Slide open the phone to find the four-row QWERTY keyboard; on the sapphire version, keys are colored blue and gray. The keys are fairly level to the phone's surface, and while the buttons snap back, the flatness impeded our typing speed. We wish they rose just a bit from the surface, or were slightly domed so our fingers had somewhere to go. There's no virtual keyboard on the Trender, so this keyboard does all your typing.
The Trender's address book has room for 600 entries, and each entry holds a name, multiple phone numbers and e-mail addresses, an instant-messaging handle, a home address, a birthday, a memo, and a URL. You can also assign a photo ID and associate the contact with one of 30 ringtones and vibrations.
The Trender has Bluetooth support and optional 3G data. On the communications front, there's threaded text and picture messaging, and a Web mail app that can suck in your Gmail, Yahoo, Windows Live, and AOL e-mail accounts. Essentials include a calculator, a calendar, a clock, and notes. There's also voice command and driving mode, and the Trender has shortcuts to the mobile-optimized Web sites for Twitter and Facebook. The latter is not a pleasant experience, especially when we've been spoiled by native apps. Other shortcuts include an online store for Google search, games, the weather, news, and sports. The Internet wasn't exactly sprightly on the Trender; we loaded CNET's Web-optimized site in about 40 seconds. Unfortunately, the Trender uses EV-DO Rev. 0 3G rather than the speedier Rev. A technology.
As long as you have a microSD card installed, you'll be able to pump tunes through the Trender. The better your earbuds, the better the music sounds; we were fairly satisfied with a pair of Ultimate Ears buds. There's no album art to show you who's playing, but there is a pulsing, colorful visualizer, plus the song name and artist. The music player has buttons for adding songs to the playlist on the fly, shuffling the mix, and repeating a song. The basic pause/play, and back/forward controls fade from view and reappear at a tap. Additional controls pop up song information and your music library. Music will continue to stream in the background even if you open another app. You'll still be able to pause and skip outside of the app, from a pull-down menu that pervasively and conveniently lives at the top of the screen.
We weren't too impressed with the Trender's camera. The 1.3-megapixel shooter has three shooting modes, six white-balance settings, shutter sounds, night mode, five color effects, and some other options for adjusting the image before you shoot. Your ultimate storage space will vary, but we had room for approximately 165 images on the phone itself, and more than 7,400 images on a 4GB microSD card. The photos themselves had dull colors and were never clearly focused, especially on indoor shots. Pictures will still get the point across and can be turned into wallpaper and photo IDs in addition to being shared.
We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900) Samsung Trender in San Francisco on Sprint's network. Call quality was pretty good overall. We had no complaints about volume, and voices sounded fairly true to life. We didn't hear any background noise, either. Our callers agreed with us up to this point, but added that our voice sounded a bit crackly at times.
Speakerphone sounded good to our ears--for speakerphone. The volume was high, but voices sounded a little buzzy and not quite natural--sort of like a cricket chirp. On their end, our callers told us we were muffled and hard to understand, like we were speaking from behind a cupped hand.
The Samsung Trender is a design leftover from the days before affordable smartphones began to skyrocket. Yet there's still a purpose to the simple slider feature phone, especially for those who don't want to commit to Android's required data plan. Still, those looking to use the Internet and e-mail features should do the math; if your usage creeps into data plan territory, you'll get more for your money with one of Sprint's budget Android smartphones.