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Samsung Intensity II review: Samsung Intensity II

As with the Intensity, social communication is the handset's main goal. To that end, there's threaded text and MSM messaging, and instant messaging for the AIM, Windows Live, and Yahoo protocols. The Intensity II also offers a mobile e-mail in-box that supports AOL and AIM mail, Gmail, Windows Live Hotmail, Yahoo, and other Web mail accounts. The latter will create a browser shortcut for your in-box. Although we're glad to see this feature, e-mail loaded a bit slowly in our tests and also took some time alerting us to new messages. Also, keep in mind that the e-mail app costs $5 to download if you don't have mobile e-mail already integrated into your data plan.

In addition to a 1.3 megapixel camera, there's a vanity mirror and a beam of infrared light that shoots out for night mode.

In addition to e-mail, instant messaging, and text, the Intensity II also tunes into social networking frequencies. The Social Beat app (powered by iSkoot,) keeps you on top of your Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace streams. It can also tap into your Gmail account and Google Talk IM, and can display snippets of RSS feeds. The app has the power to upload photos in addition to text.

For tunes there's a basic music player that supports songs in MP3, AAC, AAC+, and WMA formats. The usual controls are there, plus the capability to create and edit playlists on the fly, and repeat and shuffle songs. Although the player is relatively simple, it has some settings that spice things up with four visual "skins" you see during playback: simple view, album art, a visualizer, and lyrics (when available.) Other settings include a backlight and a music-only setting that shuts down the phone's cellular signal for airplane mode.

Like the original Intensity, there's support for Verizon's V Cast Music with Rhapsody service, and also like the original, you won't be able to download songs directly to your phone. The Intensity II has no speedy EV-DO connection, which is the likely culprit here. Instead, you'll need to download songs to your PC and transfer the batch to the phone--it's a slowdown for sure, but the method is functional. Those with a Rhapsody subscription can also sync tracks.

For capturing the moment, there's a 1.3 megapixel camera. We were hoping that Samsung would have upgraded its shooter from the Intensity days, but no luck. The Intensity II does, however, have night vision--but more on that later. The Intensity II takes pictures in six resolutions (1,280x960 pixels, 1,024x768 pixels, 640x480 pixels, 320x240 pixels, 160x120 pixels, 128x96 pixels), with five white balance presets, six color effects, and three quality settings.

The Samsung Intensity II, like the original Intensity, takes mediocre pictures.

The camera also contains night vision mode, a self-timer, and multishot mode. Other settings include metering (average, center, or spot), auto-naming, and three sounds each for the shutter and when the camera is ready, plus a silent mode for both. As with the original Intensity, the Intensity II produced mediocre photos. While fairly sharp, the color is slightly off, especially in indirect-lighting situations. Samsung calls it "unique," but night vision mode just produced overexposed black-and-white images in our in-the-dark tests. 100MB of internal memory, combined with any expandable microSD card you purchase, would store quite a few snaps and songs.

It's possible to intensify the Intensity II with wallpaper, with additional ringtones and ringback tones, and with games that you can buy through Verizon's stores. Ringtones typically start at $2.99 for a single tone, $5.49 for a two-fer, and $9.99 for a four-pack through the VZW Tones hub. Games typically range from $1.99 per month to $3.99 per month, or $6.99 to $8.99 for lifetime use.

We tested the dual-band Samsung Intensity II (CDMA 850/1900; 1xRTT) in San Francisco using the Verizon Wireless network. Call quality was fine for the most part, though we did hit quite a few aural snags. While volume was good, voices often sounded muddled on our end, and words were difficult to make out when either party spoke too quickly.

Our callers' experience was largely the same. According to them, we sounded loud and mostly clear, but they couldn't always make out individual words or sounds. While speakerphone produced enough volume on our end, our callers unanimously reported fuzziness and said we sounded distant, as though we were speaking through cotton.

Audio playback on the phone's external speakers was passable, but tinny. You'll have better luck with stereo headphones, though keep in mind that you'll either need an adapter or headphones that fit a 2.5-millimeter jack.

The Samsung Intensity II has a rated battery life of 5 hours, with 12.5 days of standby time. We found that the Intensity II had a tested talk time of 5 hours and 2 minutes. FCC tests measured a digital SAR of 1.04 watts per kilogram.

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