It will certainly catch your eye on the shelf. The Moment, Samsung’s first Android device, has a beautiful AMOLED touch display. And, unlike the HTC Hero on Sprint, this device has a physical keyboard. Priced at $179, the Moment costs a little less than some competitors, but it also lacks the hip, social-networking savvy user interfaces found on Android phones like the Hero and T-Mobile Cliq. At the same time, the Motorola Droid from Verizon Wireless offers the more advanced Android 2.0 software. So is the Moment worth your time?
The first thing we noticed when we unboxed the silver-and-black Samsung Moment was its bulk. Measuring 4.6 x 2.3 x 0.4 inches and weighing 5.7 ounces, it looks and feels brick-like (though it’s a little lighter than the Motorola Droid). That said, it does pack a full QWERTY keyboard underneath the screen.
Our attention quickly turned to the Moment’s beautiful 3.6-inch, 480 x 320-pixel active matrix organic light emitting diode (AMOLED) display, which is brilliant, bright, and colorful. When we showed the Moment to a friend carrying a BlackBerry Tour, he said that he thought his screen had dimmed or was broken. The screen is capacitive touch-enabled, but does not support multitouch gestures like the HTC Hero.
The display is flanked by a glossy black surface with three touch-sensitive buttons: Home, Menu, and Return. Below these are Send and End keys, with a central optical mouse that can be used for navigating through menus. The volume controls are on the left of the phone, and a 3.5mm headphone jack is on the top, although the jack has an unnecessary plastic hatch. The right side of the Moment houses a microUSB charging port, a voice-command quick-launch button, and the camera quick-launch key. The rear cover has a 3.2-megapixel autofocus camera, which includes an LED flash.
The Moment has a full QWERTY keyboard that slides out from below the screen, and it feels sturdy. When the keyboard is open, the screen defaults into landscape mode. We weren’t very fond of typing on the keyboard, however, because it’s laid out in an awkward honeycomb fashion. On most phones, for example, the Q is directly above the A key and the Z key is a bit below and to the right of both. On the Moment, the A key is indented a bit from the Q, and the Z key is actually below and to the left. After a few days we adjusted to the keyboard, but we think it could have been laid out better. The black keys all have a soft white backlight for night-typing, and we appreciated the extra fourth row for numbers.
The Moment also has Android’s mediocre on-screen keyboard for typing out texts one-handed. It’s not as spacious or easy to accurately type on as the keyboard that HTC added to its Hero device on Sprint.
The Moment runs Android 1.5, which means it supports homescreen widgets, the ability to record video, and the notifications shade, which you can pull down with a finger swipe to view missed calls, messages, and more. However, the “with Google” tag on the back of the phone typically means that manufacturers don’t have a ton of control over customizing the user interface; Samsung didn’t include its TouchWiz UI on the Moment, and so the device feels a bit bland. Still, Android ran at a snappy pace thanks to the Moment’s zippy 800-MHz processor, and flicks from menu to menu were fluid.
The main menu is home to all of your applications, so there’s very little digging involved to get to what you need. However, with the Hero’s Sense software integration, for example, you have seven home screens to add a host of HTC’s custom widgets. And with the Motorola Cliq’s Motoblur user experience, you can meld your Facebook and Twitter feeds with your address book, and customize up to five home screens. Android offers only three home screens on the Moment, but you can add widgets from apps in the Android Market, such as BBC’s news widget or the Twitter widget from Twidroid.
Samsung hasn’t confirmed whether it will offer Android 2.0 on the phone, but that could drastically change the user experience. The Motorola Droid, which runs Android 2.0, offers an easier way to switch between applications, syncs better with social networks, and sports features like Google’s Maps Navigation (Beta). Android 2.0 also lets you sync more than one Google Account; our biggest gripe with the current version of Android 1.5 is that you can still only sync one account.
E-Mail and Messaging
Click to enlargeAndroid is centralized around a Google experience. When you first boot the phone, you’re prompted to enter in your Google username and password, and Android syncs your Google Calendar, Gmail, and Google Talk accounts with the phone. As noted above, the current version of Android only lets you sync a single Google account, so if you have one for work and another for play, you have to literally reset the phone to switch from one to another. You can add your own IMAP/POP accounts for pull e-mail access: we were able to set ours up in under two minutes.
Sprint added an Instant Messaging folder to the phone, adding AIM, MSN, and Yahoo chat clients on top of the default Google Talk client. But these clients aren’t nearly as robust as Google Talk. Also, we weren’t able to run AIM in the background; instead, we had to close it when we navigated back to the home screen.
