Samsung Strive A687 Review

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Introduction and Design
Introduction:

The Samsung Strive A687 has landed on AT&T as the successor to the popular Propel, and it brings a slew of new and upgraded features.  The portrait slider form-factor is still intact, but the screen size and resolution, as well as the camera, have been upgraded.  New features include AT&T’s recently announced Address Book and Mobile Share services that back up your contacts and media, respectively, and Next Generation Messaging, which is decidedly last generation.  Still, the Samsung Strive offers a decent feature set for a low price tag.

Design:

Like the Propel, the Samsung Strive is a portrait slider with a full QWERTY keyboard hidden underneath.  It has actually increased in size and weight, but with the increased size you get a 2.6” QVGA display with 262K colors whereas the Propel had a 2.2” panel with a 220x176 resolution and only 65K colors.  The increase in size, resolution and color depth is noticeable and makes for a better viewing experience all-around.



You can compare the Samsung Strive A687 with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

At a hair less than 4oz the weight is enough to be noticed, but not enough to be a nuisance.  Being a larger phone the weight is distributed over more surface area, and as such the device doesn’t feel overly heavy.  The slide mechanism is very smooth, offering enough resistance to prevent accidental operations and assistance once it’s sure you want to open or close it.

We recently reviewed the Sunburst and praised its build quality and use of premium materials, but unfortunately this does not hold true for the Strive.  It starts with the cheap plastic used for the housing.  All surfaces have a piano finish as opposed to the preferred soft-touch coating.  The hard, slippery finish just feels subpar, especially for a usually design-obsessed company like Samsung.

The issues continue as you explore the keyboard.  It sounds illogical, but it manages to be hard and soft at the same time.  The keys offer a bit too much resistance when pressed, which is exacerbated by the overall sponginess of the keyboard as a whole.  As you type it feels as if the unit is giving, but the key itself is hard, which leaves the feeling of fighting with the keyboard to type.  Despite this, we were still able to type fairly accurately.  These days the best on-screen keyboards rival their physical counterparts, but this is a good example of how a poor physical keyboard can still be usable, whereas a poor onscreen keyboard (such as on the Sunburst) ruins the experience.


The rest of the keys offer very good feedback and a nice click when pressed.  Below the display there is a five way d-pad, a pair of soft keys, a launcher button as well as the Send, End and Back keys.  Along the left side is the volume rocker and the camera key and microUSB charging/data port are on the right side.  The 2-megapixel camera and speaker are on the back of the Samsung Strive, and finally the microSD port is accessed by removing the battery door.




Despite its shortcomings on the keyboard and materials, the Samsung Strive gives you exactly what you’d expect for $20 on contract.  Sure a soft touch finish would be nice or brushed metal accents, but the Strive feels sturdy enough to be put through the everyday paces of the average user.

Samsung Strive A687 360 Degrees View:




User Interface and Software:

There isn’t anything new about the Samsung Strive’s interface, it’s simply the standard AT&T UI.  It moves quickly enough though with a zippy sliding transition as you move from screen to screen.  What does set the Strive apart from past devices is the inclusion of new AT&T services, namely Address Book and Mobile Share.


The former is AT&T’s response to similar contact backup services offered by Verizon and Sprint, and to a lesser extent to cloud solutions offered by today’s popular smartphones.  Its premise is simple: there is a web interface that the user can log into and edit their contact list, and any changes made via the web or the handset are mirrored by the other.  Of course this service also comes in handy when losing a phone, or damaging the SIM beyond repair.  This service is offered at no extra cost.


Mobile Share “helps customers quickly transfer photos and videos captured on their mobile phone to other destinations and allows customers to manage that content across the mobile and PC screens.”  Despite the fancy wording it is simply a way to upload pictures to an AT&T website, or share them via MMS or social networking sites.  This is a welcome addition for AT&T users, but something that other carriers have been offering in one form or another for years.  Unlike Address Book, Mobile Share will run the user $10/month for 50 media transfers or $0.35/transfer.  The online “AT&T Locker” for storing media is thrown in at no charge provided you keep it under 250MB, beyond that it is $5/month for 10GB of storage.  To be honest, everything about Mobile Share sounds like an outdated ripoff.



Messaging and Multimedia:

Another new feature launched with the Samsung Strive is AT&T’s “next generation messaging.”  Much like Mobile Share, the fancy name is merely spit-shine for AT&T playing catch-up with its rivals.   One of the main features of this next generation is threaded messaging, something we’ve seen on phones for years and a feature that Sprint has incorporated into even the depths of its lineup.  Other features include group messaging and “reply all” functionality, nice if you’re frequently texting the same group of friends to coordinate plans, etc.  The Samsung Strive of course has support for SMS and MMS standards, and for a fee AT&T’s Mobile Email program that allows the user to check popular preconfigured accounts like Yahoo!, Gmail and other providers.


The Samsung Strive’s 2.0-megapixel autofocus camera performed admirably, especially with adequate natural lighting.  Our outdoor samples displayed very good color reproduction and detail for a low-end camera, and even indoors pictures were very acceptable.  As the light dimmed so did detail and graininess appeared, but for what it is the camera was more than passable.  It allows for some advanced features not normally found on an entry-level device, such as night shot and geotagging.  The camcorder was not so impressive offering a resolution of just 176x144 and 15fps.  The Strive does support AT&T’s Video Share service, allowing you to share live video while on a phone call.





The music player is far from polished, but can be run in the background and generally gets the job done.  It failed to read some of our album art, but was able to sort out the artist/title/album thing just fine.  Lack of a headset jack is of course a serious deterrent to using the Strive as a music device, though it does support stereo Bluetooth.



Performance and Conclusion:

In what has proven to be a recurring theme with the Samsung Strive, call quality was good but not great.  Callers complained that we sounded distant and at times heard either a reverb or it sounded as if we were talking trough wax paper.  They gave us a 7.5/10 rating.  On our end it wasn’t quite as bad, we’d say they were an 8-8.5 with good volume but so-so voice quality.  The battery life is rated at a dismal 3 hours of talk time and 10 days of stand-by.

It is easy to knock the Samsung Strive for its shortcomings, but we have to keep in mind that this 3G device retails for just $20 on contract.  Yes the fit and finish could be better, and the new features that AT&T touts aren’t all that impressive, but at the end of the day it is a messaging phone with 3G connectivity and an above-average camera, which sounds pretty good for today’s youth.





Pros

  • Snappy UI with good messaging features
  • Nice 2.6-inch display

Cons

  • Construction boarders on cheap, and the keyboard is stiff
  • Battery life is below average
  • AT&T’s new features are either playing catch-up or are paid versions of what other carriers have been offering for free for years

PhoneArena Rating:

7.2

User Rating:

7.2
6 Reviews

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