The Renown's dual-mode support means that it's compatible with both CDMA and GSM networks. In the United States, you'll use Verizon's network, but when traveling in a GSM-only country, the phone will continue to operate on a local frequency. Though it supports four GSM bands, thus making it a true world phone, you won't be able to switch over to GSM when in the United States--that's Verizon's way of keeping the phone locked. It will come with a SIM card, and it won't work with a SIM card from AT&T or T-Mobile. Though the dual-mode support is convenient for world travelers--they no longer have to get another phone for European travel--keep in mind that you will pay roaming fees and you'll be forced to use Verizon's roaming partners abroad. You won't be able to buy a prepaid SIM card and use it to make calls.
As an EV-DO phone, the Renown supports the full range of Verizon's 3G services, including V Cast streaming video content, and the V Cast Music with Rhapsody. Both the V Cast menu and music store interface are pretty much unchanged from other Verizon phones. Player options include the usual limited shuffle and repeat modes, but V Cast Music also will recommend other songs based on your playlist. Music player features are limited to shuffle and repeat modes and playlists,
The camcorder records videos in two lengths; clips meant for multimedia messages are capped at 30 seconds or you can shoot for longer in the standard mode. Editing options are smaller than on the still camera, but you get a decent assortment. The Renown offers just 50MB of shared internal memory, so we recommend using a microSD card.
You can personalize the Renown with a variety of wallpaper, display themes, and alert tones. If you want more options, or additional ringtones, you can download them from Verizon with the WAP 2.0 Web browser. The Renown doesn't come with any games, but Verizon offers a range of BREW-enabled titles for sale.
We tested the (CDMA 800/1900; EV-DO, GSM 850/900/1800/1900) Samsung Renown world phone in San Francisco using Verizon Wireless. We didn't travel abroard during our testing period, so we weren't able to test the phone's GSM reception. However, CDMA call quality was pleasant. There was enough volume and the signal was clear and strong. For the most part, voices sounded natural, but we noticed a bit of a hiss on our end. It wasn't always noticeable, so we wouldn't say it was a big problem, but it was there nonetheless. The Renown supports Verizon's "whisper mode," which promises to amplify your voice when speaking in a whisper. It makes a difference as long as there's not a lot of background noise.
On their end, callers said we sounded fine. They could tell we were using a cell phone, but they didn't report a hissing issue. On the upside, most of our callers could hear us plainly, even when we were talking in a noisy location. Automated answer systems could understand us most the time, but it worked best when we were in a quiet room. Speakerphone calls were decent as well. The speaker is on the rear of the phone, but it has a respectable output. Voice quality on our end was clear and callers could understand us if as we were in a relatively quiet room.
On the downside, steaming video quality was poor. The EV-DO signal was strong--videos loaded quickly and played without interruption--but the clips were overly pixelated and blurry. While that can be a common occurrence with 3G streaming videos, these clips just made us want to turn the feature off completely--not good. Music quality was better, fortunately. Thanks to the zippy EV-DO connection, we downloaded a 2.62MB song in about 30 seconds. Music over the external speaker sounds good enough, but a headset will provide the best experience. On one occasion, the phone froze in music mode and we had to remove the battery to fix the problem. That's troubling even if it happened that one time.
The Renown has a rated battery life of 5 hours and 13.3 days. It has a tested talk time of 4 hours and 42 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the Renown has a digital digital SAR rating of 0.958 watts per kilogram.