Samsung Freeform 4 (U.S. Cellular) review: Samsung Freeform 4 (U.S. Cellular)

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MSRP: $159.99

The Good The Samsung Freeform 4 has great call quality, and a physical QWERTY keyboard for easy messaging.

The Bad The Freeform 4's camera is poor, the keys may be too cramped for some, and the data connection's slow.

The Bottom Line The Samsung Freeform 4 makes solid calls and is great if you're looking for a simple, entry-level handset with a keyboard.

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6.7 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 6
  • Performance 7

Lightweight and compact, the Samsung Freeform 4 isn't anything fancy. But its BlackBerry-esque QWERTY keyboard is great for fans of texting, especially those with petite hands.

However, because of its low specs, don't expect it to wow you in other areas. Its 2-megapixel camera understandably takes poor photos, and its data speeds are slow.

But if you're not on the lookout for a high-tech handset, this sleek feature phone might do the trick to let your messaging fingers fly. By itself, the device will set you back $160, but if you agree to a two-year contract with U.S. Cellular, it'll be free.

The Samsung Freeform 4 has simple rounded corners, tapered top and bottom edges, and a sleek dark strip of chrome framing the device. It measures 4.38 inches tall, 2.38 inches wide, and 0.42 inch thick. It is extremely light, weighing only 2.4 ounces. Due to its small frame, I was able to type out messages, albeit slowly, with just one hand using my thumb. You can easily throw it in a small purse or clutch, and it's compact enough to fit in a front or back pockets of jeans.

To the left are a volume rocker and a slot for a microSD card, which is covered by a small piece of plastic. Up top is a 3.5mm headphone jack, and on the right is a shortcut camera button. At the very bottom is a Micro-USB port.

The handset sports a 2.4-inch TFT display that has a 320x240-pixel resolution. Though it's bright and text rendered crisply, the screen has a narrow viewing angle and menu icons were ill-defined. Color gradients were streaky and the default wallpaper designs were grainy and pixelated.

Below the display are send, speakerphone, back, and end/power keys. There are also two soft keys that change functions depending on what you're doing, four directional keys, and a select key in the center. Below this entire set of buttons is a QWERTY keyboard.

The Freeform 4 has a small four-row QWERTY keyboard. Josh Miller/CNET

The QWERTY keyboard is not for large fingers. I have small hands, so typing was cramped but not painstaking or impossible. I also appreciated some of the built-in shortcuts: holding down the space bar puts the phone on vibrate, and there are two designated keys to open the calendar and e-mail applications. Each button is elevated with a bubbled texture.

The backing is made of a smooth plastic that's textured with a small diamond pattern. The black plate's glossy finish is slippery, and the phone almost slid out of my hands a couple of times. In the top center is a 2-megapixel camera and on the right of that are two small slits for the output speaker. To get to the 1,000mAh battery inside, you can remove the backing using a small indentation at the top.

The Samsung Freeform 4 is powered by a 480MHz Qualcomm processor. The phone holds up to 1,000 contacts, each of which can be associated with multiple phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and a note. Every contact can be differentiated with a photo ID and one of 29 ringtones. The device also employs calling groups, speed dials, and favorites.

Basic task managing apps include: a calculator, a calendar, an alarm clock, native music and video players, Bluetooth, voice command, a stop watch, a world clock, and a memo pad. There's also a Web browser and an app called Social Scene, which connects you to online news, as well as your Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, and Google Talk accounts. In addition, there's U.S. Cellular's app store for feature phones called easyedge, where you can download games, ringtones, and other apps like AccuWeather.

The Freeform 4 has a 2-megapixel camera on the back. Josh Miller/CNET

The 2-megapixel camera includes a few options like three different shots (single, series, or mosaic); four photo sizes (ranging from 1,600x1,200 pixels to 320x240 pixels); three qualities (superfine, fine, and normal); five white balances (auto, sunny, cloudy, tungsten, and fluorescent); a timer; and six color tones (normal, black-and-white, sepia, negative, green, and aqua).

Video options include the same white balance, timer, and color tone modules, but video quality is restricted to only normal and there are two video length options (30 seconds for MMS, and normal, which depends on how much memory you have). The device has 80MB of internal memory, and up to 32GB for external storage through the microSD card slot.

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