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

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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.

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