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Samsung Craft SCH-r900 - black (MetroPCS) review: Samsung Craft SCH-r900 - black (MetroPCS)

Samsung Craft SCH-r900 - black (MetroPCS)

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Jessica Dolcourt
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Jessica Dolcourt

Editorial Director / CNET Franchises, How-To, Performance Optimization

Jessica Dolcourt leads CNET Franchises, How-To, and Performance. With over 15 years in journalism, her experience includes mobile phone and software reporting and reviews, and delivering advice on expansive topics ranging from personal finance to travel and home. Jessica got her start at Download.com and holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).

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8 min read

Samsung Craft SCH-r900 - blue (MetroPCS)
7.0

Samsung Craft SCH-r900 - black (MetroPCS)

The Good

The Samsung Craft is the 4G-enabled phone for MetroPCS. It has a bright, crisp AMOLED display and it supports 32GB expandable memory and HD video playback.

The Bad

The Samsung Craft's processing speeds were slow, and 3G support is limited.

The Bottom Line

The Samsung Craft is one of MetroPCS' most advanced feature phones, and its 4G capabilities are an added draw for those in the carrier's LTE markets. <!--not.mp-->

MetroPCS surprised us in late September when it boldly launched the United States' first commercial LTE handset and LTE 4G network in Las Vegas and Dallas. Though the Samsung Craft has quite a few sophisticated features, it's no smartphone. It turns on Samsung's standard OS with TouchWiz, for one, and doesn't do push e-mail, or calendar syncing. However, the WVGA touch-screen display, the HD video playback support, and the widgets on the TouchWiz interface make it one of the highest-end phones you can get on MetroPCS, smartphone or no.

Although the Craft can claim bragging rights as a first-to-market LTE phone, keep in mind that you'll only get 4G speeds within the carrier's LTE markets. If your area hasn't been covered, you'll be stuck with 2.5G speeds until MetroPCS expands (MetroPCS offers only limited 3G in Dallas and Detroit). Since San Francisco isn't in a 4G coverage area for MetroPCS, we tested the Craft on the standard network. We'll update our review as soon as we get a chance to test the Craft with 4G network speed.

The Craft sells for $299 including a $50 instant rebate without a contract. Service costs $55 a month for unlimited talk, text, and data use. An additional $5 per month also gets you 18 channels of streaming video.

Design
The Samsung Craft is a typical candy bar handset with rounded corners and a black, ultraglossy plastic that adds sheen as much as finger smudges. At 4.48 inches tall by 2.21 inches wide by 0.6 inch thick, the 5.29-ounce Craft is substantial in the hand. Some of that thickness is due to the Craft's slide-out QWERTY keyboard, but the hard shell lends it solidity and durability.


The Samsung Craft's 3.3-inch AMOLED touch-screen display is a winner.

Most of the Craft's phone face is taken up by the screen, with the addition of Talk, End, and Back buttons below. On the right spine is a dedicated camera button, a Micro-USB port, and a lock button. On the left spine you'll find the volume rocker, the voice command button, and a microSD slot that accommodates cards up to 32GB. On top is a 3.5-millimeter headset jack, and on the back is the 3.2 megapixel camera-plus-camcorder with a Flash and small vanity mirror; the mirror is a nice touch. The Craft comes with a 2GB memory card that's been preloaded with an MPEG-4 of the 2009 movie "Star Trek."

Slide away the phone's front face to reveal a spacious QWERTY keyboard. While the keys are wide and fully separated, they're also rather flat. We would prefer slightly domed keys for easier pressing, though we wouldn't call the Craft's keyboard stiff. Multifunctional keyboard buttons include shortcuts for launching a text message, and vibrate mode.

Though it isn't quite the knockout of the Samsung Epic 4G's Super AMOLED display, the Craft's 3.3-inch AMOLED touch screen packs plenty of punch. Its crisp, bright 480x800-pixel WVGA resolution supports 262,144 colors and is worthy of high-end smartphones. It's a distinct step up for the MetroPCS lineup. The Craft features Samsung's TouchWiz interface and includes both widgets and haptic feedback, which again gives the feature phone a smartphone look and feel.

Interface
Similar to other TouchWiz phones, the Samsung Craft has multiple home screens; in this case you can swipe among three. Familiar touch-friendly icons make it easy to navigate around the dialer, address book, text messages, and Menu. There's no live (animated) wallpaper on the Craft, but you can switch among stock wallpaper and your own photos.

In addition to accessing apps and tools from the two-screen menu, you're able to drop widgets on any home screen. These are shortcuts to most of your apps, including Google Search, the music player, and the Wi-Fi manager. Drop-down trays on the top and side of each home screen feature widgets and shortcuts to common services. Drag and drop from the tray to the screen to add them and drag them back into the tray to remove them. A shortcuts tray at the top of the home screens provides instant access to the music player, browser, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth manager.

We weren't always happy with the Craft's sluggish processing speeds, but we did appreciate the intuitive, attractive interface of most of the native screens and tools, like the address book and the visually interesting Bluetooth menu.

Features
As mentioned, the Samsung Craft is a CDMA phone that also supports Metro PCS' LTE 4G network. Las Vegas was the first, followed by the Dallas-Fort Worth area, but more will come. As we mentioned above, we weren't initially able to test 4G speeds at the time of this review, but we will as soon as we can.


A QWERTY keyboard makes the Craft an ally in e-mail, IM, and text. Too bad the e-mailing app is a bit cramped for touch navigation.

The address book stores information for 2,000 contacts and there's room in each entry for five phone numbers, two e-mail addresses, and a note. You can assign a personalized ringtone, a photo ID, and a group number. From the contact record, you can also launch a phone call or a new multimedia message. There are 21 polyphonic ringtones in total, plus a silent mode.

