Samsung Galaxy Appeal (AT&T) review: Samsung Galaxy Appeal (AT&T)

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MSRP: $149.99

The Good The Samsung Galaxy Appeal has Android 2.3 Gingerbread's smartphone features and a comfortable backing. It won't bust a bank account.

The Bad The Galaxy Appeal's small screen is hard to read, its lower-res camera lacks a flash, and I didn't love the keyboard. Its slower 3G data speeds may frustrate some.

The Bottom Line The Samsung Galaxy Appeal delivers basic Android 2.3 functionality with a slide-out keyboard and wallet-friendly price, but there are performance and design trade-offs.

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7.0 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7

One of the best things I can say about AT&T's new Samsung Galaxy Appeal is that it's another Android smartphone prepaid option for a carrier that has a limited roster in this area. It's a solidly middle-of-the-road 3G handset, with Android 2.3 as its operating system, a slide-out QWERTY keyboard that didn't play nice with my fingers, and a basic 3.2-megapixel camera.

The off-contract price is a reasonable $150 for the smartphone package, which is a more affordable choice for penny-counters who prefer flexibility over contract commitments (compare with often $300 for higher-end prepaid Android devices). The Galaxy Appeal goes on sale June 5 for Wal-Mart, July 15 through AT&T retail channels, and July 29 in AT&T stores.

I'm searching for ways to describe the Galaxy Appeal, and "generic" is the word that repeatedly comes to mind. This is not meant as insulting -- there's comfort in familiarity, and there are only so many designs you can create for a budget-minded device with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. What you get is a rounded-corner design with muted silver sides and a matte gray backing.

The phone measures 4.4 inches tall by 2.3 inches wide by 0.56 inch thick. That seems chunky compared with lithe candybar designs, but that's typical for a handset with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. The extra hardware also contributes to the 4.3-ounce weight. As a result, the phone feels solid and even a bit heavy for its size, but not burdensome.

Samsung Galaxy Appeal
The Samsung Galaxy Appeal has a smaller 3.2-inch screen. Josh Miller/CNET

Samsung gave the Galaxy Appeal a 3.2-inch touch display, with a 320x480-pixel resolution (HVGA). The screen really is quite small by today's standards. I don't fault handsets that don't have mammoth screens, but less than 3.5 inches really is too small to read without strain, and at this size, typing on the virtual keyboard gets less accurate.

There is the Swype virtual keyboard option in addition to the Android and Samsung keyboards, and the physical keyboard will alleviate the crowded typing since you'll presumably use the keyboard for longer-form composition, but the helpful virtual keyboard should still be large enough to be usable when you don't feel like flipping the phone to access the real deal.

Text, images, and photos look fine on the display, but when you peer closely, you'll find that lettering isn't absolutely crisp and clean. The slide-out keyboard mechanism feels sturdy and secure, snapping open and closed and open again. The four-row keyboard manages to fit in buttons that are fairly wide; some include shortcuts to emoticons, symbols, voice search, and even the www and .com URL prefix and suffix buttons. You'll also find directional arrow keys for navigating around while in landscape mode.

Samsung can make a great keyboard, and is known for tactile, responsive keys with a nice rubbery feel. Those on the Galaxy Appeal rise slightly above the surface and they do snap back. For me, though, the two didn't come together in a seamless typing duo. I found my fingers tiring after composing e-mails, and they got stuck, often on some dead zone between the active part of the keys. Not everyone will run into the same issues I had, but I was disappointed in my halting typing efforts.

Samsung Galaxy Appeal
A closer look at the QWERTY keyboard. Josh Miller/CNET

Moving on the the rest of the handset, you'll find the Galaxy Appeal's power button on the right spine, the volume rocker on the left, and a 3.5mm headset jack up top. The Micro-USB charging port is on the bottom. On the back, inlaid in that textured and slightly rubbery back cover, is the 3.2-megapixel camera lens. As with many designs, you'll have to remove the back cover to insert a microSD card. The Galaxy Appeal will take up to 32GB in expandable storage.

The Android 2.3 Gingerbread OS captains the Galaxy Appeal, which is also flavored with Samsung's TouchWiz interface. That means you can pinch to see an overview of the home screens and the application screens for easily choosing among multiple pages. Pull down the notifications area and you'll be able to adjust several system settings with a touch.

Samsung Galaxy Appeal
I do like the textured back cover. Josh Miller/CNET

A 3G data handset, the Appeal has Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth support, plus hot-spot and tethering capability, and Wi-Fi Direct. Social-networking and Google services tie into the Galaxy Appeal as they do with other Android phones, so you get an opportunity to integrate Facebook, Twitter, and Linked In, plus Microsoft Exchange and Google accounts. The odd inconsistencies you sometimes see with contacts and their photos not lining up plague all Android phones, and are something that most people just live with.

Due to Android's uniformity, the combination of apps from the carrier and manufacturer is often the largest variation you see, apart from the camera, which we'll get to next. Of course there are all of Google's services on here, like Gmail, Google Maps and Navigation with turn-by-turn directions, YouTube, Google Place, and the Play Store for more apps. There's the music player as well, and organizer essentials like a clock, a calculator, and a calendar. A voice recorder is also onboard.

Next come some Samsung apps, like AllShare for DLNA sharing, and Kies Air for Wi-Fi content sharing. Social Hub is also Samsung's. Then there are AT&T's branded apps, like AT&T Navigator, social networking, U-Verse mobile TV, and an online music store. Between the two companies, the Galaxy Appeal also has Yellow Pages, Vlingo for voice commands (to complement Android's built-in voice actions), a memo pad, and Quickoffice for productivity.

Samsung Galaxy Appeal
This photo isn't bad considering the lack of flash and autofocus, but notice the brownish tint. Josh Miller/CNET