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

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I tested the tri-band (800, 1900, 1700) Samsung Freeform 4 in San Francisco on U.S. Cellular's network. Both signal and call quality were impressive. No calls dropped, audio didn't cut in and out, and there was no extraneous buzzing or static. Voices sounded excellent and clear, even on low volume. Speaker audio was also solid, though at times my friends sounded tinny. I was told that I sounded crisp as well, and one of my friends couldn't even tell the difference in my voice when I was speaking through the in-ear and speaker mics.

Samsung Freeform 4 call quality sample

Listen now:

Photo quality was understandably poor, given the low specs. Images were blurry, edges weren't well-defined, and colors were not as bright or vivid as they were in real life. Due to the lack of focus, lighting was all over the place: dark hues were difficult to differentiate, and bright lights were completely washed out at times. Though the feedback lagged slightly behind my moving of the camera, it wasn't that bothersome. Video recording yielded similar results. Moving objects were extremely pixelated and colors were muted.

In this sunny outdoor shot, the white light reflecting off the ground has been washed out. Lynn La/CNET
In this brightly lit indoor shot, the dark hues in the couch blend together. Lynn La/CNET
In our standard studio shot, colors aren't as vivid. Josh Miller/CNET

The Web browser on this handset was tedious and slow. It was cumbersome to click through so many menu items just to navigate through Web pages or type in URLs. Though sites loaded quickly (on average, mobile versions of CNET, The New York Times, and ESPN loaded in 16, 21, and 17 seconds, respectively), it's important to note that they weren't the regular versions you'd see on smartphones. A lot of coding is stripped away, so the sites are modified to show the bare-bones graphics and images.

The phone's reported talk time is 6.5 hours. During our battery drain tests for talk time, it lasted 6.43 hours. Anecdotally, battery life was strong. It doesn't do much, so it lasted a few days without a charge. Even after talking on the phone on the second day without a charge, the battery only lost about a third of its capacity. According to FCC radiation tests, the phone has a digital SAR rating of 0.97W/kg.

If you don't need a strong Web-browsing experience or a great cameraphone, the Samsung Freeform 4 is something to consider. Not only does it deliver great calls, but its four-row QWERTY keyboard makes it a cinch to type out messages (again, if you've got small paws). Its lightweight and compact build also means you can carry it around comfortably in your pocket or in your bag. And best of all, if you're willing to sign a two-year contract with U.S. Cellular, the handset will be yours for the very low price of zero dollars.

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