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Samsung Array review: A simple and solid feature phone

The keyboard will please texting fans and call quality is great, but don't expect an array of other features.

Kent German Former senior managing editor / features
Kent was a senior managing editor at CNET News. A veteran of CNET since 2003, he reviewed the first iPhone and worked in both the London and San Francisco offices. When not working, he's planning his next vacation, walking his dog or watching planes land at the airport (yes, really).
Kent German
7 min read

If you don't want a smartphone, but still want to text like mad, then take a long look at the Samsung Array. Sure, its design will transport you back to the previous century, but you're left with a user-friendly and simple feature phone with reliable performance. As it's built primarily for communication, other features aren't worth the effort, but that's really the whole point of the Array in the first place. It's available with both Boost Mobile and Sprint, though pricing will vary between the two carriers. Sprint charges just $19 for the Array, but you'll have to sign a new two-year contract and send in to get a $40 rebate. Boost charges $59.99 contract-free. Either way, it's a deal and much better than paying the full price of $219.


Samsung Array

The Good

The <b>Samsung Array</b> has a simple user-friendly design with a spacious and comfortable keyboard. Call quality is top-notch.

The Bad

The Array's display has a low resolution. Media and Web features deliver a poor experience.

The Bottom Line

The Samsung Array excels at communication, but anyone wanting more out of a phone should look elsewhere.

The Array's low-key design is one we've seen many times before. But in this case, that's not a bad thing. After all, there's not much you can really do with a slider messaging phone to make it unique. Rather, it's more important to design a roomy keyboard and a sturdy construction.

Samsung Array is a simple slider (pictures)

See all photos

Fortunately, the Array accomplishes both points. It doesn't have rubber sidings or an extra-thick plastic shell, but the slider mechanism should withstand normal wear and tear. It takes more than a gentle nudge to open and close the phone, but you can perform both actions with one hand. The keyboard beneath is quite spacious and comfortable. It has four rows of buttons so most letters double up with a number, a symbol, or punctuation. That's not a problem as I was able to type relatively quickly while using the Shift and Function keys. The long space bar is smack in the center of the bottom row between a dedicated ".com" key and four arrow controls. All of the buttons are plastic, but I liked that they're not completely flush. Also, the top row of keys isn't squashed up against the bottom of the slider.

The Array has a spacious, comfortable keyboard. James Martin/CNET

The 2.4-inch QVGA display is as retro as the Array's physical design. It's full color and bright enough, but the 240x320-pixel screen produces subpar graphics with visible lines between color shades. That would be unacceptable on a smartphone, and even here it's distracting. Yes, I know you're not going to be using the Array as a power gaming device, but a small bump in the resolution would be nice. You can change a few display settings like the brightness and the backlight time. Inside, the list and icon-based menus are clean and easy to use.

The Array's display isn't amazing, but it does the job. The handset is small enough to take anywhere. James Martin/CNET

I liked that the navigation toggle and OK button are large and raised above the surface of the phone. That makes them easy to use by feel, even if you have larger hands like me. What's more, it was the same story with the other controls. On the left side are the Talk button, a soft key, and a speakerphone shortcut, and on the right side are the end/power control, a second soft key, and a Back button. The alphanumeric keypad just below takes up the bottom third of the phone. I found it crowded, and I'd prefer that they keys weren't flush, but that they have a bright backlighting.

On the left side of the display are two soft keys that activate when you open the phone (the display will rotate 90 degrees to the left). The volume rocker is on the left spine, and the camera shutter and microSD card slot are on the right spine. The camera shutter is a little to hard to press when the slider is open, but I don't see how Samsung could have done it differently. The 3.5mm headset jack is up top, right where it should be, and the Micro-USB charger port sits conveniently on the Array's bottom end. The battery cover has a nice textured feel; just keep your finger away from the rear-facing camera lens when you're snapping a photo.

The Array's camera lens is on the top half of its rear side.

Though it's a slider phone, the compact Array measures 4.4 inches long by 2.1 inches wide and 0.6 inch deep. I carried it comfortably in a front pocket for a few hours and almost forgot it was there. What's more, the plastic skin keeps the weight down to 4.14 ounces. The Array isn't officially a "green" device, but Sprint says it "contains environmentally preferable materials with a minimal environmental impact." Interpret that as you wish.

