Samsung SCH-220 Code - silver (MetroPCS) review: Samsung SCH-220 Code - silver (MetroPCS)
The Samsung Code (SCH-i220) is MetroPCS's first Windows Mobile 6.1 smartphone, which seems like a step backward seeing as Windows Mobile 6.5 devices are available. However, that shouldn't detract the customers from getting the messaging-centric device. The Code offers a sleek design, easy-to-use keyboard, and decent performance and call quality. Plus, it costs $100 less than the carrier's only other smartphone, the RIM BlackBerry Curve 8330, making it a nice and affordable alternative. The Samsung Code is available now for $299.99 with a $50 prepaid monthly plan, which includes unlimited voice, text, and data.
Having seen several QWERTY slate devices over the past few months, we expected it to be a much of the same as we've seen; however, we were pleasantly surprised by the Samsung Code's design. While it's nothing incredibly fancy, the Code has an eye-catching dark metallic gray chassis and slim profile. The handset measures just 4.6 inches tall by 2.3 inches wide by 0.5 thick and weighs 3.6 ounces, so it fits into a pants pocket without adding too much bulk and it feels comfortable in the hand.
The Code features a 2.4-inch QVGA (320x240 pixels) non-touch display. While on the smaller side, text and images look clear and bright on the screen, though it tends to wash out in bright sunlight. You can customize the Home screen with various background images, home screen layouts, themes, and so forth. We found the Samsung WizPro home screen layout to be particularly useful as it provides a toolbar along the bottom where you can scroll through some of the more commonly used applications, including your Calendar, favorite contacts, and multimedia.
To help you navigate through the menus, there is a directional keypad below the display that also doubles as a jog wheel. It works well both as a D-pad and scroll wheel and features a center select button. You also get two soft keys, Talk and End/power buttons, a Home shortcut, and a back button to make one-handed operation of the phone easy.
Also easy to use is the Code's QWERTY keyboard. The keys are raised above the surface and don't feel too soft or stiff when pressed, so that made for a comfortable typing experience. With large buttons, we had little problem composing text messages and even cranked out longer e-mails with minimal mistakes. We can't foresee too many users having problems with the keyboard.
In addition to the aforementioned navigation controls, there's a volume rocker on the left side and a user-programmable shortcut key on the right, as well as a 3.5mm headphone jack and Micro-USB port. As usual, the camera and self-portrait mirror are located on back with the microSD slot behind the battery door.
The Samsung Code comes packaged with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a software CD, and reference material. For more add-ons, check our cell phone accessories, ring tones, and help page.
Powered by Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard Edition, the Samsung Code doesn't offer some of new enhancements of Windows Mobile 6.5, such as an improved Internet Explorer Mobile browser and revamped Home screen layout. However, Microsoft has opened up its Windows Marketplace for Mobile to Windows Mobile 6.1 phones, so you should be able to access the store to download more apps to the Samsung Code. In addition, MetroPCS throws in a link to its own app store on the phone.
As is, the Code ships with the full Microsoft Office Mobile Suite and a handful of productivity tools, including a PDF viewer, an RSS reader, a voice recorder, a notepad, a calculator, a stopwatch, and a measurement converter. There's also a Task Manager so you can switch between apps and end tasks to optimize memory usage and the smartphone's performance.
Being a Windows Mobile phone, you also get Microsoft's Direct Push technology for real-time e-mail delivery and automatic synchronization with your Outlook calendar, tasks, and contacts via an Exchange Server. In addition, you can configure the device to access your POP3 and IMAP e-mail accounts. Samsung includes its own setup wizard to help you along the process and includes direct links for popular clients, such as Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, and Comcast. All we had to do to get our Gmail on the Code was simply enter our e-mail address and password, and the phone did the rest. While the smartphone offers text and multimedia messaging, the smartphone only comes preloaded with Windows Live Messenger.
Phone features of the Samsung Code include a speakerphone, speed dialing, three-way calling, conference calling, and voice dialing. The address book is only limited by the available memory and has room in each entry for multiple phone numbers, e-mail addresses, company information, and so forth. For caller ID purposes, you can assign a photo, group ID, or custom ring tone.
Both Bluetooth and GPS/A-GPS are onboard. MetroPCS has its own location-based service called MetroNavigator so you can get voice-guided driving directions and real-time tracking with the smartphones GPS. Supported Bluetooth profiles include A2DP for stereo Bluetooth, hands-free kits, audio-video remote control, object push, file transfer, phone book access, basic printing, and personal area networking. Unfortunately, there's no integrated Wi-Fi but the Code is 3G EV-DO capable.
The Code's multimedia capabilities are average. You get the standard Windows Media Player with support for MP3, AAC, WAV, WMA, MPEG-4, and WMV files. In addition, you get a 2-megapixel camera with video recording capabilities and a decent amount of editing options, such as white balance settings, effect, and night mode. Picture quality was quite impressive. Images looked sharp and despite the fluorescent lighting, colors looked pretty rich.
We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1,900MHz) Samsung Code in San Francisco using MetroPCS roaming service and call quality was decent. We made multiple calls during our test period and experienced clear audio with very little voice distortion or background noise. We also had no problem using an airline's voice automated system. Meanwhile, friends reported mostly good results, though some did say that we sounded tinny. Speakerphone quality wasn't very great, however. While callers said they could hear us OK, the volume was very low on our end so it was hard to hear the conversation even in quiet environments. We had no problem pairing the smartphone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones.
Overall, the Samsung Code felt like a responsive device. There weren't any major delays in performance, aside from some brief pauses when working in multiple apps, nor did the phone crash on us during our test period. Though the Code is EV-DO capable, we were only able to get 1xRTT in San Francisco. CNET's full Web site loaded in 1 minute 20 seconds, while mobile sites for CNN and ESPN came up in 15 seconds and 13 seconds respectively.
The Samsung Code features a 1440mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 6 hours and up to 12.5 days of standby time. In our battery drain tests, the Code provided a solid 7 hours of talk time on a single charge. According to FCC radiation tests, the Code has a digital SAR rating of 0.623 watt per kilogram and Hearing Aid Compatibility rating of M4/T4.