A couple of weeks ago I replaced my simple cheap Nokia phone with a Samsung Rogue. Over all it’s pretty nice, although it seems to sit in a strange market niche below “real” smartphones. It has an HTML browser, and most of the user interface is pretty slick, but it doesn’t seem like there will be many applications available. A few specific thoughts:
- The screen is beautiful.
- The camera seems to be pretty good. The flash is blindingly bright.
- The browser is decent. It renders pages well; it’s not as snappy as my iPod Touch (1st gen), but this phone doesn’t seem to be targeted at smartphone users anyway. I haven’t figured out how to remove the Verizon bookmark or lower it in the list, so there’s one fewer bookmark I can reach without scrolling. It’s got some sort of “lite” Flash plugin, but I can’t use Hulu or Pandora so I’m not sure what value it’s adding. I haven’t tried Flash games.
- While I’m not a fan of resistive touch screens, I got used to the Rogue’s screen quickly. I still don’t understand why Nokia’s N900 uses a resistive screen, but on a lower-end phone like the Rogue it’s a reasonable cost tradeoff.
- It seems like it’s impossible to require a passcode every time the phone is unlocked. I hate phones that butt-dial, and the Samsung Rogue appears to be fully capable of not just butt-dialing but also (if you’re unlucky) butt-subscribing-to-expensive-features-like-VZ-Navigator. I honestly wonder what was going through the heads of the people designing the phone lock feature.
- It’s nice how the phone explains some of its features the first time you use them (including Mobile Email, voice commands, the overpriced VZ Navigator, etc), although I found it strange that features tell you what company provided them. Apple’s products seem to aim for a relatively seamless experience, but for whatever reason, Samsung or Verizon want me to know that the phone’s wireless chipset is made by Qualcomm, the Exchange email client comes from “RemoSync”, the voice command support comes from “Nuance”, etc. This isn’t a problem… I think it’s just related to my next thought:
- While most of the built-in stuff is pretty slick, the Mobile E-mail application looks horribly out of place with the rest of the phone. It uses a very different interface with different navigation, and an impressively ugly font. It also makes (loud) beeps even when the phone’s “master” volume is set to vibrate-only. That’s extremely irritating. The application works, but it doesn’t fit at all with the rest of the phone.
- It seems like the backlight will not turn off for a very long time if you are using the web browser and you don’t quit (e.g. if you are looking at something on Google maps every few minutes and don’t want to waste your battery or navigate back to the map over and over and). Pressing the lock button doesn’t seem to help. If there’s a way to turn the screen off quickly without exiting the browser, I haven’t found it. I assume this is the case for other features like Mobile Email, but I haven’t used them as much.
- Since Verizon charges $240 to access Microsoft Exchange emails ($10/month * 2 year contract), I still end up carrying my iPod Touch (the Mail app can access Exchange servers). The iPod’s browser is better, its mail client is better, and I also have a free shopping list app called “ShopShop” that I really like. If the Rogue had a decent email client without ridiculous Verizon fees, had a decent free shopping list application, and could stream Pandora radio, I could replace my iPod… but for the forseeable future, I’ll still carry two devices. Fortunately the iPod takes up very little pocket space. I got the phone fully expecting that I would continue to carry my iPod, so I’m not dissatisfied… but the engineer in me is slightly disappointed to such obviously-capable hardware being so underutilized.
- I’ve noticed a few times that I don’t get enough warning when the battery is low. I’ve woken up to a dead phone on multiple occasions even though it wasn’t beeping on the previous night.
- I recently got an update to the Mobile Email application which did not fix its annoying beeps. The first two times I checked email after the update, the phone crashed; it rebooted itself the first time, but I had to pull the battery the second time. Since that second time, it hasn’t crashed again.
- When you click a search result on Google, you usually receive a mobile-friendly formatted version of the page, converted by Google. That’s really annoying, since it’s almost always less-usable than the real version of the page (which the Rogue’s browser can usually handle). I haven’t found a way to save the “don’t mess with web pages” setting for Google… every time I restart the browser, I end up getting mobile pages again.