What's hot: Very good GPS performance. Camera takes good photos.
What's not: You won’t like the web browser if you do a lot of web surfing on your phone.
Reviewed May 4, 2010 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
The Samsung Reality is a Verizon 3G multimedia phone and it’s their latest mid-tier feature phone with a launch price of $79 with contract. The touch screen QWERTY slider is smaller in all dimensions than the Samsung Rogue that came out last fall on Verizon, but it doesn’t necessarily replace the Samsung Rogue. From a feature and spec standpoint, the Rogue has an AMOLED display, EVDO Rev. A and 768MB of internal flash memory. The Samsung Reality is more pocketable, has a slightly better camera and an improved TouchWiz UI. But the Samsung Reality doesn’t have an AMOLED display and has only EVDO Rev. 0. The omission of AMOLED display technology means reduced color vibrancy, but it also makes the screen more viewable outdoors. The slightly slower EV-DO 3G affects the V CAST Video play and web surfing. Battery life is better on the Samsung Reality thanks to a beefier battery. TouchWiz is easier to use on the Samsung Reality and there are links to popular social networking and sharing sites. The Samsung Reality comes in two colors: Piano Black and City Red.
The Samsung Reality has Samsung’s TouchWiz UI and three today screens. The TouchWiz interface has an improvement: you can launch applications from the widgets bar without having to bring them into the today screen first. You can customize it by adding any application to the widget bar or deleting from it, and drag widgets in and out of the today screens freely. For traditionalists who don’t want to use TouchWiz, there is a Verizon grid menu interface as well and it can lead you to all your applications and content. The Samsung Reality works with most Verizon services including V CAST Music with Rhapsody, V CAST Video, VZ Navigator, visual voicemail, corporate email and more.
Design and Ergonomics
The Samsung Reality looks solid and classy for a mid-tier feature phone. Both the black and red versions have an elegant look. Measuring 2.09 x 4.23 x 0.59 inches, the phone doesn’t look thick even though it has a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. The 3” touch screen dominates the front; it’s not an AMOLED screen like the ones on the Samsung Jet or the Samsung Moment, but it’s color saturated and reasonably bright. The Send key and the End/Power key share front real estate with a polygon-shaped Clear/Back key. The back of the Samsung Reality looks interesting and reminds us a bit of the Jet’s red tail light reflector look, though the Reality isn’t as reflective. The red Reality looks shinier than the Samsung Jet and has a more distinct pattern than the Samsung Behold.
Unlike the LG Rumor Touch’s 5 row keyboard, the Samsung Reality has a 4-row QWERTY. The keys however feel spacious and have very good tactile feedback complete with audio response. The backlit keyboard has a mostly normal layout with two exceptions: the “B” key is on the right side of the Space bar and the Fn key sits in the upper left corner instead of lower left corner, the same set-up found on the Samsung Rogue. If you can get used to the “B” key’s location, you will like this keyboard.
It’s a good thing that the Samsung Reality has a screen lock because there are many side buttons that stick out which makes it easy to press them by accident. The side buttons include the volume rocker, camera launcher, speaker launcher/zoom key, voice recognition and screen lock. The microSD card slot is on the right side which would be very easy to access except the spring-loaded slot is super inset and requires a healthy fingernail to poke it in or spring it loose. The phone also has a 3.5mm stereo audio jack on top for music lovers.
Phone Features and Reception
The Samsung Reality gets decent signal strength but it’s not robust. In well covered areas, it can get up to full bars on 1X and EVDO 3G, but it often drops one or two bars below max even in good coverage areas. In spotty coverage areas, the phone struggles to get a good 3G connection. While the phone never dropped a call on 1X, it did drop the 3G connection in some areas with a weaker signal. Voice quality is quite good on both incoming and outgoing ends. Make sure you take all the protective plastic strips off before using the phone, as one of them covers the mic hole.
The Samsung Reality has a phonebook that can store up to 1,000 entries with multiple numbers for each entry, and One, Two and Three-touch dialing. For safer driving, the Samsung Reality comes with excellent voice command software by Nuance that gives you access to calls, text, play music and more.
Wirefly price (no rebate required):
Since the Samsung Reality is a QWERTY phone it has support for most IM services as well as mobile email. Mobile email includes Yahoo!, AOL, AIM, Windows Live and more. It’s free with data packages or $5 per month without. The Samsung Reality also comes with links to social networking sites including Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, MySpace, Photobucket and Friendster.
The Samsung Reality comes with the Polaris web browser that can display full HTML sites. The web browser loads WAP sites speedily but is slow at loading full HTML sites with images. There are two modes of displaying pages; the optimized mode will display one column at a time while the non-optimized view keeps the page layout intact. It gets the job done but can’t complete with smartphone web browsers. The touch screen is responsive and is the best way to navigate around web pages because the keyboard navigation (d-pad) is unbearably slow. The browser supports the accelerometer but it lacks Flash for YouTube playback inside of the web browser. The phone has Bing for web searches.
