Samsung Gusto 2 (Verizon Wireless) review:

Samsung Gusto 2 (Verizon Wireless)

Of course, Verizon also outfits the Gusto 2 with the usual communication essentials of text and multimedia messaging and Bluetooth. Personal organizer tools include a calculator, a calendar, an alarm clock, a stop watch, a world clock, a notepad, and phone search.

What's surprising are the other features you can access: a browser, VZ Navigator's subscription-based turn-by-turn directions app, mobile e-mail, and hooks into social networking. I can't forget to mention Fake Call, an app that helps you slip away from awkward real-life conversations with a fictitious call that, gosh darn, you just have to take. So sorry.

There are also game demos for Tetris and Uno, and you can download more games and wallpaper from Verizon's online store.

The Gusto 2 has a 1.3-megapixel camera, up from a VGA camera the first time around.

The Gusto 2 does replace the original Gusto's VGA camera with a 1.3-megapixel lens, and it also doubles the phone's internal storage to 64MB. There's not a lot I can say in defense of the camera's small, grainy, and dull images, except that it's better than VGA and fine for photo ID.

I tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900 MHz) Samsung Gusto 2 in San Francisco on Verizon's network. In my tests, call quality was excellent on both sides of the line. My test caller, who has particularly picky hearing, praised the Gusto 2 for its unusual clarity with no background noise or crackles, and strong volume. I heard a little wavering on my end of the line, which made my caller's voice sound like it was slightly going in and out, but for the most part I agreed about volume and call clarity.

We also tested the Gusto 2's whisper mode, which amplified the microphone so that my caller could hear me better without me having to raise my voice. She loved it, and at my regular speaking volumes, found it almost overly loud.

Samsung Gusto 2 call quality sample Listen now:

Speakerphone quality was also very strong. My test caller reported that my volume dropped when I held the phone at waist level, and she heard echo as well. Although she could hear me very clearly, she also mentioned that a noisy outdoor or office environment would probably drown out my voice. Speakerphone remained clear and pretty loud on my end, and echo, though still present, was kept to a minimum. I could comfortably use the Gusto 2's speakerphone for an entire conversation.

The Gusto 2 runs on a 400MHz processor. It has a rated talk time of 7 hours and 15.6 days standby time on its 1,000mAh battery. During our call tests, it lasted 7.22 hours. According to the FCC's radiation measurements, the Gusto 2 has a digital SAR of 0.41 watt per kilogram (1.6 watts per kilogram is the maximum allowed).

Samsung has managed to turn around the Gusto 2 by improving the phone's most important features: call quality and design. I also appreciate the bump in camera and onboard memory, and the extra effort to include accessibility options like voice readout of the menu and texts, ICE numbers, and whisper mode for calls. Yet in a few other ways, Samsung stopped short of updating the simple, sturdy flip phone. A step up in screen resolution and a 3.5mm headset jack standard could have gone a long way toward making the Gusto 2 as good as it could be.

The $80 asking price isn't a steal, but it is at the low end of Verizon's range. If you're a steadfast Verizon customer, the Samsung Gusto 2 is a great choice for a basic phone.

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