One of Google's biggest wins with Android is the ability to quickly access Google services. On the Transform Ultra there's Books, Gmail, Google Search, Latitude, Maps, Navigation, Places, Talk, and YouTube.
There are also personal organizer apps and tools like a calculator, a calendar (that you can sync with Google, of course), a clock with alarm clock, a file tree, a voice dialer, and shortcuts to voice search and voice mail.
The basic Android music player makes an appearance and all the connections for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and messaging that come with every Android phones are here, too. The ThinkFree Office app is also preloaded, but you'll get the bulk of your "extra" apps if you start using Mobile ID.
The Mobile ID app within the app tray lets you do much of what you can from the Android menu; namely, switch IDs and search for new ones, and manage both the IDs and their apps. You can also check for updates.
Two cameras grace the Transform Ultra, one on the front and one on the back. As glad as I am that both are there, neither is among the cell phone camera elite. Even with the flash (a good addition), the camera performs best in well-lit areas and can produce colors that don't quite match up with reality. Many shots lack vividness, while artificial indoor lighting got the best of the software on several indoor shots. Shutter lag was a problem. At least it's easy enough to work your way around the settings, but the basic interface is long overdue for an update. Settings include 4x zoom, white balance, flash mode, location, focus mode, exposure, picture size, photo quality, and color effect.
The front-facing VGA camera is great for making those video calls and self portraits happen, but don't hold your breath for high quality. It's still grainy at best. Both cameras are ripe for upgrading, and it's too bad that Samsung didn't improve the quality.
Video was on par with the camera quality, and as is the case with most camera phones, the subject was often hard to hear. Color was still an issue, but at least the image wasn't overly jerky or pixelated. You could take a video for personal use, but it looks better on the small screen than blown up to full size. Really, don't go there unless you absolutely have to.
I tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900 1xEV-DO rev.A) Samsung Transform Ultra in San Francisco using the Boost Mobile network. Call quality was pretty decent. My friends' voices sounded good and pretty strong, but there was a soft blanket of white noise each time they spoke. They said I sounded clear, but it was obvious I was on a cell phone.
Speakerphone was a little more timid when holding the phone at waist-level. The call volume dropped pretty precipitously, although I could still turn it up to hear better. Still, it was fine in a quiet room, but in louder areas, it was much harder to hear. My friends said my voice sounded pretty good, though the volume did predictably drop off.
Samsung Transform Ultra call quality sample
I had no problems with the Transform Ultra's internal clock speed, which remained nice and spry with its 1GHz processor. Apps opened pretty quickly and there weren't any noticeable navigation delays.
As with all cell phones, your 3G browsing speed will depend on how strong the network is when and where you use it. In San Francisco it wasn't too speedy. CNET's mobile-optimized site loaded in over 30 seconds, and the graphically rich site loaded in a little under a minute in desktop mode. The New York Times' mobile site loaded in about 20 seconds, and the full site loaded in about 45.
Built upon the original Samsung Transform, Samsung's Transform Ultra really doesn't have much new ground to forge in order to be a successful update. Android 2.3 Gingerbread definitely delivered on the OS front, but the screen size, screen resolution, and both cameras remain unchanged; a pity. However, the new button design below the screen is welcome, and so are certain other tangible elements like that textured back cover. Little touches like this can go a long way to a happy phone owner--so long as the basics are covered.
3G speeds and call quality were as expected for the Transform Ultra, so no major complaints there, and Mobile ID is a more streamlined feature than it has been, which will win more users to the "profile" cause. Despite Sprint's reluctance in truly updating the phone's specs, the Transform Ultra is a solid Android Gingerbread QWERTY device that fills a hole in Boost Mobile's smartphone lineup, though those seeking the ultimate cutting-edge prepaid smartphone should look to Virgin Mobile'sinstead.