GPS and VZ Navigator
The aGPS gets fixes very quickly and the accuracy is spot on (try walking the follow me on the map feature). Route calculations are quite fast and it auto re-routes when you go off of the current trip plan. Turn-by-Turn directions are mostly accurate and voice guidance is on target. Maps load at a good speed, though it takes a little time to catch where you are when you first launch the turn-by-turn if you have started driving. The new version of VZ Navigator has speech recognition built-in, so when you are driving and need to input an address, you can just speak it. It can also check traffic, send location info, follow you on the map (great for walking), and it has local search and weather. The Samsung Reality has a good display for navigation: in a car or in slight shade the screen is easy to see. The display does look washed out a bit in direct sunlight but you can still make out the maps on the screen. The speaker is loud enough for voice guidance to come through even on a highway.
The Samsung Reality comes with a built-in music player that has a fancy interface and works with MP3, WMA, unprotected AAC and AAC+ files. Though the Samsung has only a single backfiring speaker, the sound is very loud and reasonably full. For a better playback experience, use the 3.5mm jack with a stereo headset though no headset is included with the phone. Audio through wired headsets sounds full and loud with very decent bass. The music player when in portrait mode displays touch controls including volume control, EQ graph and touch buttons for repeat and shuffle. When you rotate the phone to landscape, the music player with accelerometer support will switch to album art view. The Samsung Reality works well with the V CAST Music with Rhapsody music store for surfing and shopping for music. Music download speed is good via Verizon’s EV-DO. If you have ripped music in iTunes or Windows Media Player, you can copy it to a media card to play on the Samsung, or use the Media Sync via USB.
The good audio via 3.5mm jack also improves the video playback experience. The Samsung Reality works with V CAST Video for on-demand video playback. The Samsung can play video in landscape full screen mode. Video quality was good in our tests but not super smooth, and audio some times went out of sync with video. Full TV episodes played better. V CAST Video on demand costs $10/month and it offers many prime time channels and kids' channels as well as sports and news.
For free video content, the Samsung Reality offers mobile YouTube and it can play YouTube videos in either normal or HD form. The video quality is surprisingly good especially in HD playback, but there are noticeable frame drops in HD mode. Videos play more smoothly at Normal resolution.
The Samsung Reality has a more than passable 3.2 megapixel camera that takes sharp and color saturated photos. Perhaps some of the digital sharpening effects are a bit harsh, but the photos look very pleasing and stay true to the original colors. There is a noticeable amount of noise in indoor shots. The camera application offers features such as night shot, story shot, panorama shot, etc. as well as options for white balance, color and other effect settings. The camera can also capture video and for a 3.2 megapixel phone, the video quality is quite good. But the video resolution is limited to 176 x 144 pixels. Since there isn’t a lens protector, make sure that you wipe the lens clean before taking any photos or videos.
The Samsung Reality comes with a standard rechargeable Lithium battery that’s 1080 mAh in capacity. The claimed talk time is 5 hours and the claimed standby is 12.5 days. Our battery tests showed that the phone had very good run times and should reach these targets with moderate data usage. Watching V CAST TV and using VZ Navigator for a couple of hours a day the phone will last you for only a couple of days. If you need something beefier, check out the extended 1600 mAh battery that logs talk times near 6 hours and standby of about two weeks. The phone’s battery door isn’t easy to open; you will need to pry it open with fingernails.
The Samsung Reality is not a clear replacement for the Samsung Rogue since each phone has slightly different strengths. As a new mid-tier feature phone with 3G and all of Verizon services, the Samsung Reality competes very well against rivals like the LG Rumor Touch. The phone looks solid and pocketable, and lets you enjoy any multimedia content offered by Verizon via EVDO. The camera is very decent and TouchWiz is easier to use. The web browser is behind the times.
Pro: Very good GPS performance. Camera takes good photos.
Con: You won’t like the web browser if you do a lot of web surfing on your phone.
Price: $79.99 with 2-year contract after online discount. $249.99 without contract.
Battery: Lithium Polymer rechargeable battery, 1080 mAh. Talk time: up to 5 hours; standby time: up to 12.5 days. Extended battery: 1600 mAh.
Performance: 128MB internal memory. Phone book can store 1000 entries.
Size: 2.09 x 4.23 x 0.59 inches. Weight: 4.59 oz.
Phone: Digital CDMA phone. 800/1900MHz. EVDO Rev. 0 for data.
Camera: 3.2 megapixel with night mode, story mode, and panorama mode. Still image resolutions: 2048x1536, 1920x1080, 1600x1200, 1280x720, 1024x768, 640x480, 800x480 and 320x240 pixels. Can take video with audio.
Audio: Supports Polyphonic ringers and MP3 music tones. MP3 player onboard to play music in MP3, WMA, Unprotected AAC and AAC+ formats. 3.5 mm stereo audio jack. Can record voice memo. Supports vibration alert.
Networking: Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR. Profiles supported: Headset, Handsfree, Dial Up Networking, Stereo, Phonebook Access, Basic Printing, Basic Imaging, Object Push for vCard and vCal, File Transfer & Serial Port Profiles.
Software: Samsung TouchWiz UI. Polaris HTML browser and web-based IM on board. Links to Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, Flickr, Photobucket and Friendster. PIM tools include Contacts, Calendar with Scheduler, Note Pad, Sketch Pad, Alarm Clock, World Clock, Calculator (Normal, Tip, Converter), Stop Watch, Timer, USB Mass Storage and File Viewer.
Expansion: 1 microSD card slot. Supports SDHC cards up to 16GB cards.
In the Box: The Samsung Reality phone with standard battery, AC charger and printed guides.