According to a recent survey, text usage in the U.S. has risen almost 160 percent in a single year. It's no surprise, then, that cell phone companies are jumping on the texting bandwagon big time by introducing more cell phones with QWERTY keyboards. The LG Rumor from Sprint was one such device last year, and this year, it looks as if the Samsung Rant will take its place in Sprint's lineup. The Rant has a slide-out QWERTY keyboard similar to the Rumor, but it has many more multimedia and high-speed features. It is available right now for $49.99, with a mail-in rebate and a new, two-year service agreement with Sprint.
If you think the Samsung Rant looks familiar, you're not alone. Indeed, we can't help but notice that it has almost the same shape and form factor as the LG Rumor. There are differences, however: the Rant slides to the right to reveal the keyboard, while the Rumor slides to the left; the navigation toggle is square, instead of circular; the controls and keypad buttons have a slightly different design; and the keyboard itself is much bigger.
Measuring 4.5 inches long by 2.1 inches wide by 0.7 inch thick, the Rant is only slightly bigger than the Rumor. It has a 2.1-inch diagonal display with support for 262,000 colors and has a 176x220 pixel resolution. This provides the Rant with a rich and vibrant screen, with images and graphics that pop with color. You can adjust the screen's brightness, the dialing-font size, and a screen animation whenever there's an incoming call.
The Rant is one of the first few phones on Sprint's lineup that uses a special screen-navigation interface called One Click. It consists of eight shortcut tiles lined up along the bottom of the screen, which you can flip through with the navigation keys. These tiles can be customized with any of 14 shortcuts, to things like the texting interface, Web access, e-mail, Sprint Navigation, Sprint TV, and even a menu for more shortcuts. As you flip through the tiles, you will get a small pop-up menu of each application's options. One of our favorite shortcuts was one for Google, providing us instant access to Google search, Gmail, and YouTube. We certainly give high praise to such a customizable navigation interface, since it provides convenient access to your favorite applications. You can even add a "bubble" to your home screen that either displays financial updates, your latest horoscope, or brief news headlines.
Underneath the display is a rather unusual navigation array. There are the typical two soft keys, the square navigation toggle with the menu/OK key, the Speakerphone key, the Back key, and the Send and End/Power keys. But not all keys are raised above the surface of the phone--only the menu/OK, the Speakerphone, and the Back keys are raised. The two soft keys, the Send, and the End/Power keys are flat and feel rather slippery to the touch. We would've preferred if all the keys were raised and had texture. Right underneath the navigation array is the number keypad. We found it surprisingly roomy, raised above the surface, and easy to dial by feel.
There are also two soft keys to the left of the screen, which are only activated when the QWERTY keyboard is revealed and the screen orientation changes from portrait to landscape mode. These two keys are pretty skinny, but at least they are raised above the surface for some texture.
If you slide the phone to the right, you'll reveal a full QWERTY keyboard. The sliding mechanism felt solid and sturdy, with a nice snap when opening and closing. The keyboard itself is less than an inch roomier than the one on the Rumor, but it's good enough for us. There was plenty of space between each key, and the keys felt responsive, as well. We also appreciate the slightly rubberized texture that made it easy to type out text messages. The keyboard has the typical function, shift, and symbol keys, but we especially like the dedicated "text" key that acts as a shortcut to a new text message. We also like the arrow keys on the QWERTY keyboard, which allowed us to bypass using the square toggle.
The headset jack and volume rocker are on the left spine, while the charger jack and the dedicated camera key are on the right. The microSD-card slot is along the left spine, but can only be revealed when the battery cover is taken off. This is rather annoying, but at least you don't have to remove the battery altogether to get at it. On the back is the camera lens and self-portrait mirror.
The Rant has a roomy 600-contact phone book with space in each entry for six phone numbers, two e-mail addresses, an instant-messaging username, a Web address, and notes. You can save callers to groups, and you can pair them with a photo and one of 20 polyphonic ringtones for caller ID. Other basic features include text and multimedia messaging, an alarm clock, a calculator, a calendar, a memo pad, a world clock, a voice-memo recorder, and a tip calculator. More advanced users will like the PC syncing, voice dialing, instant messaging, e-mail, stereo Bluetooth, and mobile Web browser. The Rant also comes with A-GPS, and along with that is support for Sprint Navigation and Sprint Family Locator.