REVIEW: Samsung Transform – Sprint ID is handy, but is it enough for this phone?

samsungtransform

The Samsung Transform isn’t like other smartphones recently reviewed by IntoMobile, which have been particularly exciting in the last few months. It seems like every week we are blessed with a new phone sporting the latest operating systems like Windows Phone 7 and Android Froyo 2.2, technologies like 4G and mobile hotspots, cameras with more megapixels packed in, faster processors, and excessively large screens.

For every “superphone” introduced and coveted, there will soon be a dozen adequate phones powered by last year’s hardware. This lower class of smartphone will significantly increase in number as more people make the leap into the smartphone lifestyle. The Samsung Transform is a prime example with its low resolution screen, limited storage, slow processor, and unimpressive camera.

However, the Transform has one exciting feature which ironically isn’t from Google or Samsung; it’s from Sprint. Sprint ID takes the guesswork out of which apps, widgets, ringtones, and wallpapers from the Android Marketplace you should download first. With what seems like an infinite number of customization options available, personalizing your phone may feel like a daunting task. Sprint ID can jumpstart your smartphone experience without requiring you to waste lots of time perusing the “ever-expanding” Android Marketplace. Twenty downloads and installations drops to one.

Sprint Samsung Transform

Available now from Sprint for $149.99 with a 2-year contract.

Specifications (Specs – Sheet)

  • 3.5-inch HVGA (480×320) capacitive touchscreen
  • 800 MHz processor
  • 256 MB RAM / 512 MB ROM
  • 3.2-megapixel rear camera with LED flash
  • VGA front facing camera for video calls
  • Android 2.1 Eclair
  • 2GB microSD card preinstalled (supports up to 32GB)
  • Sprint ID ready
  • 3G connectivity
  • WiFi (b/g)
  • GPS
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • QWERTY keyboard

The Good

  • Sprint ID for app collections
  • QWERTY keyboard for fast text messaging
  • Large multitouch display
  • Front-facing camera for video calls

The Bad

  • 480×320 resolution
  • 800 MHz can feel anemic under high load
  • 256 MB RAM keeps it nice and slow
  • Abysmal battery life
  • Screen not very responsive
  • Camera leaves something to be desired

Hardware

The Samsung Transform sports a decent feature set, but it won’t blow your mind. Yes, it may have dual cameras, but the primary one is limited to just 3.2 megapixels… the same number of megapixels that the iPhone had… in 2008. It may have a decently large screen at 3.5 inches, but its resolution doesn’t do the Android UI justice. It’s the same resolution the original iPhone had… in 2007. Before you get upset you should know this review won’t be a straight Transform to iPhone comparison. That would be obnoxious. You should just be warned that the Transform’s hardware isn’t going to qualify for “superphone” status. But then again, Sprint and Samsung never intended the Transform to be the highest-end Android phone available today.

Power

The Transform is powered by a relatively slow processor and limited RAM. Basic tasks like opening or switching applications leaves you time to take another sip of coffee in the morning. Swiping the screen to quickly scroll through contacts also seems like a painful task for the Transform. You don’t experience the same smooth scrolling that phones with faster processors exhibit. Once you’ve opened a few apps and start switching around, the phone slows to a crawl. If you’re a power user, you definitely will want to reconsider the somewhat anemic Transform.

Size and Weight

4.61″ x 2.42″ x .61″. No surprises here. It’s the size one expects a phone to be, unlike the gargantuan Droid X or HTC EVO 4G. Even with the keyboard slid open the phone is still a manageable size.

153.2 grams with the battery. Not too heavy; not too light.

Fit and Finish

The full QWERTY keyboard is actually the most solid piece of the Transform’s hardware. When you’re holding the phone by the keyboard you forget that the rest is made from plastic. The keyboard slider mechanism is just as solid as the Sprint Samsung Epic 4G, which makes sense, given the similarity between the Epic 4G and the Transform. That’s not a complaint, as the keyboard slides out smoothly and with confidence.

Overall fit and finish is on par for a mid-range smartphone. In fact, were it not for the extensive use of plastics, the Transform could have been a rockstar in this department.

