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

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MSRP: $129.99

The Good The Samsung Galaxy Discover 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.

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6.0 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 7
  • Performance 5

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.

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.

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.