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Samsung DoubleTime (AT&T) review: Samsung DoubleTime (AT&T)

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A Froyo handset, the DoubleTime contains all the standard Android features, starting with Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth, support for a multitude of e-mail accounts, and text and multimedia messaging. There's contact-importing with rich contact records and group calling. Google services abound, like Gmail, Maps, free navigation with turn-by-turn directions, Google Books, Latitude for location, Google Places, Google Talk, Voice Search, and YouTube. There's also the usual music player, which covers the basics of shuffling and creating playlists.

No smartphone overlooks the basics: a calendar, a calculator, a clock, a memo pad, and a task manager. AT&T adds its own apps, too, including AT&T Code Scanner, AT&T Navigator (which will cost about $10 per month), and U-Verse (known here as Live TV), which is another $10 monthly subscription for downloading and streaming TV content. Yellow Pages Mobile and Facebook are also preinstalled.

Camera colors were a bit dull, even in even lighting.

The camera is one of a phone's most sought-after features. If you fall in this camp, keep seeking! The 3.2-megapixel camera tended to wash out all but the brightest colors, creating images that lack a certain richness and clarity. There's no flash, but there is auto-focus. The camcorder was serviceable, but nothing special. It wasn't as smooth as I would have liked, and I did notice some artifacts.

The camera did better picking out bright, screaming color.

To worsen matters, the camera/camcorder app itself is on the more simplistic side, with far fewer color and white balance effects than you'd usually see. The various modes to improve images for scenes like landscape, evening, and backlit situations are helpful, though the fact that the camera app remains in landscape mode is not.

Here's how it handled portraits.

This busy indoor shot of copy editor Jeff Sparkman's desk decor has us seeing double.

I tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; UMTS 850/1900/2100) Samsung DoubleTime on AT&T's network in San Francisco. Call quality was good. I thought voices could have sounded a little richer and a smidge louder. While there was thankfully no background interruption, white noise, or other distortion during my tests, voices themselves had fuzzy, frayed edges. On their end, callers liked the volume, but didn't think I sounded quite natural. They said I sounded a little scratchy and hollow. The line remained clear, however, and while the overall experience lacked a bit of oomph on both sides, quality ranks as average.

Samsung DoubleTime call quality sample Listen now:

I tested speakerphone by holding the phone at waist level. Voices came out loud to my ears, but not entirely clear. The line remained clear of white noise and distortion, but the buzziness I heard through the standard speaker was much more pronounced. The voice on the other end of the line said I sounded good, if not a little hollow and echoey, but said it was more than acceptable.

As far as speeds go, the DoubleTime felt a little slow with its 600MHz processor. Apps loaded a beat later than I'm accustomed to with today's faster phones, and there was noticeable shutter lag on the camera. Data speeds were better. CNET's mobile site loaded in about 16 seconds, while the full CNET site took 30 seconds to load. The New York Times mobile site loaded in 14 seconds; the full site finished in 29. Using the app from Ookla, the diagnostic speeds ranged from a low of 0.53 to 1.17Mbps down, and from 0.09 to 0.14Mbps up.

The DoubleTime has a rated battery life of up to 6 hours of talk time and up to 10 days of standby time on its 1200 mAh battery. FCC radio frequence tests measured a digital SAR of 0.54 watt per kilogram.

Samsung and AT&T took the plunge on the DoubleTime's more singular looks, a chancier move since the bulkier, shorter, and pinker form constricts its mass appeal. If, like me, you take a shine to the handset's appearance, dual-screen design, and call-quality bonus, you might (like me) ask yourself if the second screen significantly adds to the experience. It may add little other than bulk to make the keyboard a clamshell design rather than a slider, but to me, it doesn't detract. However, the Froyo OS, duller camera, and slower processor might keep you from committing. The $50 cost is reasonable, but AT&T has other low-cost smartphones for those who aren't set on a keyboard.

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