When we first heard the rumors of a new Samsung Galaxy phone for Boost Mobile, we envisioned a handset very much like the Samsung Mesmerize for U.S. Cellular; in other words, the next clone in the black, ultraglossy Galaxy S line. To Samsung's credit, the Galaxy Prevail is its own phone, with a sophisticated--even elegant--design: a sloping screen, dark, metallic accents, and a soft-touch finish on the back and sides. The Prevail is Boost Mobile's second Android smartphone, and runs Android 2.2 Froyo.
The handset's more upscale fit and finish, however, belie the modest, even disappointing, specs, such as its 2-megapixel camera. On the other hand, the lower-end and midrange components make for a more affordable phone that's appropriate for Boost Mobile. The Galaxy Prevail costs $179.99 without contract; the $50 monthly plan includes unlimited voice, text, and data. The Prevail is also eligible for Boost's Shrinkage plan, which knocks down your monthly bill to as low as $35 after a total of 18 on-time payments (each set of six on-time payments lowers the bill by $5).
We'll go ahead and say it: the Samsung Galaxy Prevail looks like a million bucks. Its reflective black face is balanced by a soft-touch finish on the spines and back cover. In addition, the handset's face, sides, and back are bordered with dark gray, metallic-looking accents that give the phone polish. The screen curves downward at the top and bottom in a manner that invokes an "infinity pool," similar to the screen on the T-Mobile G2X and the LG Optimus 2X. The Prevail measures 4.4 inches tall by 2.26 inches wide by 0.47 inch thick, and weighs a light 3.8 ounces. We wouldn't recommend dropping it, though, as the face appears scratch-prone. Thanks to its glossy surface, the Prevail glides easily into pockets.
Despite its debonair, uptown appearance, the Prevails' hardware specs are notably midtown and downtown. It has a respectable 3.5-inch TFT display with an HVGA resolution (800x480 pixels). That's the minimum size for comfortable touch-screen navigation. The icons are sharp and the colors are appropriately bright. It's only when you compare the Prevail with other Galaxy phones like the Samsung Epic 4G with its knockout Super AMOLED screen that you see the stark difference. However, the Prevail's resolution is just fine for everyday use, and the screen feels very smooth under swiping fingertips.
Unlike most of its Galaxy brethren, the Prevail doesn't use Samsung's custom TouchWiz interface; instead it sticks with Android's original flavor. There are five home screens with the usual complement of widgets and icons, plus the three static buttons at the bottom of each screen that call forth the dial pad, the application tray, and the browser.
The app tray displays a vertically scrolling list of app icons on a black background. You can find more details on the Android 2.2 Froyo interface in our T-Mobile G2 review.
Beneath the display are four touch-sensitive buttons for the menu, home, back, and search. As with most Android handsets, search is powered by Google's default engine, but you can also extend your query to the Web and locally stored apps and contacts.
There is a camera shutter button on the right spine and a volume rocker and microSD card slot are on the left (the Prevail comes with a 2GB starter card, but can hold up to 32GB). The Micro-USB charging port is on the base, and on the top are the 3.5mm headset jack and the phone's power button. The 2-megapixel camera on the back has no flash, which leaves all lighting adjustments to the software.
If you're already familiar with the Android platform, there are few surprises in the Prevail's feature set. Android 2.2 Froyo is simple to use and brings with it the ability to view Flash content. Unfortunately, Boost Mobile has disabled Froyo's hot-spot feature, which usually costs an additional $20 to $30 on other carriers. Understandably, that helps Boost keep its all-inclusive monthly fees low.
Like every Android Froyo handset, the Galaxy Prevail has texting, support for social networking accounts (like Twitter and Facebook, for instance), and an integrated e-mail and message inbox with support for multiple POP, IMAP, and Exchange accounts. It also has Google Maps with turn-by-turn voice navigation, the Android Market storefront, the standard music player, YouTube, Google Places, and Google Talk for chatting, and you'll find a calendar, a calculator, and a clock.
In addition, the Prevail comes preloaded with a number of third-party apps: Hookt, Layar, Poynt, Scvngr, Task Manager, TeleNav GPS Navigator, ThinkFree Office, and Twidroyd. Boost Mobile also adds links to manage your Boost account. Our favorite addition is Swype, the app that swaps out the standard virtual keyboard for one that lets you use your finger to trace words on the keyboard rather than type letters one by one. However, you're always able to switch back to the standard keyboard whenever you'd like.
The Prevail's 2-megapixel camera and camcorder don't sound very impressive at first, when so many other budget phones bear a 3.2-megapixel shooter. However, the Prevail proves once again that the number of megapixels doesn't always translate into higher-quality stills and footage by delivering quite decent images. Pictures were relatively sharp and colors were bright even in indoor shots; this camera stood up to some boasting 3.2-megapixel lenses. Of course, adjusting white-balance presets, color effects, and other camera settings before you shoot can help brighten the images. There's only about 124MB of internal phone storage, but Boost ships the Prevail with a 2GB microSD card to get you started. The handset holds up to 32GB in external memory.
We tested the dual-band Samsung Galaxy Prevail (CDMA 800/1900; 1xEV-DO rev.A) in San Francisco on Boost Mobile's network. While call quality was acceptable, it wasn't stellar. Although voices sounded natural, they were muffled, with a quality we can only describe as "gauzy." In addition, a high-pitched background buzz kept time with our callers' voices, disappearing during pauses. We didn't hear any other background crackling or interference. On their end, callers said we sounded a bit unnatural, but with better-than-average vocal quality.
Speakerphone, on the other hand, frustrated our friends, who more than once asked us to repeat ourselves. They again said we sounded unnatural, and said certain syllables were muffled or distorted. On our side of the line, the speakerphone was mostly loud and clear even though it had a telltale quality that made our contacts sound distant.
Samsung Galaxy Prevail call quality sample Listen now:
We moved from task to task smoothly thanks to the Prevail's 800MHz processor, although speeds are noticeably faster on phones with 1GHz and dual-core processors, as they should be. Still, usability was just fine.
Data speeds were fairly fast on the Prevail. We were able to download CNET's mobile-optimized site in about 12.5 seconds, and the mobile version of NYTimes.com in about 13 seconds. Our graphics-heavy full site completed loading in about 1 minute, but was usable after the first 30 seconds. The same went for the New York Times site.
The Prevail has a rated battery life of 6.5 hours of talk time and 9 days of standby time with its 1500mAh lithium ion battery. Anecdotally, the battery lost power more quickly than we would have liked. Yet, our tested talk time measured close to 6 hours. According to FCC radiation tests, the Prevail has a digital SAR of 0.84 watts per kilogram.
The Samsung Galaxy Prevail is an unusually beautiful device considering its reasonable off-contract price. While the screen specs themselves are an acceptable HVGA resolution, it's the obsidian-smooth surface that makes the face so touchable. We found the 2-megapixel camera produced better images than we'd expect for its megapixel count. Call quality was one weak point in our tests, but we will say that we never lost a call or had to halt a conversation because we couldn't understand what we were hearing. We can't complain about 3G data speeds or overall performance either, all of which means the Prevail handily takes the top spot as Boost Mobile's best smartphone. It may not be as high-end as a dual-core, 4G phone, but it's a handset that's worthy of the Galaxy name, and one we wouldn't be ashamed to pocket.
Correction, Monday at 9 a.m. ET: This has been updated to correct the numbers on Boost Mobile's Android lineup and its Shrinkage payment plan.