The Moxier Mail application offers full Exchange support for syncing with your work address book, calendar, and e-mail.
The Android Market is now home to more than 10,000 applications. While that’s still way shy of Apple’s App Store (which boasts more than 100,000 applications), there are some goodies to be found. We like Pandora for streaming music and Facebook. For Twitter, check out Twidroid. Using the phone’s camera, you can find restaurants and local points of interest using Layar, an augmented reality app.
Android’s stock WebKit browser is good at rendering full HTML Web pages and is generally a pleasure to use, and the Moment is no exception. You can easily navigate around large pages with your finger or the keyboard, and you can zoom in with the on-screen buttons. Thanks to the Moment’s speedy processor, panning around Web pages was very smooth.
The Moment boasts both Wi-Fi and 3G EV-DO Rev. A radios for fast data speeds. Over Sprint’s 3G network we loaded NYT.com in 6 seconds, CNN.com in 11 seconds, and our full HTML home page (Laptopmag.com) in 35 seconds. Using Wi-Fi, we loaded the same sites in 4, 5, and 11 seconds, respectively. Over T-Mobile’s 3G network, the Motorola Cliq loaded CNN.com in 9 seconds, NYT.com in 6 seconds, and our Laptopmag.com home page in 27 seconds. The Moment’s large AMOLED display really stood out while surfing the Web: the red of CNN.com popped off the screen, and we felt like we could reach out and touch the people in the images.
The Moment is able to serve up music and videos pretty well thanks to the large display, included 2GB microSD Card, and 3.5mm headphone jack. You can download music from Amazon’s MP3 Store; songs typically cost 99 cents. We downloaded Cage the Elephant’s “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” in a relatively quick 36 seconds. Audio sounded good over our own headphones, but we wouldn’t bother with the cheap plastic set Samsung includes. We left the music playing in the background while we surfed the Web and checked our e-mail. Using the phone’s single speaker, audio was loud enough to fill a small room with little distortion.
Sprint includes its own Sprint TV service on the phone for streaming movies and TV shows over the air. We watched a clip from the NFL Network channel and found the quality to be dismal. The ticker at the bottom of the screen was hardly readable, and the video quality was distorted and chock full of artifacts. Audio came through clear, however, and voices were in sync with the broadcasters. We experienced a few blips in service, and during one instance, were routed back to the channel guide after the connection failed. You can’t stream Sprint TV over Wi-Fi.
Click to enlargeThe Moment’s 3.2-MP camera has autofocus and a flash, but we were generally disappointed with its quality. Inside our home under good lighting, colors were washed out. In darker areas where we used the flash (like in our living room at dusk), shots came out reasonably well, but the colors remained washed out. The same was true inside a dark pub. Video of a friend shooting pool was clear and fluid, but there was a noticeable light ring hovering over the table. Overall, the camera is good enough for uploading pictures and video to YouTube, but we prefer the 5-MP cameras on the HTC Hero and the Motorola Cliq.
Sprint Navigation comes preinstalled on the Moment, and comes free with a Simply Everything data plan ($9.99 per month without). During our GPS tests, Sprint Navigation found our address on the Upper East Side of New York City in 2 seconds, and then locked on to a GPS signal and started navigating there from our office after 32 seconds.
Call Quality and Battery Life
A voicemail left on a landline phone sounded loud and clear, and we didn’t notice any background noise. When we called another friend on a landline, she said that we sounded good but just a bit tinny. She also noted that she could just barely hear people in the background of a very echo-prone office lobby. We had one dropped call during our tests.
With the Moment, we regularly saw about a day of battery life—push Gmail, chatting, Web browsing and occasional phone calls—before the battery died. We kept our display at a medium brightness, but attribute its relatively good endurance to the AMOLED’s ability to turn off the pixels that aren’t in use.
The Samsung Moment performs well, and boasts one of the brightest touchscreens on any phone. However, it’s the least exciting Android device to use. It runs outdated software, and the similarly priced HTC Hero on Sprint offers the highly customizable Sense user experience and a better 5-MP camera. The only reason we’d recommend the Moment over the Hero is if you absolutely need a physical keyboard. We also prefer the Palm Pre to the Moment for Sprint customers, as the former offers a more elegant interface and more compact design (although not nearly as many apps). In other words, we think the Moment may have already passed.