Editors' note: Portions of this review were taken from the Alltel Samsung Delve review.
With a gallery of such handsets under its belt, Samsung has gone a little crazy with touch-screen phones this autumn. And now with the arrival of the Samsung Delve, aka the SCH-r800, at U.S. Cellular, Samsung has completed the carrier rounds. In both form and function, it's almost identical to the Alltel version of the phone except for a larger phone book and a few U.S. Cellular-specific features. Here again, the Delve is an eye-catching phone that complements the carrier's lineup. It performs relatively well as a midrange multimedia device, but the lack of Wi-Fi and full e-mail syncing will keep it out of the hands of hard-core business users. The U.S. Cellular Delve is $399 if you pay full price, but you can get it for $99.95 with a service contract and a mail-in rebate.
As we said in our earlier Delve review, the handset looks like a Samsung Instinct but with a few physical buttons added below the display. Both phones are exactly the same size (4.57 inches tall by 2.17 inches wide by 0.49 inch deep), though the Delve weighs slightly less (3.63 ounces). You'll also recognize the silver-and-black color scheme, the rounded corners, and the comfortable, sturdy feel in the hand.
The 3-inch display is smaller than the Instinct's. Though it should be big enough for most users, we felt it doesn't take full advantage of the Delve's real estate. Yet, it is bright and vibrant with support for 262,000 colors (240x400 pixels). You can change the brightness, the backlighting time, and the intensity of the vibrating feedback. The U.S. Cellular Delve also comes with a stylus, but there's no slot for storing it on the handset. In all respects the touch screen is fast and responsive. We didn't notice a lag when selecting commands or scrolling through a long list.
The menu system shows a variation of Samsung's nifty TouchWiz interface (see our Samsung Behold review for a full description of TouchWiz). You must drag widgets out of the sidebar to activate the relevant feature, but U.S. Cellular adds widgets for mobile versions of Facebook and MySpace, a Tone Room application for purchasing ringtones, and a help menu. You'll also find widgets for standard features such as the calendar, the music player, the Web browser, and the notepad. The intuitive main menu comes in an icon or list design while on the top of the home screen is a collapsible shortcut bar for your messaging in-box, the Web browser, the music player, and the Bluetooth menu. The U.S. Cellular Delve also offers the second shortcut bar at the bottom of the display with touch controls for the phone dialer, the contacts menu, the messaging menu, and the main menu.
With separate keyboards for letters, numbers, and symbols, the Delve's virtual keyboard is almost indistinguishable from those on other Samsung touch-screen handsets. The keyboards are responsive, but people with larger hands may find them a bit cramped. Yet, the Delve also offers a handwriting recognition tool in either a full- or half-screen mode. It works quite well, but we still preferred to use the QWERTY keyboard. Of course, you also can use a standard alphanumeric to type your messages, but we can't imagine a good reason for doing so. On the downside, however, this Delve doesn't have an accelerometer. Among other things, that means you can't switch keyboards simply by rotating the phone--bummer. Instead, you have to press an onscreen prompt.
The phone dialer interface has relatively large keys with a number of shortcuts. You can access your contacts, the groups list, and your favorites menu at the touch of one control. There also are shortcuts for adding contacts and sending a message. An onscreen back control will erase any mistakes when dialing.
Below the display are the Talk and End buttons and a Back key. On the top of the handset is a dedicated power control that doubles as a locking switch for the display. Next to it you'll find a 3.5mm headset jack. Again, we thank Samsung for giving us a standard jack. On the left spine there are a volume rocker and a combination headset jack/charger port. A camera shutter, voice-dialing button, and microSD-card slot sit on the right spine, while the camera lens and self-portrait mirror (there's no flash) are on the back side.
With room for 1,000 contacts, the U.S. Cellular Delve has double the phone book capacity of the Alltel phone. There's room in each entry for five phone numbers and an e-mail address. You can save callers to groups and you can pair them with a photo and one of 14 polyphonic ringtones. Alternatively, you also can use your own recordings as ringtones. Other essentials include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a calendar, a memo pad, an alarm clock, a world clock, a speakerphone, a calculator, a stopwatch, a currency and unit converter, and a tip calculator.
The U.S. Cellular version has some higher-end applications as well. It offers stereo Bluetooth, speaker-independent voice dialing and commands, PC syncing, and USB mass storage. Unfortunately, the Delve does not offer Wi-Fi, which is a necessary feature on a phone with a full HTML browser. Also, the only e-mail is Web-based POP3 access. Outlook syncing is not available.
The music player is identical to that on the other Delve. It has a straightforward interface that supports album art. Features aren't plentiful, but you get playlists, shuffle and repeat modes, and six equalizer settings. You can drop files onto the phone using a number of methods (a USB cable or a memory card), You can send the player to the background while using other functions and select an airplane mode for listening to your tunes while aloft.
The U.S. Cellular Delve's 2-megapixel camera is almost the same as on the Alltel model. It takes pictures in six resolutions, from 1,600x1,200 down to a special "picture ID" size. Other editing options include three quality settings, exposure metering, an adjustable ISO, a self-timer, an auto-focus, brightness and white balance, five color effects, and three shutter sounds (plus a silent option). You also can use multishot, mosaic, and night shooting modes, and choose from 24 photo frames. As previously mentioned, the Delve doesn't have a flash. Photo quality was quite good, with bright colors and little image noise.
The camcorder function shoots clips with sound in two resolutions (320x240 and 176x144). Camcorder options are fewer than on the still camera, but it's a decent assortment. Clips meant for multimedia messages are capped about 15 seconds, and you're limited to a 176x144 resolution, but you can shoot for almost 10 minutes in the standard mode. Integrated memory is 150MB of shared space, but the microSD-card slot will accommodate cards up to 8GB.
You can personalize the Delve with a variety of wallpaper and alert tones, and you can compose your own greeting. You can download more options and more ringtones from U.S. Cellular's EasyEdge Web service using the full HTML browser. The Delve doesn't come with any games.
We tested the dual-band Samsung Delve (CDMA 800/1900) in San Francisco using U.S. Cellular's roaming service. Call quality was comparable to the Alltel phone, which is to say it was quite satisfying. Voices were natural and we got a strong, consistent signal without any static or interference. Here again, the volume could be higher but imagine that most people won't even notice.
On their end, callers had positive feedback. There was less background noise than on the Alltel phone, so we had little problem holding a conversation in a variety of environments. Callers could tell we were using a cell phone, but that's not unusual. Speakerphone calls were decent as were calls with a Bluetooth headset.
The U.S. Cellular Delve is a 3G EV-DO device, but we were unable to access the high-speed network in roaming areas. Over the 1xRTT connection, however, the browser was relatively responsive. The browser interface is similar to that on the Behold; it performs about the same as well. Music over the external speaker is just OK, so we recommend using a headset.
The Delve has a rated battery life of 4.7 hours talk time and 14.5 days standby time. We had a tested talk time of 4 hours and 21 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the Delve has a digital SAR rating of 1.04 watts per kilogram.