Mobile : Expert Review: Samsung Seek™ Cell Phone

THE GOOD: The Samsung Seek has a sturdy compact design plus a nice QWERTY keyboard. It offers basic multimedia features and threaded text messaging.

THE BAD: The Samsung Seek doesn't have EV-DO, so surfing the Web can be rather slow with the HTML browser. Photo quality isn't great and speakerphone quality can sound a bit muffled.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The Samsung Seek is a serviceable midrange messaging touch-screen phone for Sprint customers.

Even though we typically associate the touch-screen interface with smartphones and high-end feature phones, there are midrange devices that offer it as well. Take the Samsung Seek from Sprint, for example. Billed as a simple messaging phone with a social networking bent, the Seek comes with a decent touch-screen display in addition to a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. It also has basic multimedia offerings like a 1.3-megapixel camera and a music player. Aside from that, it's nothing too advanced, but it does make for a decent middle-of-the-road messaging phone for Sprint customers. The Samsung Seek is available for $79.99 with a new two-year service agreement from Sprint.

The Samsung Seek is a compact little device, measuring 4.1 inches long by 2.1 inches wide by 0.6 inch thick and weighing in at around 3.9 ounces. It has rounded corners, curvy sides, plus a soft touch gray backing. The front is clad in a glossy black plastic, whereas the keyboard color is either blue or pink. The sliding mechanism feels smooth and locks solidly into place.

The Samsung Seek has a 2.6-inch QVGA touch-screen display.

On the front is a rather small 2.6-inch QVGA touch-screen display. Despite its size however, it looks bright and colorful with 262,000 colors and 240×320-pixel resolution. You can adjust the backlight time, the brightness, and the display's touch sensitivity. It is a resistive display, which requires a bit more pressure than a capacitive screen, but we experienced very little lag time so it was a decent experience overall.

The touch interface on the Seek is divided into four separate menu areas: Favs, which you can customize with your favorite application shortcuts; Main, which houses basic functions like Messaging and Notes; Fun, which consists of multimedia applications and shortcuts to social network sites like Facebook and Twitter; and Web, which has the browser along with a few popular bookmark links.

Underneath the display are three physical keys: the Back button, the Home button, and the Call button. The Home button leads to the aforementioned Favs menu, while the Call button leads to the phone menu. The phone menu itself is divided into four separate areas – the favorite contacts screen, the contacts list, the recent calls list, and the phone dialer. The dialer offers a roomy virtual keypad with large keys, so we could easily dial a number. The Seek doesn't offer a virtual keyboard for text messaging, which sits just fine with us, since we would prefer to use the physical keyboard anyway.

The Samsung Seek has a slide-out QWERTY keyboard.

Slide the display to your right, and the display will change orientation from portrait to landscape mode. You will also reveal a full four-row QWERTY keyboard, with the numbers highlighted in blue. Even though it looks small, the keyboard is quite roomy, and the keys are raised slightly above the surface so we could text with speed. We like the large spacebar key in the middle along with the arrow navigation keys on the right.

The volume rocker and microSD card slot are on the left spine, and the dedicated camera key, charger jack, and power/lock key are on the right. The 3.5mm headset jack is on the top, and the camera lens is on the back.

The Samsung Seek has a rather small 600-entry phone book, but each entry has room for five numbers, three email addresses, an instant messenger handle, a street address, a web URL, a birthday, a memo, and a photo for caller ID. You can also customize each contact with one of 20 polyphonic ring tones or one of four vibration patterns.

Other phone basics include a vibrate mode, voice dialing, a speakerphone, a calculator, a notepad, a calendar, and a world clock. You also get text and multimedia messaging along with instant messaging support for AOL, Yahoo, and Windows Live. The messaging feature supports threaded conversations, so you're able to view back-and-forth discussions in a "chat"-style format.

Savvier customers will appreciate the HTML Web browser, GPS, Bluetooth, and e-mail. You can use any of the popular Web mail services like Gmail and Yahoo Mail, as well as your own personal POP3 or IMAP servers. You can even access your work e-mail if your employer uses Outlook Web Access and Microsoft Exchange.

The Seek comes with a pretty simple music player. You can create and edit playlists on the fly, and there are the usual repeat and shuffle modes along with the player controls. The phone only has 128MB of internal memory, but you can add up to 32GB of external storage via a microSD card. The music player will only work when you have a microSD card inserted anyway.

The Samsung Seek has a 1.3-megapixel camera on the back.

You also get a 1.3-megapixel camera, which can take pictures in four resolutions and three quality modes. Other camera settings include a night mode, six color effects, white-balance controls, a self-timer, shooting modes, center/spot metering, brightness, and three shutter sounds with a silent option. Photo quality is average. Colors look muted and the images were blurry.

The Samsung Seek takes average looking pictures.

If you want, you can purchase and download graphics and ringtones to further customize the Seek. In addition, you can get games and applications via the Sprint store.

We tested the Samsung Seek in San Francisco using the Sprint network. Call quality was quite impressive on the whole. We heard our callers clearly without any static or distortion. Voice quality sounded natural for the most part.

On their end, callers said they enjoyed good call quality as well. They could still tell we were on a cell phone because of a slightly harsh tinny quality to our voice, but that was the only negative.

Speakerphone calls did not go as smoothly, however. If we held the phone's mic close to our mouth, our callers could hear us just fine, but as soon as we held it around 7 or so inches away, they said we sounded muffled. On our end, the speakerphone calls had plenty of volume albeit with a slight echo effect.

Audio quality for music playback was decent, but not great. The speaker offered loud but harsh sound. We would suggest the use of a headset for the best experience.

Since the Seek only has 1xRTT speeds, surfing the Web felt rather slow. We managed to load the CNET mobile site in around 30 seconds, for example.

The Samsung Seek has a rated battery life of 5.8 hours talk time and 10 days standby time. According to the FCC, it has a digital SAR of 1.08 watts per kilogram.

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