Software

Everyone lately is talking about Android Froyo 2.2 (and even Gingerbread 2.3!). Unfortunately, The Transform comes with Eclair 2.1 and an “upgrade coming soon” caveat. This means all apps that require 2.2 won’t work with this phone. Exchange access, Adobe AIR, tethering, and portable hospots aren’t possible either. Will we see the advertised 450-500% increase in performance when the 2.2 upgrade finally arrives? That sure would be nice.

The homescreen, apps, ringtones, and wallpapers on the Transform are easily modified by Sprint ID. What’s Sprint ID? A surprisingly easy to use way to install customization packages onto your phone. With so many Android phones being sold to people who aren’t accustomed to App Stores and Marketplaces, Sprint ID allows you to quickly take your phone from a blank slate to a colorful, app-filled powerhouse. You no longer have to worry about which apps should be downloaded first. Sprint ID takes care of everything.

Below are a few IDs that are available for download.

My ID

My ID offers a serene mountain range wallpaper, essential apps on your homescreen, a Google search widget, and some guides to help teach you how to use your Android phone.

Auto Enthusiast

Love driving? Auto Enthusiast shows you a pristine road on your homescreen, a chronograph watch widget, and tons of apps.

Screen 1: Text Twist, World War, Newton Lite, Handmark, and Daily Deal widget.

Screen 2: Layar, AndiCar, Carrr Matey, TeleNav GPS Navigator, Express News Wdiget, and WeatherBug widget.

Screen 3 (Home): Email, Contacts, Messages, and Voicemail.

Screen 4: Autoweek.com, Car and Driver, Road and Track, F1 Pocket 2010, and Tweetcaster widget.

Screen 5: Edmunds.com, KBB.com, Autosite.com, Autotrader, and Where widget.

Business Pro

You love making sales trips to multiple continents, and you need close contact with the business world. The wallpaper is Earth’s land spread across 5 screens. Slick.

Screen 1: ElectionCaster, Reuters, FierceMarkets, CamCard Lite, and Where widget.

Screen 2: DocumentsToGo, Evernote, ActionComplete, Spell Check, text Twist, Sudoku, and Astrid Tasks widget.

Screen 3 (Home): Email, Contacts, Messages, VoiceMail, clock/date widget, and Bilk Calendar Widget.

Screen 4: ProOnGo Expense, TripIt, Handmark, TeleNav GPS Navigator, Express News Widget, and WeatherBug widget.

Screen 5: Currenty, Talk To Me Classic, Carrr Matey, My Assist, Tweetcaster widget, and Daily Deal widget.

Small Biz

Small business indeed. You’re presented with a gorgeous line of skyscrapers across 5 screens.

Screen 1: ProOnGo Expense,  Key Ring, Currency, Quickbook, Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, American Express, and Discover.

Screen 2: Facebook, Salesforce, Go Daddy, Intuit GoPayment, UPS, FedEx, Citrix, DocumentsToGo, Dropbox, and Tweetcaster widget.

Screen 3 (Home): Email, Contacts, Messages, Voicemail, clock/date widget, and Bilk Calendar Widget.

Screen 4: Tip Me, Fandango, Handmark, Carr Matey, Where, Yelp, OpenTable, MyAssist and Express News Widget.

Screen 5: TeleNav GPS Navigator, TripIt, FlightView, GoodMorning, WeatherBug widget, and a variety of car rental, airlines, hotels, and travel planning website shortcuts.

Socially Connected

Although this is the supposed social ID, it’s still missing some essential apps like Foursquare.

Screen 1: Yelp, IMDb, Fandango, Handmark, and Express Horoscopes Widget.

Screen 2: CelebrityTweets, Mashable, Picsay, Wiki Mobile, Where widget, and Express News Widget.

Screen 3 (Home): Facebook, Gowalla, Email, Contacts, Messages, Voicemail, and Tweetcaster widget.

Screen 4: Pandora, Wertago, Layar, AndroidGuys, SpringPad, Shazaam, Bump, Pixelpie, and YouTube widget.

iMobsters, What the Doodle Lite, Collapse, Guitar Hero, and Daily Deal widget.

