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Samsung Intercept Review

Our Verdict

This $99 Android phone offers a comfortable keyboard and good features for the price, but you'll make some trade-offs.

For

  • Solid slider design
  • Comfortable keyboard
  • Good battery life
  • Inexpensive

Against

  • Small screen with low resolution
  • Doesn't support EV-DO Rev A
  • Awkward keyboard layout

No, it doesn't have a Super AMOLED screen or HD video recording. It's a value-priced Android phone. And in that context the Samsung Intercept isn't a bad deal. It's really more like a $99 messaging phone that can surf the real web and download real apps--assuming you're willing to pony up for a more expensive data plan. The screen is small, and you don't get access to Sprint's 4G network--or even its fastest 3G technology--but for $99 the Intercept is a decent low-cost smart phone.

Design

Like the Moment, Samsung's first Android phone for Sprint (and which is now $99, too), the Intercept sports a slider design with a physical QWERTY keyboard. But there are some pretty stark differences between the two devices. The Intercept's 3-inch screen is much smaller than the the 3.6-inch LCD on the Moment. On the plus side, the Intercept is considerably lighter than the Moment (4.8 vs. 5.7 ounces) but it's also thicker (0.6 vs. 0.4 inches).

The front of the Intercept has a glossy black border for the display, and the top half of the device is rimmed with cool chrome accents. Underneath the screen you'll find four haptic touch-sensitive buttons (Menu, Home, Back, Search) above the physical Send and End keys; in the middle is an optical trackpad. The sliding action is smooth, but doesn't feel as refined as, say, the Devour. The back of the device is gray, but consumers can also opt for pink.

On the right side of the phone is a 3.5mm headphone jack and a camera button. The top has a microUSB port, and the left has volume controls and a microSD card slot; we like that it's accessible without having to remove the back cover.

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Keyboard

The slide-out QWERTY keyboard is black with white lettering and orange accents, and four direction arrows on the right are gray. The Intercept's keyboard is slightly wider than the Moment's, and we liked that the keys were plenty large and snappy. However, we didn't like that certain keys (like Return) are on the outer edge, which impacted our typing speed. Also, we weren't fans of the fact that the @ sign is relegated to a function key. The keyboard works well, but it will take some time to get used to.

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The optical trackpad was responsive and didn't require a heavy press to register our movements. However, we feel it's kind of redundant on a device with a multitouch-enabled screen.

Display

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Not only is the Intercept's 3-inch screen physically tiny compared to the likes of the 4.3-inch Evo 4G, the Intercept's display has a relatively low pixel count of 400 x 240, which is even less than the Moment (480 x 320) and BlackBerry Bold 9650 (480 x 360) . As such, every icon on screen looks pixilated; text especially suffers. Still, it's decently bright, although it was a bit difficult to see content in direct sunlight.

Interface

The Intercept runs stock Android 2.1. There are 3 home screens to add widgets, applications, folders, and shortcuts. The main home screen has a Google search bar (which can be removed or added to any of the home screens and is pictured to the right), and a vertical lock screen appears when the phone awakens from sleep. Being that this isn't a high-end Android device, Samsung omitted the cover flow-type gallery for browsing through videos and pictures, like on the HTC Evo 4G. In its place is the organized, but throwback gallery from the Android 1.x period. The notification drawer is improved, however, which now gives you the ability to toggle Wi-fi and Bluetooth, plus it has silent and vibration buttons.

Performance

This isn't the world's fastest Android phone, but the Intercept's 800-MHz ARM 11 processor (with 256MB of RAM and 512MB of ROM) runs Android 2.1 pretty well. Pinch-to-zoom worked fine in the browser, programs launched quickly, and page swipes were smooth. Occasionally, though, there would be a lapse of a second between pressing one of the haptic keys and it registering on screen.

Web Browsing 

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Keep in mind that the Intercept doesn't tap into Sprint's fastest 3G technology. It has an EV-DO Rev. 0 radio, not EV-DO Rev. A. As a result, web page load times were a bit sluggish. For instance, over cellular the mobile version of The New York Times took 15 seconds to load, mobile ESPN loaded in 25 seconds, and laptopmag.com took an interminable 90 seconds. Over Wi-Fi, the New York Times loaded in 8 seconds, ESPN loaded in 7 seconds, and Laptopmag loaded in 40 seconds.

Note that, unlike the Evo 4G, you can't use the Intercept as a mobile hotspot.

