Samsung Transform Review

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Introduction and Design
Introduction:

When the Samsung Transform was initially leaked it was postulated that the device would be another Galaxy S variant, possibly an all-touch device to go along with the Epic 4G.  However, it transformed into a mid-range Android device with a side-sliding QWERTY, leaving many disappointed who were looking forward to possibly the third 4G handset in Sprint’s lineup.  The Transform has a few tricks up its sleeve though, such as the front-facing camera for video chat (despite only being 3G) and a design very much inspired by its big-brother, the Epic 4G.  It is also a launch device for Sprint’s new Sprint ID service, which gives the user customizable ID packs for a more personal experience.  The Samsung Transform ships with an AC adapter/microUSB cable combo and a 2GB microSD card.

Design:

The Samsung Transform is no doubt a mini-Epic 4G.  The styling is not identical, but its DNA is unmistakable.  Like the Epic 4G, the Transform uses very simple black and grey design with a display-dominated front, chrome ring and soft touch battery cover.  The handset feels very premium, possibly even more so than the Epic which we thought felt a bit off for such a high end device.  The keyboard is different from the Epic 4G, which in our opinion is a good thing.  Keys are spaced just right, are plenty large and have a bit of grip to them.  It is quite frankly one of the better keyboards we have ever used and probably the best we’ve seen on a Samsung device here in the US.

The size is good, though a bit chunky.  It’s just 15mm thin, but it is heavier and bigger in all other dimensions when compared to the Intercept it replaces.  It is just a tenth of an ounce lighter than the decidedly larger Epic 4G.  This all leads to a solid feel, but you will definitely feel the Transform as opposed to the light as air Sanyo Zio.



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

Samsung can’t quite decide on a display for their mid-range devices: the Moment had a 3.2” 320x480 AMOLED panel, the Intercept a 3” 240x400 LCD and the Transform has a 3.5” 320x480 LCD.  We appreciate the size and resolution of the Transform, but would have liked to see an AMOLED display, if not Super AMOLED.  We realize that Samsung has to differentiate between their devices though, and if the Transform had a Super AMOLED it would likely steal sales away from their flagship Epic 4G.  The TFT LCD used on the Transform has 262K and produces natural looking images, but won't wow you with a very high contrast ratio and super-saturated colors.


As on the Epic 4G, along the left side of the Samsung Transform you’ll find a volume rocker, a 3.5mm headset jack and microUSB port on the top and the power and camera buttons on the right.  Unlike the Epic 4G the Transform has added a voice dial button below the power, a welcome addition for us.  The buttons all sit nicely above the housing and offer good feel so there is no problem finding them and knowing that you have pressed them.  The rear of the phone features the 3.2 megapixel camera with flash and the single speaker.  A VGA camera sits above the display, off to the right.




We love the way the Samsung Transform feels, even if it is a bit chunky.  For a mid-range device it is probably the best build quality we’ve come across.  The Epic 4G felt a bit plasticy to us, but the Transform feels super-solid.  The slide mechanism is tight and the materials used are great.  The keyboard is an instant favorite and we would point to the Transform as a standard for mid-range handset design.

Samsung Transform 360 Degrees View:




Interface and Software:

The Samsung Transform currently runs bone stock Android 2.1, but will be upgraded to 2.2 in the future.  Out of the box there is no carrier customization whatsoever, save for the dock which has shortcuts to the phone, app drawer and Sprint ID and some widgets that walk the user through how to use Android.  With an increasing amount of carrier loaded apps on Android it is refreshing to see a carrier embrace the stock experience, allowing the user to choose what apps they want loaded on their phone.


The Samsung Transform, along with the Sanyo Zio and LG Optimus S (coming at the end of the month,) are the launch devices for Sprint’s new Sprint ID service.  The theory behind it is that users can download different ID packs, then quickly switch between them as they see fit.  Each pack is themed and contains relevant applications, wallpapers, ringtones and widgets.  The idea is to let users choose things of interests and have apps delivered to them instead of having to wade through the sometimes intimidating Android Market.  The Sprint ID will install the carrier apps, such as Football Live, NASCAR and TeleNav (curiously no longer called Sprint Navigation.)  We actually like the widgets the Sprint ID pack has a lot; they are both pretty and functional.

Initially there are only a handful of packs available- mostly lifestyle options such as fashion, golf and auto enthusiasts- but the number is already growing and at the CTIA press conference partners such as ESPN, eBay, E!, Notre Dame and MTV were on board.  Embracing the open-source nature of Android, developers will be able to create their own packs in what Sprint hopes will become a large ecosystem.