Clean

Clean is self-explanatory. No apps on your homescreen; black wallpaper. This should make those who dislike all of the carriers’ forced skins and modifications happy. You actually have the option to start from scratch and add exactly what you want.

Camera

First, the camera takes several seconds to load. Second, the pictures are disappointing. Once the camera is ready to take pictures, the controls are extremely simple. All of the advanced features like flash mode, scene mode, white balance, color effect, size, quality, and focus are hidden behind a subtle sliding menu.

The primary buttons are (1) take a picture/start recording, and (2) switch between camera and video recording modes. There’s also an area showing your most recent picture which you can touch to see a full screen view. While viewing your pictures in the Gallery you can touch the Share button to send them through various installed applications. For example, when I chose to share a photo I was presented with the option to use Bump, Dropbox, Evernote, Facebook, GMail, Messaging (MMS), Picasa, Pixelpipe, Tumblr, TweetCaster, and Twitter. Of course most of those apps and widgets were manually installed through the Android Marketplace.

Unfortunately, again, with only 3.2 MP and a brutally cheap sensor, the pictures (and videos) are truly mediocre.

Browsing and Multimedia

The Transform’s browser uses webkit just like all Android phones and iOS devices. How could it possibly be ruined? I know! Force me to use Sprint’s mobile portal until I manually change it. Oh and I can’t use the browser until I enter my phone number. That’s a first.

Watching videos on YouTube’s mobile website, m.youtube.com, is pretty fun with the phone’s loud internal speaker. There’s an option to “Watch in High Quality” (which should honestly be set by default), and the browser is tightly integrated with the phone’s Menu button. You can quickly rate, favorite, share, or leave a comment. The thoroughly loud speaker also makes Pandora fun to use.

Adobe Flash does not come pre-installed on the Transform, so you can’t watch a large (thankfully decreasing) portion of videos (and ads!) online. A quick Google search revealed two options for making Flash work: root your phone, or have one of a few specific phones running Android 2.2 Froyo. Let’s face the truth here. Flash is not for mobile. Note: While testing the Transform I installed Flash 10.1 on a Motorola Droid running 2.2. Crash, crashing, and more crashes.

Navigating music is tolerable using Android’s built-in music player. Playback is surprisingly smooth, given the phone’s tendency to become bogged down when doing some heavy multi-tasking. You can sync your iTunes library to the phone using the DoubleTwist application on your desktop, which makes it easy to transition from an iPod to the Transform. You can also set a music widget on your desktop for quick access to your tunes when on the go.

Call Quality and Battery

Make calls, receive calls. This is a magical concept for someone who has been an AT&T subscriber for several years now. Thank you, Sprint. Having the option to use Google Voice as the primary communication is truly awesome. Although, according to the Transform and a cryptic error message (get used to that if you are switching to Android), Sprint won’t let you use Google Voice for your voicemail. Let me get this straight. Google Voice is a Google product. Android is a Google product. Android supports Google Voice, but Sprint says no thanks? Wonderful.

The battery in the Transform is bad. The battery is completely dead by the end of the day WITHOUT EVEN TOUCHING THE PHONE. Read that again. 0 phone calls made. 0 phone calls received. 0 emails composed. I’m sure there are “task managers” that help increase battery life by quitting unnecessary applications/processes, but a reviewer (or a customer) should not have to install an app to make the phone work properly. I assume “WeatherBug Loading Data, Please Wait…” appearing in the Notifications menu all day every day is likely involved in the phone dying so quickly.

Sorry but this is a dealbreaker for Android as of right now. Task managers? That feels like using Windows 2000 again! Remember pressing Control-Alt-Delete to get to the Task Manager so you could manually kill dead processes? We’ve come a long way in the computer world. I don’t understand why we’ve regressed in the mobile world. Yes, I’m sure this is a temporary problem that Android 2.3 or 3.0 will magically fix, but for now it’s a serious problem for casual users. Try telling your parents they just need to “kill that stupid task.” Good luck.

Should I Buy One?

Short answer: No.

