Samsung Continuum Hands-on Preview

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When Samsung rolled out the hotly hyped dual-screen Continuum yesterday, I was there at the New York City press event to take a first-hand look at the new smartphone, which turned out to be a new version of the Galaxy S tweaked to the needs of on-the-go multi-taskers.

Even more precisely, the target audience for the Continuum consists of those who are “almost hyper-taskers,” clarified Nick DiCarlo, Samsung’s director of product planning, speaking at the crowded press conference, held in a swanky Times Square hotel.

Samsung Continuum with Google Android OSThe most noticeable differentiator between the Continuum and the Galaxy S is the new device’s splashy secondary screen. Although Samsung uses the same bright Super AMOLED technology for both phones, the Continuum features two displays — measuring 3.4 and 1.8 inches — instead of the single 4-inch screen of the Galaxy S.

Unlike the Galaxy S, which has been introduced in different flavors by all four U.S. wireless carriers, the Continuum will be available — initially, at least — only through Verizon, DiCarlo told me an interview.

Hands-on with the Samsung Continuum
When I did some hands-on a bit later, I explored the ticker and the other features which set this smartphone apart, including a pair of grip sensors and a dedicated camera button. The sensors are on both side panels, whereas the camera button is on the right.

The ticker screen is just below the main screen. By default, the ticker displays time, date and weather. It also includes a message notification light, and it’s able to display incoming messages by scrolling them in neon-like brilliance clear across the display.

Through a separate button on the ticker, you can switch the screen to show music player controls. This way you can play, stop and otherwise manage your tunes without interfering with other tasks you might be doing on the phone, such as accessing all those apps downloadable from Google’s Android Market, or chatting with friends through Samsung’s built-in Social Hub.

In another handy feature the camera button lets you use the built-in 5 megapixel rear-facing camera without moving out of any of the other apps you’re running.

Samsung Continuum with Google Android OSDiCarlo suggested that the secondary display lets you be more socially suave by letting you surreptitiously peek at the time — or find out whether you’ve gotten any messages lately– without taking the phone all the way out of your pocket and ruining a meeting.

But the ticker also delivers another benefit, letting you save on battery power by not turning on the main screen unless you need it.

You activate the ticker display by squeezing the grip sensors. I found this a very easy matter, after first figuring out where the sensors are located (toward the bottom of the phone) and how much pressure to apply (not much).

I also checked out the Social Hub. It turned out to be a handy, widget-driven central spot for touch-screen access to SMS messages and RSS feeds like weather and sports.

Aside from the key hardware tweaks, the Continuum shares the same main specs as the Fascinate, Verizon’s model of the Galaxy S, including the 1 GHz Hummingbird processor used across all four editions of the Galaxy S.

The Samsung Continuum is just as light as Verizon’s Samsung Fascinate I played with at the Galaxy S launch event in June, and the overall shape and dimensions are the same. Both phones are currently running Android 2.1, although it looks like the simpler, single-screened Fascinate might be getting an OS 2.2 update first.

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