Editors' note: This review originally reported that the Convoy does not support Verizon's push-to-talk network. In fact, the phone does support the service. We apologize for the error.
Hot on the rugged heels of the Motorola Barrage comes an equally durable phone for Verizon Wireless called the Samsung Convoy. Similar in form and function to AT&T's Samsung Rugby, the Convoy is built to withstand the elements while offering 3G, a 2-megapixel camera, GPS, and a music player. We consider it an easy-to-use phone with admirable voice quality. It will cost you $99 with service and after a $50 mail-in rebate.
You'll know right away that the Convoy is meant to be a rugged phone. It has a tough plastic skin, rubber sidings, and a battery cover that locks firmly into place. It's not completely waterproof, but it is certified to the usual military specifications for humidity, dust, shock, temperature, and salt fog. Indeed, the Convoy has a solid, comfortable feel in the hand and the hinge is sturdy.
The postage stamp external display supports 65,000 colors (128x128 pixels). You can adjust the contrast only, but the screen shows the date, time, signal strength, and photo caller ID. It also works as a viewfinder for the camera lens and you can use it to access a selection of features like your calendar, Bluetooth, the music player, and voice commands. Below the display are three dedicated music controls, while below them is a large speaker. The camera lens sits above the display, and there is no flash.
The internal display measures 2.2 inches and supports 262,000 colors (220x176 pixels). It's not exactly eye-popping, but it's bright and vibrant with sharp colors and graphics. Outside of your usual Verizon complaints, the menu interface is easy to use. We like that you can choose from three menu styles and that you can adjust the position of icons and replace the standard menu choices with your favorite apps. Other editing options include the backlight time, clock format, dial font size, and menu font size and style.
The navigation array includes a large toggle with a central OK button, two soft keys, a camera shutter, a voice dial control, a clear button, and the talk and End/power keys. The buttons are flush, but their spacious design makes them easy to use. You also can set the toggle to offer shortcuts to four user-defined features. The keypad buttons are equally spacious. Though they're flat, we could dial and text quickly without making mistakes. The numbers on the keys are large as well and they have a bright backlighting.
On the right spine you'll find a microSD card slot, a speakerphone control, and a 2.5mm headset jack. It's disappointing that we don't get a 3.5mm jack on a music phone. On the left spine are a programmable shortcut button, a volume rocker, and the port for Samsung's proprietary charger. Samsung is making good strides toward the Micro-USB charger standard, but it didn't happen here. Also, since the rubber flaps covering the ports and memory card slots aren't completely secure, we suggest taking care that the Convoy doesn't get a full dunking.
The Convoy has a 1,000-contact phone book with room in each entry for five phone numbers, two e-mail addresses, a street address, and notes. You can organize callers into groups and pair them with a photo and one of 20 polyphonic ringtones. Other essentials include text and multimedia messaging, a calculator, a calendar, a speakerphone, an alarm clock, a stop watch, a world clock, and a notepad.
For more demanding users, the Convoy offers speaker-independent voice commands and dialing, USB mass storage, PC syncing, stereo Bluetooth, instant messaging and chat, and support for POP3 e-mail. Thanks to the integrated GPS, you also can connect with Verizon's VZ Navigator. On the whole that's a fairly strong feature set, and you can access Verizon's push-to-talk network for an extra $5 per month.