If you've seen a Samsung flip phone before, you'll get swept up in deja vu when you behold the Samsung Factor for Boost Mobile. The moderately attractive clamshell is a decent device that will meet the needs of casual users making calls or composing the occasional text message. The Factor costs $49.99 without a contract.
The Samsung Factor is slate gray with a smooth body that's so slippery, we toyed with the idea of skipping it across a pond. It stands 3.8 inches tall by 1.9 inches wide and is 0.7 inch thick. Thanks to its streamlined shape, the Factor fits comfortably in the hand and glides into pockets and pouches. It weighs a light, but not wispy, 3.2 ounces.
On the front is a 1.2-inch CSTN external display that supports 65,000 colors. The screen broadcasts the date and time, battery life and signal strength, and message notifications. Press and hold the camera button while the phone is closed to turn the display into a self-portrait viewfinder for the VGA camera that sits above the screen.
Flip open the Factor and you'll find a 2-inch TFT internal display with a 128-by-160-pixel QQVGA resolution and support for 262,000 colors. This resolution is grainier than the QVGA resolution (240x320 pixels) that's often on entry-level phones, and it shows. The colors are bright enough, but we yearn for a sharper screen. You can customize the wallpaper and foregrounds for both outer and inner displays. Backlight time and brightness are also adjustable, but not the phone's typeface or font size.
Below the screen is a four-way navigation toggle ringing a central OK button, plus two soft keys, a camera-and-photo-gallery button, and a Back button. A second set of controls below includes the Talk, End, and speakerphone buttons. All the keys are comfortable under the fingertips and wide enough to use. The OK button is a bit on the small side, but since it's slightly raised, we didn't have problems finding it.
The dial pad buttons take up the bottom half of the Factor's keypad. A rubberized texture gives them a comfortable and responsive feel. Though the keys aren't fully separated, they are raised above the surface and slightly domed in the center. The "1" key does double duty as a shortcut button for voice mail messages. Dialing a phone number is a choral event, since each key press produces a different sound. If you, like us, find the results more cacophonous than symphonic, you can adjust the tone type and volume in the settings. You can also set the phone to silent mode.
Behind a sliding cover on the right spine there's a Micro-USB port for your charger and for a headset (this isn't your standard 3.5mm jack). There's also a button for engaging the camera. On the left spine sits the volume rocker. There's no expansion slot for external memory. Since there's no music player onboard, that's not necessarily a deal breaker.
The Samsung Factor is about as basic a phone you can find, with little beyond the essentials. The address book holds 600 names, each with room for multiple phone numbers, an e-mail address, a URL, an address, birthdate, and note. You can assign a customized ringtone (out of 10 preloaded options) and a photo ID. The Factor also supports calling groups.
In addition to voice calls, text messages are a flagship form of communication. Using the predictive text is easier than pecking out each letter at a time. Boost Mobile gives the Factor a feature boost with its Java app that pulls down Web mail (IMAP and POP3) from the likes of your Gmail, Yahoo, and AOL inboxes.