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Samsung Galaxy Discover review: Low-cost Android humbled by poor performance

The Discover's weak call quality and short battery life don't help distract from noticing its slow processor and data speeds.

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Brian Bennett
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Brian Bennett

Senior writer

Brian Bennett is a senior writer for the home and outdoor section at CNET. He reviews a wide range of household and smart-home products. These include everything from cordless and robot vacuum cleaners to fire pits, grills and coffee makers. An NYC native, Brian now resides in bucolic Louisville, Kentucky where he rides longboards downhill in his free time.

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6 min read

Don't be fooled by the $129.99 Discover's Galaxy brand name; an elite Samsung smartphone this isn't. While it offers Cricket's excellent Muve digital music service for a low no-contract price, its many flaws, one being its 2-year old Android Ice Cream Sandwich OS, are tough to live with. Indeed, the Discover's main competition on Cricket, the $139.99 Kyocera Hydro matches the Discover spec for spec yet has better battery life and call quality. For just $10 more, that adds up to money much better spent.

Samsung Galaxy Discover
6.0

Samsung Galaxy Discover

The Good

The <b>Samsung Galaxy Discover</b> has Muve Music downloads, a removable battery, and an SD card slot.

The Bad

The Discover suffers from slow processor and data speeds, short battery life, and poor call quality.

The Bottom Line

The Samsung Galaxy Discover is an affordable prepaid Android choice, but weak call quality and short battery life make the Kyocera Hydro a better Cricket option.

Discover Android's abilities for less (pictures)

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Design
After I saw the Samsung Galaxy Discover in person it became instantly clear to me that this is no premium handset. The device's black and faux-silver chassis is conservative, almost drab and its plastic construction is miles away from the luxurious metal and high-grade polycarbonates you'll find in more expensive phones.

Samsung Galaxy Discover
The Discover's plastic chassis isn't textured premium polycarbonate. Sarah Tew/CNET

Still, measuring 4.59 inches tall by 2.42 inches wide and 0.47 inch thick, the Discover doesn't take up much space. Its dimensions and light 4.44-ounce weight are also practically identical to the Kycocera Hydro, Cricket's similarly-priced Android. Of course the Hydro's standout feature is its water resistance, a trait the Discover lacks.

At almost half an inch thick, this phone is certainly not thin. Sarah Tew/CNET

Above the Galaxy Discover's 3.5-inch screen is the phone's earpiece but no front-facing camera, a standard tool on almost all modern smartphones. Below the display are three capacitive buttons for basic Android controls (Menu, Home, and Back).

The left edge of the device sports a thin volume bar, while on the right side is its power key. The bottom lip of the Discover holds a Micro-USB port for charging and connecting to PCs. Up top is a 3.5mm headphone jack and a fingernail groove to remove the back cover. Underneath is the Discover's 1,500 mAh battery, which is removable, a dying breed. Another rare treat in phones these days is a microSD card slot to add additional storage. The Discover comes with 4GB of ROM but Cricket preloads a 4GB SD Card.

Samsung Galaxy Discover
A microSD card slot sits under the battery door. Sarah Tew/CNET

Also placed on back is a 3MP digital camera that is not only relatively low-resolution, it lacks a companion LED flash as well.

Display
The Samsung Galaxy Discover's small 3.5-inch HVGA (480x320 pixels) low-res LCD screen is underwhelming to say the least. Colors, while not oversaturated, don't have much punch. Also, the display's contrast is low with poor black levels, and image quality degrades sharply when viewing it from any angle other than straight-on.

I don't suggest you use the Discover to consume copious amounts of mobile media, either. The sheer minuteness of its pixel-challenged screen translates into cramped views of desktop Web sites, blocky photos, and video with soft details.

Core components
Sadly, you won't find a treasure trove of modern parts hidden under the hood of the Samsung Galaxy Discover. The phone runs a weak 800MHz single-core processor, not the quad- or even dual-core chips in many of today's mobile gadgets. Another bottleneck is the Discover's paltry 512MB of RAM, which is a quarter of the amount gracing premium handsets (2GB).

Samsung Galaxy Discover
The 3MP camera lacks a flash. Sarah Tew/CNET

That said, the Discover covers the minimum of wireless connectivity methods such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. There's no NFC hardware, though, so forget about physically tapping the phone for quick pairing or sharing contact info in a snap.

Software and interface
The Samsung Galaxy Discover's software is just as ho-hum as its unexciting hardware. Onboard is the aging Android Ice Cream Sandwich operating system, version 4.0.4. It's a far cry from the most recent Android iteration, Jelly Bean 4.3, and Android 4.4 KitKat is just around the corner.

