Samsung often makes a line of phones specific to smaller carriers such as U.S. Cellular and MetroPCS, and the Samsung Messager line is an example of that. Both the Messager and the Messager II are pretty basic and have a design similar to that of the Samsung Rant--with an external number keypad coupled with a sliding QWERTY keyboard. However, the Messager Touch changes that. As its name suggests, it now has touch screen along with Samsung's TouchWiz interface plus a full sliding keyboard, and looks much sleeker than its predecessors. While we're not thrilled with the odd spelling of the phone's name (There's no such word as "messager"), we admit that the phone is a decent multimedia-messaging phone for U.S. Cellular customers. It's available for $49.99 with a mail-in rebate, and a two-year service agreement.
The Samsung Messager Touch looks similar to most other Samsung touch screen feature phones, such as the Samsung Seek for example. Measuring 4.13 inches long by 2.12 inches wide by 0.59 inch thick, the Messager Touch has simple and slender silhouette. The rounded corners and the curved contours on the back let the phone cradle comfortably in the hand. Both the side bumper and the back plate of the phone are clad in a soft touch plastic that adds to the overall comfort of holding the phone.
Its 2.6-inch QVGA touch-screen display on the front is certainly not the largest we've seen, but it serves well on a relatively simple phone such as this. It looks crisp and colorful, thanks its support of 262,000 colors and its 240x320-pixel resolution. You can adjust the backlight time, the dial font size, and the color of the lock screen font. You can also change the key that will unlock the screen, and toggle the transition effect between page changes.
As with most resistive touch-screen displays, you do need to apply a bit more pressure to finger taps. Still, we found it to usable and not quite as laggy as we expected. For additional accuracy, you can go through the calibration wizard on the phone, and if you want, you can add both vibration and sound effects to your finger taps to act as feedback.
The Messager Touch has three home screens along with Samsung's TouchWiz interface--you tap the gear icon on the upper left to reveal the TouchWiz tray on the bottom. You can then customize each home screen by adding a widget from the TouchWiz tray. The widgets consist of different tools like the alarm clock and the calculator, and you're limited to the ones Samsung provides.
Along the bottom row of the home screen are shortcuts to the phone dialer, the contacts list, the shortcuts list, and the main menu. The phone dialer houses a large virtual number keypad along with quick shortcuts to a new text message and to save the number to the address book. The aforementioned shortcuts list lets you add and remove your favorite application shortcuts along with a list of speed dial numbers. As for entering text, you don't get the option of a virtual keyboard, but we don't mind that since we would prefer to use the physical keyboard anyway.
Speaking of that, you can reveal the QWERTY keyboard by sliding the display to the right. The sliding mechanism felt smooth and solid. The four-row keyboard is quite roomy, and we like that there are navigation arrow keys on the right side. The keys are raised enough for us to text and dial by feel, but we did wish they were just a bit bigger--we had to use our fingernails to type most of the time. The number keys are highlighted in blue.
On the left side are the volume rocker and microSD card slot while the screen lock key, charger jack, and camera key are on the right. On top of the phone is a 3.5mm headset jack and the camera lens is on the back.
The Samsung Messager Touch has a 1,000-entry phone book, and each entry has room for five numbers, an e-mail address, a note, and a photo for caller ID. You can also customize each entry with a ring tone--the phone comes with 17 polyphonic ring tones, or you can use your own. Its basic features include a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, a calculator, a tip calculator, a unit converter, a notepad, a calendar, an alarm clock, a stop watch, a sketchpad, a timer, and a world clock.
Supporting text and multimedia messaging is a given, and we like that the phone supports threaded conversations. You also get instant messaging, mobile e-mail, voice command, voice recording, stereo Bluetooth, GPS, and an HTML Web browser. You don't get quick access buttons to your e-mail or Web browser--you have to go through the EasyEdge application first. The HTML Web browser is easy enough to use, but you have to use the magnifying glass to zoom in and out, which can get rather cumbersome. Also, since the screen is so small, there's quite a bit of scrolling about.
The music player on the Messager Touch is simple and not unlike other Samsung phones. You have to insert a microSD card in order for it to work. The songs are categorized into genre, artist, and album, and you can set the player to repeat or shuffle. The Messager Touch only has 100MB internal storage, but it supports up to 16GB microSD cards.
The 2.0-megapixel camera on the Messager Touch can take pictures in four resolutions and three quality settings. Other camera settings include four shooting modes, a self-timer, brightness, white balance, color effects, metering, a night mode, and three shutter sounds plus a silent option. It's Photo quality was mediocre. Its images looked sharp enough, but image colors seem muted and a little overcast. Also, it has a built-in camcorder that can record in 176x144-pixel resolution.
You are free to customize and personalize your phone with graphics for wallpaper and sounds for ring tones or alerts. You can download more options via the U.S. Cellular EasyEdge store. The phone comes with Namco's Pac-Man game, and you're free to download more via the EasyEdge store as well.
We tested the Samsung Messager Touch in San Francisco using U.S. Cellular's roaming network partners. Its call quality was pretty good overall. We heard our callers clearly for the most part, with natural sounding voices to boot.
On their end, our callers said they encountered a bit more distortion. They said it sounded like distant crackling, but it was quite faint and didn't happen too often. Its speakerphone calls quality is rather mediocre. Voices came through loud enough, albeit sounding tinny. Callers said we sounded rather muffled and reported quite a strong echo effect as well.
Its audio quality for music playback was decent. However, its mono external speaker emitted rather hollow sound, so we would suggest the use of a headset for better performance.
We weren't able to test the Messager Touch under ideal EV-DO Rev. 0 conditions, since San Francisco only supports the 1xRTT network for U.S. Cellular. However, we still enjoyed decent download speeds. We were able to load the full CNET front page in just 35 seconds, for example.
The Samsung Messager Touch has a rated battery life of 5 hours talk time and 12 days standby time. It has a tested talk time of 3 hours and 49 minutes. According to the FCC radiation tests, it has a digital SAR of 0.95 watt per kilogram.