Basic phone features include a calendar, a memo pad, an alarm clock, a world clock, a stop watch, a timer, a calculator, a tip calculator, and a converter. There's also support for voice commands, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi. GPS is on board and is especially helpful in the MetroNavigator app that's free to download and comes included in the $50 monthly plan.

On the social side, you can sign into AIM, Windows Live Messenger, and Yahoo Messenger chat apps, as well as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter.

As for e-mail, the downloadable mail@metro service presides over your Web mail, like Gmail, Yahoo, Windows Live Hotmail, and AOL, using a free app you'll have to download first. As with many other mobile phones, the more inboxes you activate, the more cluttered the experience. Two inboxes seemed just right. We found the e-mail interface basic but serviceable, with rather small menu icons, even for those with small hands. While the Craft's e-mail app does pull up a handful of recently used contacts, there's unfortunately no option to sync the mail client with your online address book. Instead you'll need to manually enter a recipient when composing a new message.

Other apps include a primitive-looking mobile banking app, a YouTube shortcut, the Loopt social networking and location app, and Handmark's Pocket Express app directory that includes shortcuts to weather, news, movies, and so on. There is also a slew of MetroPCS-branded applications and services, like the Metro411 people-finder directory, the MetroStudio music store, MetroBackup, and of course, the MetroWeb browser.

There's a widgets manager in the menu as well, which lets you configure which widgets show up in the slide-out trays on the three home screens.

We're glad that MetroPCS has handed the Craft a full HTML browser befitting a higher-end feature phone, rather than an underpowered WAP browser (in fact, it's a MetroPCS-branded variation of the Polaris browser). While you can do quite a bit with it--open multiple tabs, manage favorites, and search words in a page--there is only tap-to-zoom, not pinch-to-zoom. While we're sure that browsing is a snappier experience in 4G zones, attempting to surf the Web with EVDO's 2.5G speeds feels plodding and frustrating, even over Wi-Fi. For instance, it took almost 30 seconds to load CNET.com's optimized mobile site over 2.5G speeds, and about half the load time over Wi-Fi.

On the multimedia front, the Craft hosts a 3.2 megapixel camera-and-camcorder. The camera boasts flash, and auto focus or macro focus. There are six resolutions (2,048x1,536; 1,600x1,200; 1,280x960; 1,024x768; 640x480; 320x240), five shooting modes, three quality settings, five white balance settings, and five color effects. There's also a self-time with three countdown options, and ISO and exposure metering options, which you don't always see on feature phones.


Photos on the Samsung Craft are quite decent, though a little dull.

Other settings give you options for saving images to the phone memory or SD card, and four shutter sounds. Touch tools bordering the view display make it easy to adjust the settings and the photo gallery, and we appreciate being able to save, send, assign, and upload photos after they're taken. Photo quality was decent on the whole, with fairly sharp edges and good color that is a tad muted. You've got 165 MB of internal storage before you'll need an SD card.

The camcorder can record video in two preset modes--regular (640x480; 320x240 resolutions) and optimized for video messaging (176x144 resolution). The brightness, quality, self-timer, white balance, and effects settings are identical to those of the camera, but the video start and end sounds differ. You're able to preview, upload, save, and send recorded videos.

It may not record high-definition video, but the Craft can play it back. It supports video files in MPEG-4, H.263, and in H.264 high-definition formats. Playback controls include volume control, pause, skip ahead, and go back. You can also send your video content via Bluetooth or multimedia messaging. Videos played back smoothly in landscape and portrait modes, and the video paused to allow incoming e-mail and phone call alerts. Unfortunately, exiting and re-entering the video player forces you to restart the video, an inconvenience if you're trying to watch full-length features.

As far as music players go, this one is fairly decent, with similar tools to the video player--including volume control, and back, forward, and pause buttons. In addition, there are shuffle and repeat buttons, playlist support, album art thumbnails where available, and three skins. The player is attractive and easy to use with impressive sound quality for a mobile phone. No songs come preloaded, so you'll need to get your own either thorough the MetroStudio music store or by transferring them to the SD card.

Performance
We tested the CDMA (800/1900) Samsung Craft in San Francisco on the MetroPCS network. Since MetroPCS did not expand its 4G network here at the time of the review, our experience is based off 2.5G (1X EVDO) network speeds and Wi-Fi. We'll analyze 4G coverage when we can.

Voice quality was fine most of the time, with good volume. However, we did experience a loud, disruptive echo during several of our outside calls. While the feedback degraded the call quality for us, it didn't intrude on our listener's experience. Our callers commented that they could usually understand us, but they could tell we were on a mobile phone. If we spoke quickly, they noted that our words seemed to run together. We were less understandable outdoors, which is in keeping with the higher incident of ambient noise. There was no static, however, and volume was strong.

Callers reported that speakerphone quality sounded normal, which is impressive given that most of the time calls conducted this way are poor. On our end, the standard placement of the external speaker on the back of the phone contributed to an echoey, muffled aural experience.

As we mentioned above, the downloading and using some of the apps frustrating, especially the browser, was frustrating on a 2.5G network. The Craft also seemed to struggle with processing power. For example, we noticed a little lag time in transitioning between screens, and that the phone wasn't always very responsive to our button presses the first time. In some instances we needed to select our choice up to three times.

The Samsung Craft has a rated battery life of 6 hours talk time and 8.3 days of standby time. It has a rather disappointing tested talk time of 3 hours and 15 minutes. FCC tests measure a digital SAR of 1.06 watts per kilogram.

Samsung Craft SCH-r900 - blue (MetroPCS)
7.0

Samsung Craft SCH-r900 - black (MetroPCS)

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 6
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