Email

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As with all Android phones, syncing our Gmail account took no more than a few seconds. Above the list of e-mails are tabs for your various Gmail folders. It's nice that they're there, but it's tedious to have to keep scrolling if you have a lot of folders.

Apps 

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In addition to the 80,000-plus Android Marketplace, Sprint loads a number of its own apps: Nascar Sprint Cup Mobile, Sprint Football, and Sprint TV. Curiously, you can only access them using 3G, not Wi-Fi. Other apps include Sprint Zone, which lets you access your account, phone help and tips, and suggested apps, and ThinkFree Office, which lets you compose and edit Microsoft Office-compatible documents. This is a nice perk, but we don't envision many Intercept owners using such a small screen to work on Office docs. If you have a ThinkFree account, you can also store up to 1GB of documents in the cloud for free. Also, the Amazon MP3 Store app lets you download non-DRM protected tunes to the phone.

Photos, Video, and Music

While the 3.2-megapixel camera on the Intercept lacks a flash, it did a decent job taking photos both outdoors and indoors. Reds, greens, and yellows in a picture of a toy parrot taken indoors were sufficiently bright, though not overwhelming, as was a picture of a silver coffee mug. (See more sample shots in our image gallery.)

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Dont' expect high-res video from the camcorder. It's limited to 352 x 288 pixels video. Footage shot on the streets of New York showed good color saturation, but there was some stuttering as we panned the camera around.

Using the external speaker, music we streamed from Pandora and files we transferred to the Intercept was plenty loud but tinny. Plugging in even a basic set of headphones (no earbuds are included) into the 3.5mm jack made a world of a difference, however. Audio was fairly loud and clear. The Intercept's music player isn't as fancy as other Android 2.1 devices like the Samsung Vibrant, but is still well organized with four tabs (Artists, Albums, Songs, and Playlists). The Intercept also pulls in album art and creates a background as the music plays on, similar to the effect of the Microsoft Zune HD.

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Navigation

This being an Android device, the Intercept comes with the free Google Maps Navigation app, which quickly located our position in a New Jersey suburb within 50 feet. Using the voice recognition software, it quickly and accurately plotted a route from our apartment to our office, and gave us spoken (if robotic) turn-by-turn directions.

Call Quality

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The Intercept isn't the best at blocking out ambient sounds. While walking down Broadway in Manhattan, a caller could hear background noise such as wind, cars, and the rumble of subways. However, when we left a message on a landline from an indoors location, our voice was crisp and clear.

Battery Life

Sprint rates the Intercept's talk time at 5.5 hours. That figure bore out on the LAPTOP Battery Test (web surfing via 3G). Its battery lasted 5 hours and 10 minutes, which beats out most other Android phones except the Droid X (6:56). We were able to get through a day of texting, surfing the web, and playing apps, and had some juice remaining.

Pricing and Value

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Sprint customers inteterested in the Intercept will pay a minimum of $69 per month for the carrier's Everything Data plan. For that price you get 450 voice minutes, plus unlimited Web and texting. That's less than the baseline $79 monthly fee for the Evo 4G, which includes a $10 premium data fee.

Verdict 

For consumers looking to upgrade from a feature phone and dip their toes into the Android waters, the Samsung Intercept is a decent choice. Just remember that, as a $99 device, it's not going to have any of the bells and whistles of, say, the $199 Evo 4G. Among Android phones in this price range with slider designs, we actually prefer the Motorola Devour ($79), which has a slightly larger and higher-res screen and better camcorder (despite it's older 1.6 OS). But if you're sticking with Sprint or are new to the carrier, this meat-and-potatoes phone is worth a look.

Tech Specs

CPU800MHz ARM11
RAM256MB
Size4.4 x 2.2 x 0.6 inches
Weight4.8 ounces
Operating SystemAndroid 2.1
Wi-Fi802.11b/g
PortsmicroUSB, 3.5mm headphone
Talk / Standby Time5.5/14.6 days
Video formats supportedMPEG-4, H.264
Memory Expansion TypemicsroSD/SDHC
CarrierSprint
Camera Resolution3.2 MP
BrandSamsung
Bluetooth TypeBluetooth 2.0 EDR
Company Websitewww.sprint.com
Display (main)3.3/400 x 240
Audio formats supportedMP3, AMR-NB, AAC+, AAC, OGG
Form FactorQWERTY Slider
NetworksCDMA 800/1900
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