The Verizon Wireless Blitz kicked off the trend of square messaging phones, and it was quickly followed by the LG Lotus from Sprint. Now it appears U.S. Cellular will have one of its own as well, in the form of the Samsung Gloss. The Gloss is one of the smallest messaging phones we've ever seen, which makes it ideal for carrying around in your pocket or purse. The Gloss doesn't have much in the way of features, but for $29.95 after a mail-in rebate and a two-year service agreement, the Gloss is perfect for anyone who wants a super compact phone made for texting.
The Samsung Gloss is not as glamorous as its name implies. It's not very shiny or sleek, and it's more cute than stunning. Measuring 2.55 inches wide by 2.94 inches long by 0.82 inch thick, the Gloss is adorably square and looks a lot like a woman's compact. The only thing that's even remotely glossy is its plastic exterior. The Gloss has rounded corners all around, and its gentle curves cradle nicely in the hand. It has a sturdy hinge as well.
On the front of the Gloss is a camera lens, and below that is a 1.1-inch color external display. It shows the basic date, time, signal strength, and battery life information as well as status icons for Bluetooth, connection speed, and new message indicators. When the music player is activated, you can view the list of songs as well as the track information of the currently playing song. In camera mode, you can use it as a self-portrait viewfinder. You can adjust the wallpaper, the clock format, and the contrast of the front display.
Flip open the phone and you'll find a bright and colorful 2.2-inch display with support for 262,000 colors. You can adjust the menu style, the clock format, the dialing font size, and the backlight time. Underneath the display are the navigation keys, which consist of two soft keys, a square four-way toggle and middle Menu/OK key, a speakerphone key, a Back key, and the Send and End/Power keys. The Send key also acts as the voice command key when held down. The up, left, and down buttons on the toggle double as three user-defined shortcuts, while the right one leads to U.S. Cellular's EasyEdge online portal.
Right under the navigation array is the full QWERTY keyboard. It has the typical Function, Shift, and Symbol keys, a big space bar key in the middle, plus a dedicated calendar key, and a dedicated text messaging key. The keyboard is quite spacious, and though the keys are small, they're raised above the surface, which makes thumb typing easy.
The microSD card slot and volume rocker are on the left spine, while the charger jack, headset jack, and camera button are on the right. An external speaker is on the back.
The Samsung Gloss has a 500-entry address book with room in each entry for five numbers and an e-mail address. You can then organize them into groups, pair them with a photo for caller ID, or with one of 22 ringtones and sound alerts. Other basics include a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, text and multimedia messaging, a calculator, a calendar, an alarm clock, a memo pad, world clock, a stopwatch, a unit converter, and a tip calculator. More advanced users will appreciate voice dialing, stereo Bluetooth, USB mass storage mode, and A-GPS.
The Samsung Gloss also has access to the EasyEdge service, which comes with a wireless Web browser, the EasyEdge online store, plus mobile e-mail. The mobile e-mail is compatible with Gmail, Hotmail, AOL Mail, Yahoo Mail, AIM Mail, and any other provider that has IMAP or POP access. You also have access to Your Navigator, with voice turn by turn directions, and City ID, which is an enhanced caller ID that displays the city and state of incoming calls.
The Gloss comes with a pretty rudimentary music player. You have to add songs via a microSD card to access the music player. You can set the songs on repeat or shuffle and create and edit playlists. The Gloss supports up to 16GB of external storage.
The 1.3-megapixel camera on the Gloss is quite basic as well. it can take pictures in four resolutions (1,280x960, 640x480; 320x240; and 176x144), three quality settings, five white balance presets, five color effects, and four shot modes (single shot, series shot, divided shot, or frame shot). Other camera settings include a self-timer, and the choice of three shutter sounds plus a silent option. Photo quality was quite awful. Images looked blurry, and colors seemed washed out.
You can personalize the phone with graphics and sounds by downloading more via U.S. Cellular's EasyEdge store.
We tested the Samsung Gloss (CDMA 800/1900; 1xRTT) with U.S. Cellular, which has a roaming agreement with Verizon Wireless in San Francisco. Call quality was good overall--we heard our callers just fine and vice versa. However, they said our volume wasn't as loud as they would like, and they still heard quite a bit of environmental or background noise. On our end, we didn't get a lot of static, but we did think their voices sounded less than natural, with a slight robotic quality.
Speakerphone calls did not fare much better. Since the external speaker is on the back of the phone, calls sounded a tad muted until we flipped it around. Even then, the speakers sounded tinny and hollow, without a lot of bass. Callers said that they heard more echo in speakerphone mode, though they said we still came through loud and clear. Because the Gloss doesn't have much of a speaker, we would recommend using a headset when listening to music.
The Samsung Gloss has a rated battery life of 3 hours talk time and 10.4 days standby time. We received a talk time of 5 hours and 39 minutes in our tests. According to the FCC radiation tests, the digital SAR is 1.21 watts per kilogram.