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Samsung Intensity III (Verizon Wireless) review: Samsung Intensity III (Verizon Wireless)

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The Good The Samsung Intensity III has a durable design, reliable call quality, and a nifty "fake call" feature to help you escape awkward social situations.

The Bad The Intensity III has a few design flaws, isn't water-resistant, and gives poor photo quality.

The Bottom Line The low specs, flat keyboard, and unattractive look outweigh the Samsung Intensity III's rugged design and call simulator.

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6.0 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 6
  • Performance 6

The Samsung Intensity III is a simple feature phone from Verizon that is equipped with a sliding QWERTY keyboard. Though it's low-tech (it has a mere 2-megapixel camera and a 2.4-inch screen), it satisfies military specs to withstand extreme temperature changes, fog, humidity, dust, and solar radiation.

Unfortunately, it's not water-resistant, which is something people tend to look for in a rugged phone. And even though it'll only cost you $80 after a $50 mail-in rebate and a two-year contract (the price drops to $50 if you buy online), its unimpressive specs and design flaws set this handset back.

The Intensity III is 4.41 inches tall, 2.12 inches wide, and 0.57 inch thick, and weighs 4.06 ounces. It has a petite frame and lightweight plastic build that make it hard to believe it meets any military specs. Though it's easy to handle and fits comfortably in front and back pockets of jeans, it also feels and looks incredibly cheap, and is one of the more unattractive keyboard phones I've seen.

On the left side of the device is a volume rocker, and up top is a 3.5mm headphone jack. To the right is a button that activates a voice-dialing feature, powered by Nuance Communications. It also activates a "fake call" feature (more on that later). There's also a microSD card slot that's covered with an attached plastic door, and there's a shortcut camera key. At the very bottom is a Micro-USB port.

The display is 2.4 inches with a 240x320-pixel resolution. It can show up to 262,000 colors, and its color depth is 18-bit. Needless to say, with numbers like these, the image quality is below par. Photos appeared grainy and streaky, wallpaper and icons showed heavy aliasing, and colors captured on video weren't as vibrant as their real-life counterparts.

Above the display is a in-ear speaker and to the left are two soft keys that change function depending on what you're doing with your handset. These are activated when you slide the keyboard out and the screen switches to landscape mode. Below the screen are two sets of keys. The top portion consists of two more soft buttons, and send, speakerphone, center-select, clear, power/end, and navigational keys. The bottom portion is your standard alphanumeric keypad. If you press and hold the pound key, however, you can quickly put your phone on vibrate.

The Samsung Intensity III's physical keyboard. Josh Miller/CNET

The QWERTY keyboard underneath the device's display has four rows of keys that light up when in use. In addition to that, there are four navigational arrows. There are a few shortcut buttons too, including ones for bringing up your favorite contacts, texting, and searching your device.

The sliding mechanism of the keyboard is sturdy and snappy. But while the keys themselves are decently sized, they're relatively flush with the surface of the device, making it hard to feel around for them. My hands are already petite enough, and I ended up typing mostly with the tips of my fingers.

The back of the device hosts a 2-megapixel camera. Below it is a small reflective circle for vanity shots, and to the right are two small slits for a speaker. The back plate has a gray, texturized diamond pattern with industrial tablike designs running along its sides. This aesthetic and the strip of rubber that goes along the handset's edges were the only things that let me and other people know that, oh, yeah, this is a rugged device. Using a small indentation up top, you can pry the back plate off with your fingernails to reveal a 1,000mAh battery.

The Samsung Intensity III comes with the bare minimum amount of task management features. When you press the menu button at the bottom of the screen, you'll see nine animated icons for your contacts, messages, recent calls, browser, media center, e-mails, navigator, pictures, and settings.

After you select Settings & Tools, you can access the device's built-in voice command feature, its four calculators (including a normal one, one for figuring out tips, and one for conversions), its calendar, its alarm or world clocks, its stopwatch, and its notepad.

Under the media menu, you can play your stored music, download ringtones, and buy more apps and games. Two games, Midnight Pool 2 and Tetris, have been preloaded.

There's also Bluetooth, picture messaging, an Opera Web browser, VZ Navigator (a map and navigation feature that costs an extra $9.99 a month on top of your data plan), and a mobile e-mail client, where you can add your Microsoft Exchange, Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail, or AOL account.

In addition, there is the very useful fake-call feature that sounds exactly like what it is -- it simulates an incoming call. To activate it, press the voice command key on the right of the device four times. After a few seconds (or 3 minutes, depending on how long you set the wait time), the phone will light up and ring. You can set it up to make sounds after you take the call, and you can even customize a fake contact to display on the screen. This is perfect for awkward dates, uncomfortable parties, and just about any other situation when you need a quick excuse to jet.

All this is powered by a 480MHz processor. Due to the low specs, it takes a few seconds to open apps like the camera, click through menu icons, and transition to the home screen. Saving a photo or recording takes a noticeable beat and the shutter lags a few seconds after you click the physical button.

Camera and video
The handset's 2-megapixel camera features five shooting modes (including continuous and panoramic shooting), three resolution options, a brightness meter, five white balances, three exposure metering options, four color effects, a night shot, a timer, three photo qualities, and a grid feature on the viewfinder for all you rule-of-thirds enthusiasts.

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