UPDATE: This preliminary review was written after only using this device for a short time. Brighthand's full review, based on much more time with it, can be found here: Samsung Solstice Review
The Samsung Solstice debuted today from AT&T, adding a new option for those who want an inexpensive smartphone with an emphasis on social networking, messaging. and multimedia.
I've only had a short time to try out this device, but its already on the market, so I'm going ahead and writing up my first impressions. A full review will follow in a few days.
DESIGN & BUILD
The Solstice is in many ways the spiritual successor to the Samsung Impression, also from AT&T. This consumer-oriented device features a 3-inch touchscreen and a microSD slot for cards up to 16 GB in capacity, but it doesn't have the physical QWERTY keyboard that the Impression does. That's a good thing in my opinion, because the Solstice is much thinner and lighter, and the large on-screen keyboard works so well that you probably won't miss the physical keys.
Also on the front are the call/disconnect/back buttons. The lock button has thankfully been moved to the top of the device, so that's one frustration that has been removed in this new device (the original Impression was almost impossible to unlock without also sliding out the physical keyboard or dropping the phone). Volume buttons are on the right side, and the right side also offers a context-sensitive menu key and the camera button.
The back of the phone is made of textured black plastic that is easy to grip while still being comfortable to hold. There's also a self-portrait mirror next to the camera lens.
The Solstice comes with the standard suite of featurephone tools, from contacts and calendar to tasks, memos, calculator, timer, and world clock.
Overall performance is quick, and the user interface is just dreamy. I haven't cracked the manual, because there's no need -- everything works exactly as I would expect.
Social networking is an important aspect of the Solstice, and there are icons on the home screen widget bar that take you directly to the mobile web versions of Facebook and MySpace. It takes just seconds to update your status, thanks to the large on-screen keyboard. Once you sign in to Facebook, your password is remembered at least for a while, which is great -- I use a password generator on my laptop to create strong passwords and remember them for me, so I don't have to. I'm glad that I won't have to sign in every single time on this smartphone.
Since this is a consumer device, you won't be viewing or editing Microsoft Office documents, though I was surprised by the robust web browser. Mobile sites are rendered almost instantly, while more complicated sites like Brighthand work perfectly, but more slowly. You'll be doing more scrolling if you visit full sites, and there's a handy pop-up icon that shows exactly where you are on the page when you press your finger on the display to scroll. Choosing the full screen option helps quite a lot, as does turning the phone sideways, which instantly switches you to landscape view.
Voice quality is very good; on my test calls I could hear the other party as clear as a bell, and my test subjects didn't complain about any background noise. More testing will certainly be required before the final review, but I'm definitely encouraged by the results so far.
Sound is loud and clear, though I haven't had much time yet to try out the music player and video player. Other features yet to be tested include AT&T Navigation, the on-device app store, games, the camera, and video capture.
Time will tell, but my first impressions of the Samsung Solstice are extremely positive. If you want a fully featured mobile device with good entertainment features that can help keep you organized in a basic fashion without the complications of some models, stay tuned for the full review.
It compares quite favorably to my LG Dare, in a slimmer package with a more responsive touchscreen display.
The Samsung Solstice is available now for $100 with a 2-year contract and a $50 rebate. It can be found in AT&T retail stores and att.com.
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