Samsung Messager III SCH-R750 - blue (MetroPCS) review: Samsung Messager III SCH-R750 - blue (MetroPCS)
Call them the decent messaging phones with the annoying name, the Samsung Messager series marches on at MetroPCS. The prepaid carrier already has presented us with the Messager and Messager II, and now it offers its third model, the Messager III.
Though you'd expect the Messager III to offer a solid update over its predecessors, the reality is a bit different. Its 1.3-megapixel camera is actually a downgrade from the 2.0-megapixel shooter on the Messager II, and it doesn't offer any features that we haven't seen before. Fortunately, its design is changed, but that's not enough to make it stand out. We also had some performance complaints, but it's not a bad device by any measure. And it's just $89 after a $30 mail-in rebate and without a contract.
We're glad that Samsung at least made an effort to alter the Messager III's design. It's not quite as blocky as the earlier handsets, though it lacks some of the sturdiness that we found on the Messager II. The result is a reasonably slick and easy-to-use device with a spacious keyboard. It's not flashy, but it works.
The Messager III measures 4.59 inches long by 2.11 inches wide by 0.57 inch thick and weighs 3.7 ounces. The black-and-blue color scheme is simple, yet pleasing, and the smooth lines give it a comfortable feel in the hand. As we mentioned, the Messager III doesn't feel quite as sturdy as the Messager II, but it should stand up to regular bumps and bruises.
The QVGA display measures 2.5 inches and supports 262,000 colors (320x240 pixels). The resolutions won't blow you away, of course, but most everything--from the graphics to photos to the user-friendly menus--shows up well. Also, though it lacks the touch screen we found on U.S. Cellular's Samsung Messager Touch, we don't mind at all, considering we weren't fans of that models' resistive display in the first place.
Below the display is the large navigation array, which consists of square toggle with a central OK button, two soft keys, a dedicated speakerphone control, a clear key and the Talk and End/power buttons. Fortunately, most of the controls are raised above the surface of the phone. The numeric keypad also is raised, though the individual buttons are smaller than we'd like. The backlit numbers on the keys are small as well, so people with visual impairments should test this phone before buying.
Slide the Messager III to the left to reveal the full physical keyboard. As phone keyboards go, it's not our favorite, but it's won't make our reject list as well. On the upside, the layout is wonderfully spacious and we appreciate the conveniently placed space bar and the blue allow keys. Four rows of keys mean that letters double up with numbers and symbols, but that's not uncommon on phones of this class.
On the downside, however, the keys are flush, which makes it difficult to text by feel. And even when you're typing, the buttons have a plastic feel. What's more, we'd like to see some shortcut keys that would let us access popular features without going through the menus.
The display automatically switches to a horizontal orientation when you open the phone. At that point, you also can take advantage of the two soft keys that rest just above the keyboard. Completing the exterior are a large volume rocker on the left spine and a 3.5mm headset jack and camera shutter on the right spine. The Micro-USB charger port is up top and the microSD card slot rests behind the battery cover.
The Messager III's phone book holds 1,000 contacts with room in each entry for multiple phone numbers and an e-mail address. As you'd expect, you can save contacts to groups and pair them with a photo and one of 18 polyphonic ringtones. The carrier's MetroBackup feature will store your contacts for safe keeping if you lose your phone.
Other essentials include an alarm clock, a calendar, a calculator, a stop watch, a unit and currency converter, a world clock, a memo pad, Bluetooth, speaker-independent voice commands, and a speakerphone. For communication, the Messager II has text and multimedia messaging and access to MetroPCS's mail@metro e-mail service. Just keep in mind that the latter feature is accessible only through the Web browser, which can be slow and rather tedious.
The handset also supports the carrier's MyMetro service for checking your account status and the @Metro online store for access to applications and games. The carrier has a decent assortment of titles, to be sure, but the Messager III is optimized more for messaging than playing games. If apps are your primary concern, we suggest moving on to one of the carrier's smartphones like the new LG Optimus M Android handsets. At the very least, you'll appreciate the larger display.
As we mentioned, we're not happy that Samsung cut megapixels when designing the Messager III's camera. No, a 1.3-megapixel camera isn't a huge difference from the Messager II's 2-megapixel shooter, but a feature list shouldn't shrink as a product line grows. We'd prefer that manufacturers always improve on a previous model, but if they can't do that--perhaps Samsung was trying to keep the price low--they should keep things the same. If not, what's the point of a sequel?
The camera takes photos in four resolutions and offers the usual set of editing options including quality modes, white balance, a night mode, a self-timer, mosaic and multishot modes, color tones, and shutter sounds. Photo quality is satisfactory with decent colors and little image noise. The Messager III does not record video.
Audiophiles can use the basic music player. It's short on features, but serviceable. Luckily, memory on the phone is generous with 100MB of shared internal space and a microSD slot that can accommodate cards up to 16GB.
We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900) Samsung Messager III in San Francisco using MetroPCS service. Call quality was mostly reliable, but it wasn't without its problems. On the upside, the volume was loud, and our friends' voices sounded natural. We also didn't have a problem getting a signal, though we detected a moderate amount of static on a few occasions. Also, the audio on our end cut out for a second or two during almost all of our test calls.
Interestingly, callers reported few problems on their end. They could tell that we were using a cell phone, but they didn't experience the static and audio issues that we encountered. Most of our friends said we sounded natural, but we don't agree completely. When we listened to the below audio sample, for instance, we thought we sounded a bit robotic. Granted, there could be other things going on here, but similar handsets haven't produced the same effect. Speakerphone calls were average--the audio gets distorted at the highest volumes--and Bluetooth headset calls were fine.
Samsung Messager III call quality sample Listen now:
Understand that we don't think the Messager III performs poorly--in fact. it does its job reasonably well--but there were a couple issues that detracted from our experience. Audio quality is subjective; the Messager II may perform exceptionally for you. We just think you should try it first.
The Messager III has a rated battery life of 5 hours talk time and 10.42 days standby time. It has a tested talk time of 5 hours and 12 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the Messager III has a digital SAR of 0.68 watt per kilogram.