Even so, the Discover's OS hasn't been tinkered with much and is mostly stock Android. The phone does have a sprinkling of bloatware, however, which is also unremovable. Examples include the Cricket Navigator for GPS directions, a trial version of the Uno game from Gameloft, and the Cricket Mobile Web app.

The handset supports Google's wide range of services, plus you always have the option to download additional apps from the Google Play mobile app storefront.

Samsung Galaxy Discover
Muve Music lets you download all the music you can want. Brian Bennett/CNET

Muve Music
One stellar feature of the Samsung Galaxy Discover is Cricket's Muve music service. Included in the cost of your wireless plan, Muve offers up a large selection of full albums, artists, and tracks you can download directly to the phone.

Even better, you can listen to everything without having an Internet connection since everything is stored locally. For a daily subway rider like myself (where cellular signals are virtually nonexistent) it's an excellent solution and sure beats the pants off of streaming-audio services.

Performance
Supplied with ancient mobile components, it came as no surprise to me that the Samsung Galaxy Discover is a slow performer. That said, I was taken aback at precisely how anemic this handset turned out to be.

The device failed to run the Quadrant benchmark outright and its Linpack multithread result of 18.3 MFLOPs is abysmally low. The Discover's single-thread Linpack score of 19.3 MFLOPs wasn't any better. By comparison, the muscular HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 notched 697 MFLOPs and 708.7MFLOPs, respectively. Even the watered-down HTC One Mini (257.5 MFLOPs) fared much better.

In everyday use I also experienced the Discover's sluggishness. Often there was a noticeable delay when the phone struggled to open apps, and menu screens took their sweet time appearing after I tapped the screen.

Camera
Equipped with a low-resolution 3-megapixel sensor and bare-bones camera app, there's not much special about the Galaxy Discover's camera, either. For instance, the phone doesn't have any of the helpful features, such as HDR and panorama mode, now working their way to advanced handset cameras. There's no flash, either, so snapping pictures under dark conditions isn't very practical.

Samsung Galaxy Discover
Shots indoors were dark and had soft detail. Brian Bennett/CNET

The device's imaging system is by no means nimble. Shot-to-shot time was consistently over a second, even in ideal lighting. That doesn't mean you can't rely on the Discover's camera in a pinch. While indoor photos were on the dark side and details not very sharp, colors had a pleasing amount of richness.

Samsung Galaxy Discover
Outside colors improved but detail was still blocky. Brian Bennett/CNET

Outside under the bright fall sun, colors had more impact, though details of brick buildings, faces, and foliage were blocky and pixelated.

Samsung Galaxy Discover
An HDR mode would have been handy here. Brian Bennett/CNET

Data speeds
I tested the Samsung Galaxy Discover on Cricket's CDMA network in New York. Since the device doesn't support 4G, data throughput was stuck in the 3G slow lane. Average downloads clocked in at just under 1Mbps. The same goes for average upload speeds, which were a hair over 1Mbps.

Samsung Galaxy Discover
The Discover is stuck in slow 3G data world. Brian Bennett/CNET

Call quality
Sadly the people I chatted with using the Galaxy Discover were not thrilled by the quality of our calls. They described my voice as sounding warbly and muffled which, though they could comprehend my words, made communication an enjoyable experience.

On my end I found that audio through the earpiece was too quiet, even with the handset's volume dialed up to the maximum. Callers also said sound degraded further when I engaged the speakerphone, making spoken words difficult to understand even when I placed the phone close to my face.

Samsung Galaxy Discover call quality sample Listen now:

Battery life
Samsung claims that the Galaxy Discover's 1,500 mAh battery provides up to 8.5 hours of talk time and 11 days of standby time. This boast didn't jibe with my tests, though; I managed to squeeze only 6 hours and 8 minutes of call time out of the handset.

That's much shorter than how the Kyocera Hydro fared (9.95 hours) too, the Discover's chief rival on Cricket. One positive is that the Discover's battery is removable, so you do have the option of swapping in a freshly charged power source if you have one handy.

Conclusion
On the surface the Samsung Galaxy Discover looks like a pretty good smartphone deal with no strings attached. Factor in its slow performance, fuzzy call quality, and short battery life though and the Discover loses its luster quickly. Sure it does offer all the power of Android, admittedly from an outdated version, at your fingertips for a low $129.99 unsubsidized price.

That said, for $10 more the Kyocera Hydro trumps the Discover in terms of both battery performance and call quality, making it the better buy. Of course if you're willing to splurge, the $249.99 Samsung Admire 2 has faster dual-core processing, a sharper 5MP camera, plus a bigger 4-inch screen.


Samsung Galaxy Discover
6.0

Samsung Galaxy Discover

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 7Performance 5
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