sounded good, without discernible echoing. Our pitch and volume didn't change much with speakerphone, they said, but they could tell we were using the feature.
Samsung Factor call quality sample
The Factor has a rated battery life of 4.45 hours talk time and 8.8 days of standby time. Our battery tests resulted in a talk time of 4 hours and 37 minutes. FCC radiation tests measured a digital SAR of 0.82 watt per kilogram.
As far as simple phones go, the Samsung Factor is a good choice. Fifty dollars for a noncontract handset won't break the bank, and in our tests at least, the Factor's voice quality and call clarity deliver. Although there are some design flaws, the Factor is comfortable and easy to use. It doesn't have much in the way of features, which is fine since it never pretends to bite off more than it can chew. That said, the handset suffers from its low-end display technology, which makes text appear grainy. We don't require the crystal-clear sharpness of loftier phones, but a blurry resolution never wins points. Despite Samsung shooting itself in the foot with the screen's specs, we wouldn't count the Factor out of the running for those seeking a no-frills cell phone.