What's hot: Wonderful AMOLED display, good keyboard.
What's not: Bulky, optical d-pad not quite there.
Editor's Update, July 2010: read our review of the Samsung Intercept, that will likely replace the Moment.
Reviewed November 2, 2009 by Lisa Gade, Editor
Suddenly Android phones are popping up everywhere (OK, except on AT&T as of this writing): Verizon has the Moto Droid and T-Mobile has three Android phones. The Samsung Moment is Sprint's second Android Google OS phone, following up on their September 2009 release of the very capable HTC Hero. What does the Moment offer that the Hero doesn't? An 800MHz CPU, hardware QWERTY keyboard and a vivid AMOLED display. What does the Moment offer that no other Android phone in the US offers to date? That obscenely colorful and striking AMOLED screen. Though we expect the Samsung Behold 2 on T-Mobile to offer an AMOLED display (but no keyboard) when it ships sometime later this year.
The Moment is a vanilla Android phone running Google OS 1.5 Cupcake. That means there are no customizations like HTC Sense found on the Hero and it's up to you to customize the home screen and other aspects of the phone. Not that this is a bad thing since there are free widgets aplenty to liven up your home screen and a solid selection of free and paid apps in the Android Market. At the same time, this is a new phone yet it runs an older OS than the Google OS 1.6 MyTouch 3G on T-Mobile and the OS 2.0 Droid on Verizon. That means you miss things like enhanced search from 1.6 and Google Maps with spoken navigation and native MS Exchange sync from 2.0. As a consolation, Google's voice directions are in beta and aren't as reliable as Sprint Navigation and Samsung has included Moxier's Exchange ActiveSync solution on the Moment.
The Samsung's specs are good: an 800MHz ARM 11 CPU (previous Android phones went with the ultra-common 528MHz Qualcomm CPU, except the Droid which has a spiffy Cortex CPU), a 3.2" capacitive touch screen running at the same 320 x 480 resolution as HTC's Android phones and the iPhone 3GS, WiFi, a GPS that works with both Google Maps and Sprint Navigation, EV-DO Rev. A, a 3.2MP autofocus camera and Bluetooth with A2DP stereo. Not bad for $179 with a 2 year contract after rebates.
The T-Mobile myTouch 3G by HTC and the Samsung Moment.
Design and Ergonomics
In terms of looks, the Samsung isn't sexy nor is it slim. It's solid and functional: call it the Toyota Camry of phones. There are plenty of Samsung TouchWiz phones that look similar (Samsung Rogue, Samsung Impression), so you won't be unique on the information and telecommunication superhighways but you know you can trust your ride. Samsung does nothing to hide that this is a plastic phone but it doesn't scream "plastic" like the MyTouch 3G. The downside is that the Moment feels chunky and brickish, though it's really not huge; rather the design isn't slimming. The smartphone may not be huge but it is large, and that affords a decent keyboard that's better in terms of key travel and spread than the Moto Droid. The keys are clicky and grippy and the layout is mostly normal. This is a 4 row keyboard with a dedicated number row and the oversized space key sits in between the v and b keys. The Fn key nudges in on the left, shifting the a key to the right a bit which doesn't take all that much getting used to. There's only one shift key (left) and four arrow keys on the right that don't require an Fn key press.
The slider mechanism feels good and locks open securely while having a little play when closed. The soft touch finish on the back is much appreciated since it's grippy and doesn't show fingerprints as do gloss phones. The volume buttons are on the left side and dedicated camera and voice command keys are on the right. The Samsung Moment has a 3.5mm stereo jack up top under a rubber cover. It has a Samsung blade connector for charging and USB data transfer (there is no syncing over USB with vanilla Android phones, the phone's SD card merely mounts as a mass storage device).
The phone has standard mechanical call send and end buttons and touch sensitive (non-moving) Home, Menu and Back buttons. These work fine but unlike the Moto Droid they lack haptic feedback so you get absolutely no tactile feedback when touching them which is disconcerting. The AMOLED display is stunningly colorful and bright-- hands down it's the prettiest Android display on the US market, though it's not the highest resolution-- that award goes to the 480 x 854 pixel Droid. Photos and videos look better than they really are and web pages pop.
Price (no rebate required)
Phone and Internet
The Moment has mid-level reception and very good voice quality. Calls are clear and natural sounding on both ends and the volume is good. Nuance's very good voice command software is included and there's a dedicated button for safe dialing on the go. Nuance uses speech recognition so there's no need to record voice tags. The phone supports Bluetooth headsets as well as stereo headsets using the A2DP profile. Android phones support favorites and you can put shortcuts to folks in your address book on the 3 screen desktop. There's a proximity sensor on board so the phone's screen turns off when you hold it against your face and turns on again when you move it away from your face. Bye-bye cheek dialing.
