updated 06:55 pm EDT, Wed October 6, 2010
Hands-on with Sprint's new Android phones at CTIA
Sprint has just unveiled three new Android 2.2 phones at its live event, the LG Optimus S, Samsung Transform and Sanyo Zio, in a battle to take the mid-range and entry level of smartphones. We at Electronista got to try each of them as well as the new Sprint ID feature that will come preloaded on each. Read on for launch details and our initial take.
Sprint ID is common to all three, but what it amounts to is a branding parallel of HTC's themes. Phones with the feature will have a shortcut built into the three-button layout at the bottom of Android 2.2, though unfortunately in place of the usual browser icon. We imagine this will have less appeal than what Sprint thinks -- not many are going to want full-time ESPN or E! branding -- but it should definitely be helpful for passing a phone off to a friend. Parents will likely love it as they can switch to a Disney pack and know a child should have the apps they want right away.
The highlight of the trio is, unusually, the cheapest: the LG Optimus S will cost just $50 on contract, but it's built very well with a solid metal (or metal-like) construction and a fairly responsive capacitive touchscreen. It's similar to the Optimus One and mostly cuts costs through the 3.2-megapixel camera and a slower 600MHz processor, though we felt it was certainly smooth in our minutes with the phone in hand. Apart from Sprint ID, it seems very lightly customized.
Samsung's Transform is much of what it looks like: it's a budget Epic 4G, though it's not necessarily a step backwards. It's stuck to 3G and uses just a three-megapixel camera and a slower processor, but the keyboard is better than that on the Epic 4G; it has a more logical layout and is very well-spaced, so there's never an accidental key press. We do have some misgivings about the build, though, as it feels a bit light and the touchscreen isn't as responsive as we'd like. We were also surprised that it wasn't using TouchWiz like on the Epic 4G; we're not sure why, but we usually prefer stock Android regardless. It should cost $150 on contract, which is a bit expensive but will give some of the Epic's experience without paying as much up front or extra on the bill.
Sanyo's (read: Kyocera's) Zio is an unusual device: it's one of the few, if not the only, modern Android devices to carry a trackball instead of a trackpad (or no pad at all). We're not sure it's all that useful given how much of Android is now independent of physical controls, but it may be handy for those in the northern US who may have to use their phones in the winter cold and don't want to expose bare skin. The phone seems reasonably well put together, but it's very light -- almost too light -- and has a decent, though not spectacular, 3.5-inch touchscreen. At $100 on contract, the price is acceptable, but with the Optimus S on the scene, it's a calculated pick.
The Transform and Zio will both be available on October 10 while the Optimus S won't ship until October 31, so it may be a question of saving the best for last.