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

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MSRP: $19.99

The Good The Samsung Chrono 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.

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6.3 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 6
  • Performance 7

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.