Data speeds over Sprint's EV-DO Rev. A network were good as per usual and the Moment loads web pages quickly. WiFi is there just in case you're out of Sprint 3G service range and we had no problems connecting to public and encrypted WPA WiFi networks. The Samsung uses Google's Webkit-based browser and it does an excellent job of rendering desktop sites accurately and quickly. You can zoom using on-screen controls or by double-tapping a web page (there's no multi-touch pinch and zoom). Android doesn't yet have Flash support but it does support mobile YouTube format via the dedicated YouTube player and for videos embedded in web pages. The high quality setting looks quite good and fills the screen. As per usual with Android, there are separate icons for Gmail and email. You can set up multiple email accounts in the email client and Samsung includes Moxier's Exchange ActiveSync client that supports push email with Exchange Server 2003 and 2007 as well as contact, calendar and task syncing. If you use the MS Exchange feature you'll also get an icon for work mail and work tasks. Finally there's Messaging which handles text and MMS (Picture Mail in Sprint-speak).
Sprint and Samsung include an all-in-one IM client that handles AIM, Yahoo and Windows Live IM, and as always with Android, Google Talk is built-in. A Facebook widget is included and you can download Twitter and MySpace clients from the Android Market.
Nope, there's no easy media syncing here. Drag your music and videos to a microSD card or buy and download tunes from the included Amazon MP3 player store. It's obviously not hard to drag MP3 and AAC files to a card, but those of you who want to quickly and easily sync several hundred songs will be bummed with the state of Android. Want to insert or remove the microSD card? You'll have to pull the battery to do so. Video format support is pretty slim with MPEG4, H.264 being the format of choice. Fortunately that's a popular format that's used to rip movies and videos to iPod and iPhones, so there are plenty of how-to's on the web and ready made movie trailers in that format. The Moment's 800MHz CPU really helps with video playback and we had no problems with a 720 x 360 MPEG4 trailer encoded at 1,000kbps-- something that choked the T-Mobile G1 (the first Android phone).
Sprint TV is on board-- they manage to get this client on every one of their phones, no small accomplishment. Video fills the screen but tends to break up into a blocky mess for a second or two every 30 seconds, which isn't that unusual with Sprint TV. When we tested Sprint TV we had half full bars and a decent -db signal. Doubtless with a very strong signal, we would have seen less blockiness. Still, Sprint has a great selection of channels with sports, news, TV shows and movies that will fill the void that commutes and long lines create.
The 3.5mm stereo jack is under the rubber cover on the Moment's top edge.
Music playback sounds good through the stereo jack and Samsung's speakers are as per usual, very good. The phone's loudspeaker is really loud and clear. The Android music player is a decent application that supports cover art, playlists and the usual sorts by artist, album and title. The Moment supports microSD cards up to 16 gigs, so you could carry a large library of music and video with you.
GPS and Navigation
Since this is a Google phone, Google Maps is included. It supports mapping, POIs, on-screen directions, street view maps but not spoken directions (that's in beta and is currently available only on the Droid). We don't have to sell you on Google Maps-- it's great stuff and you've likely used it before on the desktop or on a phone. Sprint Navigation powered by Telenav is also on board and the service is included with Sprint's Simply Everything plans (it's $10/month without). In our tests the phone's GPS got a fix quickly and held onto it in our built-up mixed suburban/urban haunts. Spoken directions are loud and clear thanks to the Moment's good speaker.
The Samsung Moment should be a power hungry phone given the large display, fast CPU and multiple radios, yet it lasted about as long as other Sprint touch screen smartphones. We got 3 days with light use (a few short phone calls, 30 minutes/day web surfing and only Gmail for our email use). With heavy use that included 20 minutes of navigation, 20 minutes of phone calls, playback of a 30 minute Sprint TV episode and Exchange turned on, the phone lasted the day with no problem. Samsung includes a 1440 mAh Lithium Ion battery that's user replaceable.
If you're a Sprint customer and you want an Android phone with a keyboard, the Samsung Moment is it. If you just want a smartphone and don't care about the OS, then Sprint offers quite a few competitors including the HTC Touch Pro2, BlackBerry Tour and soon the Palm Pixi. But we'd say that Android is worth the look: it's a modern OS that's fun and easy to use (though not as brain-dead easy as the iPhone). For those who enjoy Google's services such as Maps, Gmail and YouTube, Android is worth a very serious look. And the Samsung Moment has some good things to offer including a vivid AMOLED display, a decent QWERTY hardware keyboard and a fast CPU. It doesn't stand out in terms of software enhancements as does the Hero or super-high end hardware like the Moto Droid, but it's that Camry that will get you where you want to go with plenty of creature comforts.
Pro: Wonderful AMOLED display, decent QWERTY keyboard, good speaker and has a 3.5mm stereo jack. Fast CPU.
Con: Uninspired looks (though not ugly like the G1), must remove the battery to access the microSD card slot. With Android OS 1.6 and 2.0 devices on the market, we feel a little left out with the Moment's 1.5 OS.