Samsung has taken to the messaging phone craze with fervor, releasing QWERTY phones such as the Samsung Propel, the Samsung Rant, and the Samsung Gravity all within just a few months. With the Rant and the Gravity, Samsung went with the side-slider design where the phone looks like a candy bar phone from the front, but actually has a QWERTY keyboard slider on the side. Now it has released a phone with the same design for MetroPCS, dubbed the Samsung Messager. They definitely don't win points with creativity with this one, but since MetroPCS doesn't have a lot of messaging phones, so we're willing to give that a pass. The Samsung Messager is available for $199, which isn't too bad since MetroPCS doesn't require a contract.
As we said, the Samsung Messager has the same design as the Rant and the Gravity. Measuring 4.4 inches long by 2 inches wide by 0.7 inch thick, the Messager is not much smaller than the other two devices and has the same fat candy bar look on the front. The Messager has an all-plastic casing and feels a bit more toylike than the other two messaging phones. Also, the buttons are laid out a tiny bit differently, and the keyboard has a different tactile feel. Otherwise, the overall design is the same with the slide-out QWERTY keyboard on the side.
On the front of the Messager is a 2.1-inch diagonal 262,000-color display with a 176x220-pixel resolution. The screen is bright and images look colorful and vibrant. You can adjust the screen's backlight time, the dialing font size, the clock format, the greeting banner, the wallpaper, and the menu style.
Underneath the display is the navigation array, which consists of two soft keys, a square four-way toggle with a middle OK key, the speakerphone key on the far left, the Clear key on the far right, and the Talk and End/Power keys under that. The toggle also doubles as shortcuts to the contacts list, the MetroPCS mobile shop, the messaging menu, and the MetroWeb mobile Web browser. Most of the navigation keys felt slippery and flat to the surface of the phone, though the speakerphone and Clear keys are raised. The number keypad underneath the navigation array felt roomy and the keys felt tactile and easy to dial by feel.
For typing out texts or e-mails, you'll want to slide out the QWERTY keyboard. To do this, tilt the phone 90 degrees counterclockwise and slide the phone up. The sliding mechanism felt solid and sturdy. The display changes from portrait mode to landscape mode when you slide the QWERTY keyboard out. The keyboard is laid out a little differently than the other messaging phones, with the two soft keys on the bottom left and right of the keyboard. The keys have a pleasant rubbery texture and they feel responsive as well. We like the dedicated messaging key as well as the arrow keys, which let us navigate the menu right from the keyboard.
The volume rocker is on the left spine while the charger jack and media key are on the right spine. If you press the media key briefly, it'll launch the music player; if you hold it down, the camera will launch. On the back of the phone are the camera lens, self-portrait mirror, and external speaker. The headset jack is on the top. The microSD card slot is located behind the battery cover, but at least you don't need to remove the battery to access it.
The Messager has a rather dinky 500-contact phone book, but it does have room in each entry for five numbers and an e-mail address. You can organize your contacts to groups, pair them with a photo, or one of 16 polyphonic ringtones and alerts for caller ID. Other essentials include text and multimedia messaging, a vibrate mode, a speakerphone that you can turn on prior to making a call, a calendar, a memo pad, an alarm clock, a world clock, a calculator, a stop watch, and a unit converter. More advanced users will like the voice command, e-mail, instant messaging, stereo Bluetooth, and the mobile Web browser. The Messager does not have EV-DO or GPS, but that's OK since it's not supposed to be a high-end device.
The Samsung Messager also comes with a built-in music player. The music player is quite rudimentary, with a generic interface, and is not meant to replace a full-blown MP3 player. You get the typical play/pause and track change controls, you can create and edit playlists on the fly, and you can adjust the visualizer as well (simple view, equalizer, album art, or lyrics). The Messager has 20MB of internal memory, which isn't a lot, but you can load songs to a microSD card. It supports up to 2GB microSD cards.
The Messager has a simple 1.3-megapixel camera. Photo quality was surprisingly decent for a pretty low megapixel shooter. It was not blurry at all and colors looked good, though the pictures did look a bit overcast. Camera settings include four resolutions (1,280x960, 640x480, 320x240, and 180x120), three quality settings, five white balance presets, five color effects, three shutter sounds plus a silent option, a self-timer, and a multishot setting.
You can personalize the Messager with wallpaper and alert tones from the MetroPCS store.
We tested the Samsung Messager in San Francisco using MetroPCS. Call quality was quite good, with very little distortion or static. Callers said they could hear us loud and clear, and that our voices sounded natural as well. Its speakerphone was also quite loud, and callers couldn't hear much of a difference between the speakerphone and the regular phone. For us, however, speaker quality sounded a bit tinny and hollow. Automated calling systems had no trouble understanding us.
The audio quality of the music player was OK, but nothing that would replace a dedicated MP3 player. Speaker quality was loud but there, was little bass. We would recommend using a stereo Bluetooth headset for better audio quality.
The Messager has a rated battery life of 4 hours talk time and 250 hours standby time. The tested talk time is a little longer at 6 hours and 12 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the Messager has a digital SAR rating of 1.42 watts per kilogram.