Samsung Conquer 4G (Sprint)
Sprint notes that the Samsung Conquer 4G is its 25th 4G-capable device, but that's not what makes the phone notable. It's notable because it's the carrier's first 4G smartphone to launch at less than $100. True, after taxes and other fees, you'll be paying a little over $100 for the phone, but the $99.99 base price is a pretty nice option compared to the carrier's other 4G devices, which start at $200. Of course, with the budget-friendly price tag comes some trade-offs (e.g., lower-resolution screen, single-core processor), but even so, the Conquer 4G is still a well-stocked Android smartphone and an incredible value. If you're craving 4G speeds but don't want to spend a fortune on a phone, then the Samsung Conquer 4G is the way to go.
Unlike Sprint's other 4G devices, the Samsung Conquer 4G sports a compact and lightweight design at 4.57 inches tall by 2.38 inches wide by 0.46 inch thick and 4.1 ounces. Its size is a nice compromise between the larger touch-screen devices and those that are too small for comfort. It fits comfortably in a pants pocket, and the textured back makes it easy to hold and feel less plasticky.
On front, there's a 3.5-inch, 320x480 TFT touch screen. Given the cost of the device, it's not a big surprise to see a lower-resolution screen. Pixels are a little more visible on the Conquer's display, so images and text don't look as smooth and colors aren't as vibrant compared to some of the today's super screens. That said, it's still clear and bright enough to view what's on screen.
The 3.5-inch display can feel slightly cramped when viewing Web pages and using the virtual keyboard. However, the phone offers pinch-to-zoom support and a built-in accelerometer, as well as the Swype keyboard, and all felt very responsive. Navigating the phone is a breeze. The Conquer 4G doesn't use Samsung's TouchWiz user interface. Instead, you get a more stock Android experience, with the option to customize the UI using Sprint ID.
Below the display, you get four physical buttons for the menu, home, back, and search functions. A volume rocker resides on the left side, while a camera activation/capture button sits on the right. You'll find the main camera on back, along with a flash, but there's also a 1.3-megapixel camera on front in the upper right-hand corner for video calls.
The Samsung Conquer 4G comes packaged with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a 2GB microSD card, and reference material.
The big draw of the Samsung Conquer 4G is its 4G capabilities. The phone works on Sprint's WiMax network, which, at the time of this writing, covers 71 markets in 28 states. In those areas, customers should enjoy average download speeds of 3Mbps to 6Mbps and simultaneous voice and data. In addition, the smartphone can serve as a 3G/4G mobile hot spot for up to five devices, but note that you have to sign up for a mobile hot-spot plan, which costs $29.99 a month but does not include a data cap.
In addition to 4G, the Conquer also offers Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n), Bluetooth, and GPS capabilities. Voice features include a speakerphone, conference calling, voice dialing, video calling via Qik, and text and multimedia messaging.
The smartphone ships running Android 2.3 Gingerbread and comes with a few extra apps, but it's not completely overloaded with bloatware. Preloaded apps and services include ThinkFree Office, Sprint Mobile Wallet, and Sprint Zone. The Android Market offers more than 250,000 apps for download, and you can save apps to the phone's internal memory (1GB) or to the SD card. Though the Conquer ships with a 2GB card, the expansion slot can accept up to 32GB.
The phone's built-in media player is pretty lackluster (it's the standard Android player) but it supports your standard music and video file formats--MP3, AAC, WAV, MPEG-4, H.263, and H.264, among others--and provides the basic functions, including on-the-fly playlist creation. You can transfer files using the ol' drag-and-drop method, or use software like DoubleTwist to sync your library from your PC to the phone. There's also a dedicated YouTube app.
Since the Conquer is more of a budget-friendly model, it only comes with a 3.2-megapixel camera, instead of 5 or 8 megapixels as found in other higher-end devices. You do get a flash and VGA video capture, and the camera app provides various tools and editing options, including white balance controls and exposure settings. However, picture quality suffered in low-light environments. Objects were easy to identify, but colors were a bit faded and overall, the photo looked dull. Picture quality is better with natural light, however.
We tested the dual-mode Samsung Conquer 4G in New York using Sprint service and call quality was good. We enjoyed clear audio with very little to no background noise. Voices sounded true to life, and we didn't experience any dropped calls during our review period. Friends also had positive things to say and didn't note any disruptions or voice distortion.
Samsung Conquer 4G call quality sample Listen now:
Speakerphone quality wasn't quite as pristine. Though we had no problem understanding our callers, the audio was a bit hollow and cut out occasionally. There was also barely enough volume to hear callers in a noisier environment. We paired the phone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones to make calls and listen to music.
Sprint's 4G network provided mostly reliable coverage here in Manhattan, though we had trouble connecting in the Midtown area. We also wish there was an easier way to connect to the 4G network on the Conquer. Though you can add a 4G scan widget to the phone's home screen, it didn't always work for us, and oftentimes, we had to go to the Settings menu to connect. It's a small inconvenience but annoying nonetheless.
We used Ookla's Speedtest.net app to measure data speeds throughout the day, and we got average download speeds of 5.27Mbps and upload speeds of 0.59Mbps. With such speeds, CNET's full site loaded in 27 seconds, while the mobile sites for CNN and ESPN came up in 5 seconds and 7 seconds, respectively. YouTube videos loaded within several seconds and played back without interruption.
Powering the device is a second-generation 1GHz Snapdragon processor, which is pretty awesome for the price. What's more, the phone felt very responsive during testing. Most apps launched immediately, and if there were delays, they were minimal.
The Conquer 4G ships with a 1,500mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 6 hours. In our battery drain tests, the smartphone fell just short of the rated talk time, providing 5.25 hours of continuous talk time over 3G. However, with 4G turned on, we usually had to charge the battery by afternoon. According to FCC radiation tests, the Conquer 4G has a digital SAR rating of 0.42W/kg and a Hearing Aid Compatibility Rating of M4/T4.
Oftentimes, when you go the budget-friendly route, you have to sacrifice a number of features, and there is some of that with the Samsung Conquer 4G. You're not getting the most advanced display, processor, or camera, and to some that might be a deal killer, which is understandable; luckily, Sprint offers some great high-end devices in the HTC Evo 3D or Motorola Photon 4G. However, we think the Conquer 4G stands out for what you do get, which includes 4G capabilities, solid performance, and a nice design. It's a great value buy.