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Samsung Chrono - moon gray (U.S. Cellular) review: Samsung Chrono - moon gray (U.S. Cellular)

Samsung Chrono - moon gray (U.S. Cellular)

Jessica Dolcourt Senior Director, Commerce & Content Operations
Jessica Dolcourt is a passionate content strategist and veteran leader of CNET coverage. As Senior Director of Commerce & Content Operations, she leads a number of teams, including Commerce, How-To and Performance Optimization. Her CNET career began in 2006, testing desktop and mobile software for Download.com and CNET, including the first iPhone and Android apps and operating systems. She continued to review, report on and write a wide range of commentary and analysis on all things phones, with an emphasis on iPhone and Samsung. Jessica was one of the first people in the world to test, review and report on foldable phones and 5G wireless speeds. Jessica began leading CNET's How-To section for tips and FAQs in 2019, guiding coverage of topics ranging from personal finance to phones and home. She holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).
Expertise Content strategy, team leadership, audience engagement, iPhone, Samsung, Android, iOS, tips and FAQs.
Jessica Dolcourt
4 min read


Samsung Chrono - moon gray (U.S. Cellular)

The Good

The <b>Samsung Chrono</b> has excellent call quality, large dial-pad buttons, and a smooth, attractive design.

The Bad

Its basic screen resolution and camera don't do the Chrono any favors.

The Bottom Line

A fantastic price and clear call quality make the Samsung Chrono a top pick for U.S. Cellular customers who are looking for just the essentials.

There's no doubt that the "moon-gray" Samsung Chrono for U.S. Cellular is cut from the same cloth as Sammy's scores of other flip-phone designs. It may incorporate elements also seen in Samsung's t339, Factor, and t259, but the Chrono has a more squared-off look and more impressive call quality. In terms of features, it's one of Samsung's most stripped-down models, so if you're looking for more than the essentials, move on.

The Chrono costs only a penny if you buy it with a contract, and $19.99 if you purchase it as a prepaid phone. Both are stellar values by today's pricing standards.

If you've seen one Samsung flip phone, you've seen them all. The Samsung Chrono looks and feels like almost every other clamshell cousin, although there are slight differences. The Chrono has a flat top, squared edges, and a thick, sturdy hinge. The smooth coating helps the 3.1-ounce phone slide in and out of pockets. In the light, the 3.7 inches by 1.83 inches by 0.7 inch Chrono appears steel blue; in shadow, it looks dark gray.

Depending on the light, the Chrono looks either blue or gray.

The Chrono's external face houses a VGA camera lens and a 1.7-inch CSTN display, which shows a battery meter, signal strength, and data connection in addition to the date, time, and a message indicator when you press on the volume module. On the right spine are the shared microUSB and headphone charging port and the camera shutter button. A shortish volume rocker is on the left. Since the Chrono has no music player, combining ports is fine, and a pair of standard microUSB-powered earphones comes in the box for anyone looking to go wired.

Photos on the Chrono's VGA camera are significantly better taken outdoors than indoors.

The VGA camera isn't the worst we've seen, but it's far from the best. Bright colors remain bright in outdoor shots, but lose vibrancy in indoor scenes. The camera also has difficulty focusing properly both indoors and outdoors unless you're perfectly still. Being able to take a self-portrait shot from the closed position is a nice perk, as on most flip phones. The camera has all the usual multiple shots and modes, like night mode, a self timer, white-balance settings, and color-effects presets. After taking a picture, you can set the image as a wallpaper or photo ID, share it, or save it to an online album.

When you open the phone up, there's the 2-inch TFT main display with a QVGA (320x240 pixels) resolution and support for 262,000 colors. The screen is bright enough and the text is sharp enough, but the menu icons look blurry. Adjusting the backlight times, contrast, and theme are easy. Although you can change up the font size, you can't choose the font.

Fortunately, the phone software is easy to navigate with the soft keys and the four-way navigation toggle and central OK button located just north of the dial pad. Each direction on the navigation pad doubles as a customizable shortcut, to open up the browser and your contact list, for instance. The Talk, End, and Clear buttons are below. The dial pad's alphanumeric keys are fully separated and easy to press, with a nice tactile response. Several buttons also trigger other features, like Nuance-powered voice commands and turning the phone to vibrate.

It's back to basics with the Samsung Chrono. The address book holds 1,000 entries, with room for multiple phone numbers, e-mail, group calling, a photo ID, and about two dozen ringtones, including silent mode. You can send text and picture messages, and the phone works with Bluetooth accessories and has a voice command tool to help keep your eyes on the road.

The Chrono's dial-pad buttons are large, easy to push, and separated so you can dial by feel.

The personal organizer tools make up the bulk of the features. There's your trusty calendar, a calculator, a notepad, an alarm clock, a world clock, a stop watch, a converter, and a tip calculator. There's also Web access through the U.S. Cellular-branded browser.

While the Chrono doesn't have a music player (or a microSD card slot for external memory), it does have Tone Room, a storefront for purchasing more ringtones. You can also buy games and download other applications through the Easyedge Web store.

We tested the dual-band (CDMA 1800/1900) Samsung Chrono in San Francisco using U.S. Cellular's roaming network. The Chrono's call quality was simply superb in our tests, even on boisterous city streets. Volume was high on both ends and voices sounded natural. Absent were the telltale crackles and buzzes of most cell phone calls; the clarity of the line was so pristine that we repeatedly asked if our callers were still there. One caller called the experience as good as on a wired phone.

Samsung Chrono call quality sample Listen now: "="">

Speakerphone volume was also high enough to be heard, although it did produce the usual fuzzy audio and echoing typical of speakerphones. Our listeners also heard echoing and vocal distortion. It was fine for holding a conversation in a quiet room, but we wouldn't use it if we had other choices.

A very sketchy version of the mobile-optimized CNET site loaded in about 15 seconds over 2.5G speeds on the Chrono's browser. It took closer to 30 seconds to load a similarly image-free version of the New York Times' site in an area with strong signal. Due to the small screen and slower data speeds, browsing on the Chrono won't get better than this. Costs can also add up fast if you pay per kilobyte of data, so we suggest using the browser as a last resort if you don't buy a bundled plan.

The Chrono has a rated battery life of up to 4.5 hours and up to 12.5 days of standby time with its 800mAh lithium ion battery. It has a tested talk time of 5 hours and 42 minutes. FCC tests measure the Chrono's digital SAR emissions at 0.7 watts per kilogram.

There are two things that make the Samsung Chrono a good pick if you're looking for a simple phone for yourself or someone else--call quality that's clear as a bell, and that crazy-affordable price of just a penny if you buy it with a contract and only $19.99 if you buy it prepaid. Beyond that, the Chrono is light, uncomplicated, and reliable, with a design that won't make you shriek in horror and enough organizer features to send texts and snap a quick photo. This is not a flip phone designed to impress, but it's not bad for what it is, and wins extra points for succeeding at what a cell phone should do best: making calls.


Samsung Chrono - moon gray (U.S. Cellular)

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 6Performance 7