The Samsung Stratosphere launched at the CTIA tradeshow this week, and I was on-hand to try this new smartphone out. What makes this Android device interesting is it's the first that supports Verizon's 4G LTE service and also has a physical keyboard.
I'd like to share my first thoughts based on the time I had with this model because it's one that's going to be popular, especially given its price: $150 after a $50 mail-in rebate and a new two-year contract.
BUILD & DESIGN
When I first looked at the Stratosphere I had a feeling of deja vu. A minute or two of thought and it hit me: this is an updated version of the Samsung Epic 4G, which rival Sprint introduced last year. That's not a knock -- the Epic was a well-designed handset that sold well, and is even still on the market.?
Verizon made a good choice for its first keyboard-enabled 4G model. The Stratosphere boasts a large beautiful display and a generously-sized QWERTY keyboard.
The display spans 4 inches, and has a WVGA (960 x 540) resolution. That's the largest you can get in a slider phone -- if you want to go bigger you have to give up the keyboard and get something like the Motorola Droid Bionic. This is a Super AMOLED display, so it offers bright, rich colors.
The keyboard has five rows of keys, including a set dedicated to numbers. This is the layout preferred by people who are serious users. I would have liked to have seen a dedicated comma key, but you can't have everything.
It's difficult to fully test the performance of a device in just a few minutes, but just tinkering with the Samsung Stratosphere for a few minutes is enough for me to predict it's going to be quick. Not amazingly so, though, as it is built around a 1GHz single-core Snapdragon processor.
This is par for the course on a mid-range handset like this one. Many of the other features are good but not great, like a 5 megapixel camera.
There's one shining exception to this, however: 4G LTE. For much of this year, that's something that has been relegated to only the most expensive models. It's starting to become more affordable though, like with the Stratosphere.
Most smartphones with keyboards have an Enterprise bent, and so do ones with LTE. As this device has both, you won't be surprised to learn that it's going to be well supplied with business-friendly features, like VPN software.
The Samsung Stratosphere is shaping up to be a decent offering from Verizon. The price is good, and it will have the features I know many of you are interested in. We'll know more after it hits store shelves, and we get in a review unit for in-depth analysis.
While at the CTIA tradeshow this week, I recorded a video showing off many of the features of this smartphone:
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