According to a recent survey, text usage in the U.S. has risen almost 160 percent in a single year. It's no surprise, then, that cell phone companies are jumping on the texting bandwagon big time by introducing more cell phones with QWERTY keyboards. The LG Rumor from Sprint was one such device last year, and this year, it looks as if the Samsung Rant will take its place in Sprint's lineup. The Rant has a slide-out QWERTY keyboard similar to the Rumor, but it has many more multimedia and high-speed features. It is available right now for $49.99, with a mail-in rebate and a new, two-year service agreement with Sprint.
If you think the Samsung Rant looks familiar, you're not alone. Indeed, we can't help but notice that it has almost the same shape and form factor as the LG Rumor. There are differences, however: the Rant slides to the right to reveal the keyboard, while the Rumor slides to the left; the navigation toggle is square, instead of circular; the controls and keypad buttons have a slightly different design; and the keyboard itself is much bigger.
Measuring 4.5 inches long by 2.1 inches wide by 0.7 inch thick, the Rant is only slightly bigger than the Rumor. It has a 2.1-inch diagonal display with support for 262,000 colors and has a 176x220 pixel resolution. This provides the Rant with a rich and vibrant screen, with images and graphics that pop with color. You can adjust the screen's brightness, the dialing-font size, and a screen animation whenever there's an incoming call.
The Rant is one of the first few phones on Sprint's lineup that uses a special screen-navigation interface called One Click. It consists of eight shortcut tiles lined up along the bottom of the screen, which you can flip through with the navigation keys. These tiles can be customized with any of 14 shortcuts, to things like the texting interface, Web access, e-mail, Sprint Navigation, Sprint TV, and even a menu for more shortcuts. As you flip through the tiles, you will get a small pop-up menu of each application's options. One of our favorite shortcuts was one for Google, providing us instant access to Google search, Gmail, and YouTube. We certainly give high praise to such a customizable navigation interface, since it provides convenient access to your favorite applications. You can even add a "bubble" to your home screen that either displays financial updates, your latest horoscope, or brief news headlines.
Underneath the display is a rather unusual navigation array. There are the typical two soft keys, the square navigation toggle with the menu/OK key, the Speakerphone key, the Back key, and the Send and End/Power keys. But not all keys are raised above the surface of the phone--only the menu/OK, the Speakerphone, and the Back keys are raised. The two soft keys, the Send, and the End/Power keys are flat and feel rather slippery to the touch. We would've preferred if all the keys were raised and had texture. Right underneath the navigation array is the number keypad. We found it surprisingly roomy, raised above the surface, and easy to dial by feel.
There are also two soft keys to the left of the screen, which are only activated when the QWERTY keyboard is revealed and the screen orientation changes from portrait to landscape mode. These two keys are pretty skinny, but at least they are raised above the surface for some texture.
If you slide the phone to the right, you'll reveal a full QWERTY keyboard. The sliding mechanism felt solid and sturdy, with a nice snap when opening and closing. The keyboard itself is less than an inch roomier than the one on the Rumor, but it's good enough for us. There was plenty of space between each key, and the keys felt responsive, as well. We also appreciate the slightly rubberized texture that made it easy to type out text messages. The keyboard has the typical function, shift, and symbol keys, but we especially like the dedicated "text" key that acts as a shortcut to a new text message. We also like the arrow keys on the QWERTY keyboard, which allowed us to bypass using the square toggle.
The headset jack and volume rocker are on the left spine, while the charger jack and the dedicated camera key are on the right. The microSD-card slot is along the left spine, but can only be revealed when the battery cover is taken off. This is rather annoying, but at least you don't have to remove the battery altogether to get at it. On the back is the camera lens and self-portrait mirror.
The Rant has a roomy 600-contact phone book with space in each entry for six phone numbers, two e-mail addresses, an instant-messaging username, a Web address, and notes. You can save callers to groups, and you can pair them with a photo and one of 20 polyphonic ringtones for caller ID. Other basic features include text and multimedia messaging, an alarm clock, a calculator, a calendar, a memo pad, a world clock, a voice-memo recorder, and a tip calculator. More advanced users will like the PC syncing, voice dialing, instant messaging, e-mail, stereo Bluetooth, and mobile Web browser. The Rant also comes with A-GPS, and along with that is support for Sprint Navigation and Sprint Family Locator.
One of the Rant's biggest feature improvements over the Rumor is that it has EV-DO. This allows it access to Sprint's Power Vision, for Sprint TV for live on-demand television shows, and the Sprint Music Store, for wireless music downloads. You also get Sprint Movies, for access to premium movie channels and more than 150 channels from Sprint Radio.
The music player is similar to that on other Sprint music phones, and you can get songs on the phone either via PC transfer or buying the songs from the Sprint Music Store. There aren't too many player options, but you do get the basics, like repeat, shuffle, and the capability to create and edit playlists. You can also send the music player to the background and multiyeptask with other applications. The Rant comes with some built-in memory, but the microSD-card slot lets you have additional storage.
The Rant also comes with a fairly decent 2-megapixel camera. It can take pictures in four resolutions and three quality settings, and you can adjust the brightness and white balance. Other settings include spot metering, a night mode, five color tones, a self-timer, multishot, fun frames, a 4x zoom, four shutter sounds, and a silent option. There's also a built-in camcorder with editing options similar to that of a still camera. Photo quality is decent, with good colors and not a lot of blurriness, but we did notice it's a bit overcast at times.
You can personalize the Rant with a selection of wallpaper and alert tones. You can download more options and additional ringtones, with the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. The Rant doesn't offer much in the way of games--just demo versions of Puzzle Quest, Warlords and Street Fighter II--but you can get the full versions from Sprint. You also get trial versions of three applications: Pandora, Sprint Social Zone, and Nascar Sprint Cup Mobile.
We tested the Samsung Rant in San Francisco using Sprint service. Call quality was very impressive, with natural-sounding voices and plenty of volume. Callers reported the same thing and heard very little static in the background. Speakerphone quality wasn't as good on our end, though callers didn't seem to hear much of a difference. Automated-calling systems had no trouble understanding us.
EV-DO speeds were more than satisfactory. There was hardly any buffering, and streaming-audio and video quality was acceptable as well.
The Rant has a rated battery life of 5.6 hours talk time. We had a talk time of 6 hours and 2 minutes in our tests. According to FCC radiation tests, the Rant has a digital SAR rating of 1.01 watts per kilogram.