For smartphone users, the Array will seem downright primitive, and in many ways it is. You can't access a robust app store, it doesn't have a full Web browser, and you can't watch a movie on it. Yet, it does excel at exactly what a phone should do while adding a few extras here and there. The phone book stores multiple fields for each contact, plus a photo and a dedicated ringtone. You also can organize contacts into groups. Other organizer features include a calendar, a calculator, a notepad, a world clock, and a voice recorder.

As I mentioned, the Array doesn't just stick to the basics. It has Bluetooth for connecting to a headset or another device, voice dialing and commands from Nuance, a file manager, and a bare-bones music player. The full versions of Tetris and Bubble Bash come preinstalled, and you can use the Array as a mass storage device. You can download additional games and rudimentary apps from Sprint for Boost, but the experience is a far cry from the iTunes Store or Google Play. Boost also adds a TeleNav GPS app, but keep in mind that you will pay for data access if you want to use it. That's normal for any phone, but not worth the expense given the Array's limited feature set and small display. The Array has just 40MB of internal memory, but the microSD card slot can use cards up to 32GB.

The Array has a WAP browser, which you means you'll be viewing mobile versions of any Web site you visit. And keep in mind these aren't mobile sites optimized for a smartphone. They're even more stripped down into a simple list of links, no graphics, and barely any photos. Add in the lack of a touch screen and the 3G data speeds, and you get a clunky Internet experience. The toolbar at the bottom of the browser is a nice touch, but that's really the only positive thing I can say. If you absolutely can't live without a social network, the Array does have dedicated links to Facebook and Twitter. Keep in mind, though, that you'll be using the mobile version of both services rather than an optimized app. Likewise, the POP3 e-mail support is browser-based.

Color accuracy in this shot was decent, but the Array's camera had trouble focusing from a distance. Kent German/CNET

The 2-megapixel camera is there if you need it, but don't count on taking stellar photography. You can downgrade the resolution to 320x240 pixels and adjust a decent set of options including white balance, brightness, color tones, and image quality. The camera also has a digital zoom (except at full resolution), three shutter sounds, a self-timer, and multishot, night, mosaic, and panoramic modes. The Array does not have a flash.

Without a flash, our standard studio shot was rather dim. There was a fair amount of image noise, as well. Kent German/CNET

I wasn't expecting much from the Array's photo quality, and it didn't surprise me in the least. Photos are fine if you have enough light, and color accuracy can be adequate at times, but the camera failed in most other regards (see the sample shots for more details). This is not a proper camera phone in any regard.

Shots with direct sunlight were the best, but the Array has trouble distinguishing between light and dark areas. Kent German/CNET

The camcorder has a similar set of editing options. Clips for multimedia messages are capped at 30 seconds, but you can shoot for longer in standard mode. Video quality, as you might expect, is poor.

I tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900) Samsung Array in San Francisco with Sprint service. Call quality is always important, but even more so for basic phones like the Array, since they don't do much else. Fortunately, the handset didn't let me down. I enjoyed great call quality with plenty of volume, no static, and a strong, clear signal. Voices sounded natural and I didn't encounter distortion even at the highest volume levels. On their end, callers said I sounded fine. They could tell that I was using a cell phone, and a couple people reported moderate background noise. On the whole, though, my friends had few complaints. Given that Boost uses Sprint's network, call quality on the prepaid carrier's Array was the same.

Samsung Array call-quality sample Listen now:

The speakerphone also performed well. I had to sit close to the phone and be in a quiet room to be heard, but the experience wasn't unlike most other cell phones. There's more than enough volume here, as well, with only a small amount of distortion when it's all the way up.

The Array has a 480MHz processor (128MB RAM/256MB ROM). Don't let numbers fool you, though, as it keeps the handset running smoothly. The bigger detriment is the 3G data speeds. No I'd never expect LTE on a phone like the Array, but even simple Web pages took a few seconds to open.

Inside is a 1,000mAh battery that promises up to 4 hours of talk time and up to 10.4 days of standby time. During our talk test time, it lasted 5.63 hours. The Array has a digital SAR of 1.09 watts per kilogram.


Samsung Array

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 6Performance 7