I've never been a big fan of the virtual keyboard. No matter how hard I try, I can't seem to type well on those too-close keys. So any time I get the chance to work with a smartphone that has the power of a real keyboard attached, I'm excited. And I was not disappointed with the Samsung Stratosphere. Although it's a fairly average Android device (in spec and design), the keyboard makes up for its lack of sexy features. But is the keypad enough to lure me away from other, more powerful, Android offerings? Let's find out.
- Form factor: Slider with Qwerty keypad and touchscreen
- OS: Android 2.3
- Dimensions: 4.96" x 2.54" x .55"
- Weight: 5.8 ounces
- Battery: 212 hours standby, 8 hours talk time
- Frequencies: LTE 700, CDMA 800/1900
- Data: 4G LTE/EVDO RevA/1X
- CPU: VIA CBP7.1 + CMC220(LTE) + AP (S5PC111, 1GHz)
- Display: 4" at 800x480 Pixel
- Camera: 5 MP rear facing, 1.3 MP front facing
- Memory: Internal 4 GB, External microSD slot
- Price: $149.00 after $50.00 rebate and two-year contract
What's good about the Stratosphere
- Slider keyboard: The phone's most impressive feature is the slider keyboard, which is one of the best I've tried. The keys are the perfect size and arrangement. With the help of this keypad, I can almost keep up with my 17-year-old in Olympic texting (though she crushes me in marathon texting). A very nice touch with this keypad is, while using it, you can access the Home screens in landscape mode. There are even function keys that mimic the soft buttons on the handset (Home, Back, Menu, and Search).
- Screen: The phone's screen is also quite nice. Although it doesn't stand up to the likes of the Droid Bionic, the screen is incredibly bright and crisp. Of all the Samsung phones I've tested, this screen is far and away the best.
- Speed: The 4G, as you would expect, is speedy. Although this isn't exactly a quality of the handset, it's nice to have these speeds at a lower cost than that of the Droid Bionic and Droid RAZR. The speed of the Android platform on the device is on par with many of the current offerings. Again, we're not talking Bionic or RAZR speeds, but the Stratosphere holds its own with many of the current upper-tier handsets.
What's bad about the Stratosphere
- Samsung UI: I've been using a Samsung mobile for more than a year, and one of the first things I did was replace the device's UI because the Samsung UI is awful. It tries very hard to be an iPhone UI and fails. Although the Samsung UI is serviceable, for anyone who knows and loves the Android UI, they know the Samsung take on the interface is not an acceptable replacement for the vanilla Android interface.
- Keyboard: As much as I love the slider keyboard, it's not the easiest keyboard to slide out. This has an upside and a downside. The upside is that it's very unlikely the keyboard will suffer from accidental slide out. The downside is that it can be rather awkward to slide out. There is no way to open the keypad with one hand and even trying to open it with two hands is sometimes a challenge. This issue might go away over time, since the issue seems to stem from the keys rubbing the backside of the phone.
- Weight: I have only come across one other handset with more heft than the Stratosphere -- the LG Doubleplay. Although the Stratosphere does feel like a solid device (it weighs 5.8 ounces), it is a bit on the portly side.
The bottom line
If you're looking for a solid 4G phone with one of the best physical keyboards available, the Samsung Stratosphere might be the device for you. If, however, you're looking for a smartphone with a bit more sex appeal and power, skip this one and head directly to the Droid Bionic or the Droid RAZR.
Photo credits: Verizon Wireless
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.