Samsung surprises us with a capable but cheap touchscreen slider. (October 17th, 2010)
Making a messaging phone that stands out is increasingly a near-impossible feat: it needs to be more advanced than a market of dozens of rivals but keep the price well below that of a smartphone. Samsung's Seek is unique in adding a touchscreen but actually costing less than many of its rivals at just $20 on a contract. While tempting, is it enough to leap in? We find out in our Seek review.
Product Manufacturer: Samsung
Price: $20 (2 years, Sprint)
- Good touch UI for a basic phone.
- Very low price.
- Lots of social networking; threaded texting.
- Poor camera.
- Small two-inch screen.
Hardware and design
The aesthetic design of the Seek doesn't feel terribly mature: it's available in very conspicuous blue, pink, and red options. Our review unit came in Fantasy Pink and had the look and feel of a phone you'd give to a teenage daughter as it was covered in flowery embellishments. The blue and red models use a more simple design, but on the whole it's very clear who Samsung is targeting here; we just wish it included adults.
The screen on the Seek may be a touchscreen, but an Android phone (like the Intercept) or an iPhone it's not. It's small at just two inches diagonally and uses a 240x320 resolution. Both the sensitivity and calibration of the touchscreen are average, too. It does keep the design uncluttered with home, back, and phone buttons as the only ones on the front face. The sides of the phone are typical but are highlighted by a dedicated camera shutter button.
The slide out QWERTY keyboard on the phone is sturdy and well designed. In many ways, it's a scaled down version of the keyboards on the Epic 4G or Transform with relatively little accidental input.
On the opposite end of the quality spectrum, the 1.3-megapixel camera on the back of the phone has no illumination source or self-portrait mirror. Picture quality with this low resolution camera was below average, making it one of the phone's weakest features; it's there to get a frame of reference and not a lasting memory.
Software and user experience
The OS for the phone is broken down into four main tabs titled Favs, Main, Fun, and Web. Each tab has nine shortcuts to applications on the phone, with the Favs tab of course being customizable for a user's favorite functions. Interestingly for the class, the Seek does support multitasking and the running of apps in the background; it's not often seen at this price point. The phone and dialling functions are accessed only by pressing the phone button.
The messaging application on the Seek supports a variety of messaging platforms as well as threaded messaging. Samsung also includes built-in apps for popular social media networks like Facebook and Twitter, as well as e-mail and calendaring applications. We tested several of the social media networks and were very satisfied with their functionality given the nature of the OS. We also synced a Gmail account which promptly loaded our address book and inbox to the phone; ironically, some smartphones can't do this as well.
The phone also includes support for Bluetooth headsets and stereo music playback, although the music files must be stored on a microSD card that isn't included. Phone call quality is good, though not spectacular, and we have no complaints about volume or clarity on either the headset or through the speakerphone. While a larger screen would make the apps easier to use we were happy with their utility, especially given the price point of this phone -- a running theme through most of our testing. The only real let-down with the phone was, again, the camera.
The Seek is a lot of phone for only $20 (albeit after a rebate). The built-in social media, messaging, em-ail, and Internet applications are all designed well for the tiny profile. If you need a simple, affordable Sprint phone that has a few key advanced capabilities, the Seek is a great choice; it's a good teenager's phone if you can get it in a tasteful color. Just be sure to bring along a dedicated camera.