Though the big four national carriers have enjoyed multiple Android phones for some time now, smaller regional carriers have been missing out. That ends with the Samsung Acclaim, the first-ever Android handset available for U.S. Cellular. Surprisingly, the Acclaim is no second-rate smartphone, though; it comes with OS 2.1 out of the gate and we found its performance to be speedy and reliable. The Samsung Acclaim is available for around $100, which we think is affordable.
Compared with the recent Samsung Galaxy S models, the Acclaim might seem rather dowdy. On its own, however, the Acclaim has a simple down-to-earth appeal. It measures 4.49 inches long by 2.32 inches wide by 0.6 inch thick, and it has curved corners and a rounded chin area with silver adorning its sides; its look is not unlike other Samsung touch-screen handsets. The Acclaim is wrapped in a hard glossy plastic shell, and weighs a comfortable 4.59 ounces.
By far the star of the show when it comes to the Acclaim's design is its 3.2-inch HVGA display. It's not as vibrant as the AMOLED displays we've seen, but for a $100 phone, it looks fantastic. Thanks to its capacitive screen, we found the display to be very responsive, plus there's pinch-to-zoom support. You can also toggle the accelerometer to kick in whenever you hold the phone sideways, which is useful for applications like the browser. The Acclaim also has a proximity sensor.
As an alternative to the touch screen, the Acclaim also has a square select key that doubles as an optical trackpad underneath the display. It provides a nice way to scroll through Web pages without having to drag your finger across the screen. Surrounding the optical pad are the usual Android hot keys to the pop-up menu, home, back, and search. The controls are laid out in a square rather than the more typical single line. It felt roomier, which led to fewer accidental presses.
When you slide the phone's display to the right, you'll find a full QWERTY keyboard. The sliding mechanism is quite smooth and locks securely into place. The keyboard is spacious enough, but we felt the keys were a bit too flat, with not enough delineation between them. Still, the keys had a decent feel when pushed, and we managed to type out text with few mistakes. The Acclaim also provides an onscreen keyboard if you would rather not use the physical one.
On the left spine are the volume rocker and a microSD card slot; the charger jack and camera key are on the right. On the top is the screen lock key and a 3.5mm headset jack, and there's a camera lens and LED flash on the back.
The Samsung Acclaim ships with Android 2.1, which is a step behind the latest 2.2 release. Still, we remain optimistic that it'll be upgradable to 2.2 since the phone is relatively new. Since the phone has 2.1 that means you have the option for live wallpaper, five home screens instead of three, voice-to-text capabilities, and Google Maps Navigation. The Acclaim is free from Samsung's proprietary TouchWiz interface and instead uses Android's stock user interface.
You get the usual Android staples, like Gmail, Google Talk, YouTube, Quick Office, and access to the Android Market. The Acclaim also comes with U.S. Cellular apps like City ID, My Contacts Backup, Your Navigator Deluxe (U.S. Cellular's navigation app), and Tone Room Deluxe. Other apps thrown in for good measure include Evernote, Facebook, The Weather Channel, and Twidroid. Supported e-mail protocols include POP3, IMAP, and Exchange. It combines them all into one unified in-box, and setting your e-mail up is as easy as going through a step-by-step wizard. Do note that this e-mail in-box is separate from your Gmail in-box. With Exchange, you can sync up your work calendar and contacts as well.
Other phone staples include a speakerphone, speed dial, voice commands, text and multimedia messaging with threaded view, stereo Bluetooth, 3G, GPS, and Wi-Fi. The Acclaim also supports U.S. Cellular's EV-DO network. It comes with Google's WebKit browser, which has been updated to offer Flash Lite in addition to pinch-to-zoom. The music player on the Acclaim is the same as on other Android phones, and you can purchase and download music via the Amazon MP3 Store, or you can upload your own to the microSD card. In fact, the Acclaim ships with a 4GB card to help get you started. The phone supports up to 16GB cards if you want more storage.
The Acclaim comes with a 3-megapixel camera with an LED flash. We wouldn't recommend the use of flash for most pictures, as it results in a blown-out image, but it could be useful in especially dark environments. Otherwise, the picture quality was decent for the most part. Colors look a little duller than we would like, but images were sharp with hardly any blur. You can record video with the camera as well.
We tested the Samsung Acclaim in San Francisco using U.S. Cellular's roaming network partners, as U.S. Cellular isn't offered here. Call quality was mediocre, and the speakerphone quality in particular was disappointing.
On our end, we heard our callers pretty clearly, but we detected a lot of static and hiss. Callers also reported static and hiss, in addition to the occasional voice crackle. Voice quality on the whole sounded very indicative of a cell phone call: harsh and machine-like. Speakerphone calls were pretty horrid. The crackling increased tenfold and there was quite a bit of echo as well.
We weren't able to access EV-DO here in San Francisco, but even without it the network's data speeds were pretty good. We managed to download CNET's mobile site is just 15 seconds, whereas BBC's full site took only 25 seconds. YouTube clips had little to no buffering, and we had no problems with sound and picture synchronization.
Even though some might bemoan the Acclaim's 800Mhz processor as slower than the 1Ghz Snapdragon on the more popular Android phones, we found it zippy enough for our needs. We experienced zero lag time when flipping through menus, and the accelerometer kicked in with very little delay.
The Acclaim has a 1,500mAh lithium ion battery, and it has a rated battery life of 8 hours talk time and 18.8 days standby time. It has a tested talk time of 7 hours and 1 minute. According to the FCC, it has a digital SAR of 0.29 watt per kilogram.