Long answer: If your only option is Sprint and you’re in the market for an Android phone, I recommend purchasing an HTC EVO 4G for an extra $50. You will be happier with its larger, high resolution screen, faster processor, and powerful camera. If you’re looking for your first ever smartphone purchase then make sure you play with as many phones as possible. Maybe Android isn’t right for you. Also, figure out what your priorities are. For example, if you want to take beautiful pictures, do not buy the Samsung Transform. If you want to watch movies on the go, do not buy the Samsung Transform. If you want to record videos of your kids graduating from high school, do not buy the Samsung Transform.

Are you seeing a pattern yet? If you really want a rockstar phone on Sprint, check out the Epic 4G (Samsung Galaxy S Pro). You won’t be disappointed.

  • Mshmsucks

    Dave,

    You need to pay attention to what’s on your screen. You don’t have to enter your number to use the browser or use sprints portal, it just comes up first.

    Second, the battery issues associated with keeping many processes running at the same time are not the fault of the phone. If you deign to not load a million widgets and kill non essential processes when they are not in use, then the battery can last several days. As far as regression in this area in regards to mobile vs pc, your pc is still 1000 times more powerful than your phone. If you were able to slap a pc battery onto a mobile phone, your phone would last 100 times longer than your pc. What has progressed in the PC world vs mobile is the capacity of batteries and the increased efficiencies in processors. What you take as a regression in the mobile market vs the pc market is actually a signal of the merging of the two markets. As phones become more powerful than the PCs we had less than 5 years ago.

    Your lack of understanding of how these phones actually works makes me question any recommendation that you have for buying or not buying any phone.

    • http://www.tehdik.com tehdik

      “Your lack of understanding of how these phones actually works…”
      Sorry I shouldn’t have to manage processes and all that nonsense to make my phone last a full day. That’s why I use an iPhone.

    • http://www.tehdik.com tehdik

      “Your lack of understanding of how these phones actually works…”
      Sorry I shouldn’t have to manage processes and all that nonsense to make my phone last a full day. That’s why I use an iPhone.

    • http://www.tehdik.com tehdik

      “Your lack of understanding of how these phones actually works…”
      Sorry I shouldn’t have to manage processes and all that nonsense to make my phone last a full day. That’s why I use an iPhone.

    • http://www.tehdik.com tehdik

      “Your lack of understanding of how these phones actually works…”
      Sorry I shouldn’t have to manage processes and all that nonsense to make my phone last a full day. That’s why I use an iPhone.

    • http://www.tehdik.com tehdik

      “Your lack of understanding of how these phones actually works…”
      Sorry I shouldn’t have to manage processes and all that nonsense to make my phone last a full day. That’s why I use an iPhone.

    • http://www.tehdik.com tehdik

      “Your lack of understanding of how these phones actually works…”
      Sorry I shouldn’t have to manage processes and all that nonsense to make my phone last a full day. That’s why I use an iPhone.

  • Anonymous

    Where the heck is the Android 2.2 for it? I bought this a few months ago and they promised me a fast update from 2.1…. COME ON SAMSUNG!

    • http://www.tehdik.com tehdik

      It’s definitely there now.

    • http://www.tehdik.com tehdik

      It’s definitely there now.

    • http://www.tehdik.com tehdik

      It’s definitely there now.

    • http://www.tehdik.com tehdik

      It’s definitely there now.

    • http://www.tehdik.com tehdik

      It’s definitely there now.

    • http://www.tehdik.com tehdik

      It’s definitely there now.

  • Not

    We get it, it’s a midrange phone. It is only $50 now with rebate instead of $250 and a $10 a month charge for the heavier ability to download on the Epic.
    The info on the keyboard and the possibility of froyo, good ifo. Battery sounds like an issue with your phone, in standby it should go for significantly longer than 1 day.
    Sprint ID?? If you now what you want go get it yourself and avoid the bloat associated with one of the ID’s. Although it works I found that with all the ID’s I’d get a few good along with a few bad apps/setups.

  • Erik DiIulio

    Funny that we are listening to a review from a ”
    User Interface Designer” who is ”
    passionate about Apple and its mobile products” In this economy we couldnt find someone with an un biased opinion?
    i dont buy into the cost to usability ratio for apple products.This phone was free for me and there are certain things i can accept when i get to save $$$

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