What's hot: Very nice keyboard, good video performance.
What's not: Still waiting for the Sprint Music Plus store to open.
Reviewed July 26, 2010 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
After releasing two entry-level QWERTY feature phones, the Samsung Seek and the LG Remarq, Sprint has released a heavier hitter, the Samsung Restore. Though under the eco-friendly phone banner with the limeade version looking like spring grass, the Samsung Restore is actually a strong mid-tier feature phone that has an excellent QWERTY keyboard, fast 3G EV-DO, good Sprint TV and YouTube performance and a nice music player. Throw in a built-in GPS that works well with Sprint Navigation, full messaging, the Netfront web browser and Sprint’s One Click UI for easy access to social networking, Google and Yahoo! Services, and you’ve got a very nice feature phone at an affordable price (currently $50 with a contract). The Samsung Restore comes in two colors, Limeade and Midnight.
The Samsung Restore is an interesting looking phone, especially the green version. It’s not a small phone at 4.6 x 2.1 x 0.6 inches, but it feels good in hand. The long body gives the phone a roomy keyboard that’s easy to type on but not too wide to hold comfortably in landscape mode. The green version has a very pleasing young grass green color with silver accents. The front number pad also has a faint green hue and the backlit keyboard is set on a green background that makes it very easy to see. The 2.5” QVGA display is reasonably bright with saturated colors, but viewing angles are limited. The display washes out a little bit under the sun, but you can still use the screen as the viewfinder if you need to take photos in direct sunlight. The Samsung Restore has an optical trackpad instead of a d-pad. The trackpad is very responsive; in fact, it’s so responsive that it can feel jumpy at times.
The 4-row QWERTY keyboard is a joy to type on. The keys have some separation and there are no odd key placements. The top row of letters houses an embedded number row and the spacebar sits right in the middle. Dedicated keys on the keyboard include a web browser launcher, text message launcher, emoticon key and a very convenient “www” key and “.com” key. 4 directional keys live on the bottom right corner of the QWERTY. The phone has two menu buttons on the QWERTY keypad just below the display.
The Samsung Restore has only the volume rocker and the camera launch/shutter button on its sides along with the charging port, 3.5mm audio jack and a phone charm holder. The microSD card slot is under the battery door, but you need not remove the battery to access it. The phone has been tested with up to 32GB microSD cards, and comes with a 2GB card.
Phone, Messaging and Web
The Samsung Restore has decent reception but it’s not exceptional. It gets half or less of full signal strength in marginal coverage areas and three quarters of full signal in good coverage areas. Voice quality is very good and volume is loud on both incoming and outgoing ends. The Samsung Restore has a contacts database that can store up to 1,000 entries and 99 speed numbers. The phone comes with the excellent Nuance voice command software that handles voice dialing very well and it can also launch messaging and other applications via voice command.
Aside from the hardware features, the One Click carousel UI is the biggest attraction on the software front. One Click offers access to a broad selection of functions and provides convenient access to many applications including the web browser, messaging apps, Google apps (Maps, YouTube and search), Yahoo apps (mail, news, Address book and link to home page), phone profile personalization, social networking logins and more.
As a QWERTY messaging phone, the Samsung Restore benefits from the One Click carousel with quick access to text messaging, mobile email including Yahoo!, Windows Live Hotmail, Gmail, AOL mail and more. And if you are an avid social network user, there are direct logins to Facebook, Twitter and Myspace right on the carousel. The Samsung Restore comes with Access Netfront 3.5.1 that can display full HTML web pages. Page loading speed is good thanks to the EV-DO 3G, but full HTML pages with columns look cramped on a QVGA screen.
Thanks to EV-DO 3G the Samsung Restore is a strong multimedia contender with music playback, Sprint TV video, YouTube video and more. The Samsung Restore is a great music phone even though it’s missing the Sprint Music Store. The phone has a good music player onboard that plays MP3 as well as AAC files. We tested MP3 songs and unprotected iTunes songs, and the phone worked well. The music player has album art support as well as playlists. Sprint’s Music Plus store will be available to the Samsung Restore later this year, but for now, you can load your music onto microSD cards and play them on the Restore. The built-in speakerphone sounds very decent for music playback with nice audio quality and loud volume. You can also opt to play music through the 3.5mm stereo audio jack or Bluetooth wireless headphones via A2DP.
The Samsung Restore is also a good Sprint TV phone. Videos streamed using Sprint TV played reasonably smoothly with very occasional lags even in full screen mode. Most full episode TV programs have good video quality and play well on the Samsung Restore with audio in sync with video. Program selection is impressive on Sprint TV especially the number of full episode TV shows that are available. Streaming speed is good when in good coverage areas, and it does slow down when you are in marginal coverage areas. Thanks to the One Click Google integration, the Samsung Restore can launch mobile YouTube videos with one click. YouTube videos play at about 15 fps in Normal mode and about 7-10 fps in High quality mode. You can play the video in full screen in landscape mode for the max display resolution.
GPS and Navigation
The Samsung Restore has a built-in GPS that works smoothly with Sprint Navigation. The phone gets GPS fixes quickly and displays maps and routes. Sprint Navigation, powered by TeleNav, has recently updated their POI database and more street names are shown along your route. Route navigation on the Samsung Restore is quick and turn-by-turn directions are accurate in metro and large suburb areas. The phone has a loud speaker and voice guidance from Sprint Navigation is loud and clear for spoken directions. Other location based services include traffic reports, sharing locations, Family Locator and more.
The Samsung Restore has a 2 megapixel camera that’s capable of recording videos with audio. The phone actually takes pretty decent photos by 2-megapixel camera phone standards. Outdoor photos on a sunny day look good with enough detail and balanced colors. There is whiteout in spots hit directly by the sunlight, but other than that pictures look good. Indoor shots show more noise but it’s not too bad given the fact that the camera phone doesn’t have a flash. The camera software offers a full set of options including white balance, resolution, shooting mode (including night mode), save location and a lot more.
The Samsung Restore can also take videos in either MMS length or long video clips though the biggest file is limited to 512 KB and you can’t send the long videos. Clips recorded with the phone look decent and play back smoothly with audio in sync with video. The camcorder software also offers many setting options including white balance, quality, saving locations and more.
The Samsung Restore has a user replaceable 3.7V Li-ion battery’s that’s 1140 mAh in capacity. Battery life is very good, getting nearly 6 hours of talk time and at least a week standby. Even with watching Sprint TV and using Sprint Navigation, the phone lasted us 5 days. As the Samsung Restore is under the eco-friendly series, the phone comes with an Energy Start v2.0 qualified charger with standby power loss less than 30mW.
With 84 percent recyclable material, the Samsung Restore is made with environment concerns in mind. The phone’s casing contains 27% post-consumer recycled plastics and the packaging is 100% recyclable with soy ink print. Beyond the eco-friendly features, the Samsung Restore offers a very nice video experience, good GPS performance and a full serving of messaging and social networking. It’s a great phone for the price with a contract.
Pro: Very nice keyboard, good video performance.
Con: Still waiting for the Sprint Music Plus store to open.
Price: $49.99 with a 2-year contract after saving and mail-in rebate, $249.99 without a contract.