The default pack is My ID, which is stock Android.  Before you can actually use the device you have to install a second pack, however, but once the download starts you can get into the unit.  At that point you can cancel the download and keep the stock Android experience if you so please.  Up to 5 downloaded packs can be installed at any time, and similarly to the Scenes in HTC’s Sense UI, when the user customizes an ID pack, it is remembered. even if you switch to another ID pack.  The idea is pretty solid, but as always we will have to see how the market bears out before we can deem it a success.


The Samsung Transform utilizes stock Android programs for things like messaging, email, calendar, browser and voice dialing.  Of course most of these can be replaced with alternatives in the Market if the user sees fit.  Like all of Sprint’s other Android phones it uses Sprint’s Visual Voicemail system.





Camera and Multimedia:

The Samsung Transform is outfitted with a 3.2MP rear facing camera with LED flash and a VGA front-facing camera for self shots and video chat.  This front camera is a unique feature on a 3G CDMA device (AT&T has had a few) and something we are happy to see becoming more and more common on Android… except that it doesn’t work for video chat.  Hopefully this will be addressed with an update to Qik as they say they will be adding support for more phones than the EVO and Epic, and hopefully we’ll see video chat through Skype and Google Talk as more and more phones have a front camera.

The main camera performed quite well, snapping good quality pictures when the lighting was sufficient.  Low light situations such as indoor shots understandably introduced some grain and blur into the picture, but for a mid-level phone it is well above average.  Color saturation and reproduction was very natural, and details were crisp and clear and exposure was natural.  Macro images turned out slightly blurry, but as this isn’t a high-end camera we can’t expect too much from it.  The video camera can only record at 352x288, passable for YouTube but well below what we would expect out of a phone in the Transform’s class.





Samsung Transform Sample Video:



As a stock Android device, the Transform utilizes the Android music and video players.  They are perfectly capable of getting the job done, but lack the polish and refinement of skinned versions available from HTC, in the Market or on competing platforms.  Still, with support for up to 32GB microSD cards and a decent 3.5” display the Samsung Transform can double as a media player for those looking to ditch the iPod.



Internet and Connectivity:

As mentioned, the Samsung Transform uses the stock Android browser.  It is an EVDO Rev. A device, sо data speeds are plenty quick, and the browser performs as you would expect it.  It doesn’t have the processing power behind it of the Epic 4G, but it still moves along at a good clip and we didn’t have any real issues navigating pages.  We generally utilize Dolphin Browser HD, a free download, for an even better browser experience on Android, but there are other good options such as Skyfire and we’re happy to see Firefox for Android coming along as well.

The Transform also has Wi-Fi and GPS, features that have become standard on smartphones in this day and age, and is Bluetooth 3.0 compliant with support for the HSP 1.2, HFP 1.5, OPP, PBA, A2DP 1.2 and AVRC profiles.



Performance and Conclusion:

Callers rated us an 8/10 when using the Transform.  They said that we sounded like we were in a box, as if you would turn the treble down on a stereo, but didn’t have any problems actually hearing us or carrying on a conversation.  To us they sounded pretty good, voice reproduction was natural but we could definitely tell we and they were on a cell phone, so to speak.

Battery life on the Samsung Transform is rated at 6 hours of talk time, up slightly from the 5.5 on the Moment and Intercept.  Both of those suffered from horrid battery life once they hit the field though, so while the numbers look good on paper we will have to see how it plays out in real life.  Our demo unit was decent, going a few days with little to no use, but drained noticeably faster than the Zio which has an identical talk time rating.

The Samsung Transform is a very well put together mid-range Android device with compelling new software.  While no one who uses the phone will confuse it with the high-end Epic 4G, it shares many elements of the flagship phone including styling and dual cameras.  The keyboard is one of the best on the market, making messaging great.  Sprint ID is a well-thought out approach that gives users the ability to customize the device easily, or choose no customization at all.  While we don’t see it replacing the manufacturer overlays on high end handsets (like HTC’s Sense,) we think this software will make Android more accessible to the average user who is more likely to purchase a mid-range phone.

Samsung Transform Video Review:




Pros

  • Great keyboard
  • Very solid build quality
  • Large display
  • Sprint ID has promise

Cons

  • Can be a bit sluggish at times
  • Battery life still a question

PhoneArena Rating:

8.0

User Rating:

6.6
9 Reviews

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