We were very glad to see that the Rugby II offers speaker-independent voice dialing and commands. This was a serious omission on the original Rugby, particularly in an era of hands-free calling laws. The Rugby II also gets a boost to its camera resolution with a 2.0-megapixel shooter. It takes pictures in four resolutions and it offers a choice of three quality settings.
Other camera options include a self-timer; brightness and white-balance controls; mosaic, panorama, multishot, and night modes; 20 frames; three color tones; a 4x digital zoom (unusable at the highest resolution); and three shutter sounds. Its camera's photo quality was among the best we've seen on a midrange phone. Its photo colors were bright, with sharp clarity, and no image noise.
The Rugby II's camcorder records clips in a 176x144-pixel resolution with sound and a similar set of editing options. Multimedia messaging limits cap clips to about one minute and 30 seconds; otherwise, you can shoot for as long as the available memory will permit. The Rugby has about 70MB of shared internal memory, that's almost half of what Samsung gave the Rugby II. We can't fathom why Samsung made the cut, though even 70MB should be enough for most users. If it's not, however, you can use a microSD card up to 32GB.
You can personalize the Rugby with color themes, greetings, wallpaper, and alert tones. You can download additional ringtones and other options via its WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. You also can log on to download various applications, but a fair number come of the phone including My Cast 5 Weather, Mobile Banking, WikiMobile, AT&T Social Net, Yellowpages Mobile, and MobiTV. Samsung gives gamers demo versions of Big Range Hunting II, Tetris, and World Series of Poker with the phone.
We tested the quad-bad (GSM 850/900/1,800/1,900MHz) Rugby II world phone in San Francisco using AT&T. We are glad Samsung improved the Rugby II's audio quality over that of the Rugby's. Where with the Rugby's audio was harsh, making our friends' voices sound like robots, the Rugby II's voice quality is smooth and clear. Our friends sounded like themselves, the volume was loud, and the signal stayed relatively strong. We still heard a slight hum in the background, but it was quieter on the Rugby II than its predecessor was.
On their end, callers said we sounded good. They also heard a slight hum, but they didn't report any problems hearing us. Most of our friends said they could tell that we were using a cell phone, though automated calling systems understood us even if we spoke softly. Its speakerphone and PTT audio quality are also fine. The Rugby II's speakerphone distorts audio when at the highest volumes, which isn't unusual, so you need to sit close to the phone when speaking.
Samsung rates the Rugby II's battery life at three hours talk time and 10.4 days standby time. It lasted 4 hours and 59 minutes in our tests. According to FCC radiation tests, the Rugby II has a digital SAR of 0.52 watts per kilogram.