Mobile : Expert Reviews: Samsung Flight™ II Cell Phone

THE GOOD: The Samsung Flight II is a slim phone with a good slide-out QWERTY keyboard. It supports 3G networks and has GPS and a colorful display.

THE BAD: The Samsung Flight II is much too sluggish for a modern phone, and its camera photo quality is blurry. It provided us with a poor 3G experience as well.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The Samsung Flight II may have decent multimedia features, but its overall sluggishness keeps us from recommending it.

Samsung's summer of sequels continues with the Samsung Flight II, a successor to the Samsung Flight messaging phone from last year. Like the original, the Flight II has a touch screen and a slide-out QWERTY keyboard; however, this time the keyboard slides out horizontally instead of vertically. Aside from that, the phone's features remain mostly the same as its predecessor–a 2.0-megapixel camera, GPS, a media player, and 3G support–though it has a few extras like an HTML Web browser and social media apps. The Samsung Flight II is available for $49 with a new two-year service agreement with AT&T.

While the Samsung Flight looked unique with its rather wide footprint and vertical QWERTY keyboard, the Flight II is decidedly not unique. Measuring 4.4 inches long by 2.1 inches wide by 0.5 inch thick, the Flight II looks similar to other slender sliders we've seen from Samsung–the Seek and the Messager Touch spring to mind. We can't help but feel the design is rather boring as a result, but we admit it does have a nice feel in the hand because of its curved corners and oval shape.

The Samsung Flight II has a 2.8-inch capacitive touch-screen display.

The Flight II has a 2.8-inch touch screen, which makes it a hair bigger than the one on the Flight. Its display looks vibrant and colorful with crisp graphics and text; in fact, it looks much brighter and sharper than the display on the Eternity II. You can adjust the font type, the brightness, the backlight time, and the greeting message on the home screen. You can also customize the menu layout as well as add and remove apps from the list.

Like a lot of Samsung's touch-screen feature phones, you can customize the Flight II with up to three home screens. Samsung dedicates one home screen to Favorite contacts, while you can customize the other two with shortcuts and widgets from the TouchWiz tray on the left. A few of the more interesting widgets are the ones for Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and Yahoo Search.

At the bottom row of the home screen are shortcuts to the phone dialer, the contacts list, and the main menu. The menu is separated into different pages, which you have to navigate by swiping across the screen. On the main menu, the bottom row shortcuts change to the phone dialer, the contacts list, and a new text message.

The touch screen was responsive, and we're glad to see that it has a capacitive display instead of the more common resistive option. You can add vibration feedback if you want, and you can adjust its intensity. While we liked the touch screen's responsiveness, and the overall performance of the phone marred it significantly. There was often a delay when swiping home screens, and when opening and closing the TouchWiz tray. Launching apps took a few more seconds than it should as well.

The Samsung Flight II has a nice QWERTY keyboard.

The phone dialer has a nice size keypad with large digits and it includes quick access to the contacts list. For messaging, you can tap out text with the alphanumeric virtual keypad; however, we prefer to use the physical keyboard for faster typing. Just slide out the phone to the right and you'll find a four-row QWERTY keyboard. It feels pretty spacious, more so than the keyboard on the original Flight. The keys also have a nice raised feel, and the tactile response of the buttons contribute to a pleasant typing experience. The number keys are highlighted in red, and there's a messaging shortcut key plus a .com key on the keyboard. We would've liked a slightly bigger spacebar, but that's a minor complaint.

Like the LG dLite, the Samsung Flight II has a motion detection sensor. When enabled, you can silence any incoming call ring by turning over the phone. This will automatically send the call to voice mail as well, which is handy for when you're in a meeting.

Underneath the display are three physical keys for the Send, Back, and End/Power functions. On the left are a volume rocker and a multitasking key that brings up a grid of open applications that you can switch between. On the top is a 3.5mm headset jack, while the Micro-USB charging port, screen lock key, and camera key are on the right. On the back is the camera lens, but it doesn't have a flash. You have to open the battery cover to access the microSD card slot.

The Flight II has a generous 2,000-entry phone book with room in each entry for five phone numbers, an e-mail address, a Web URL, a nickname, a company and job title, a birthday, and notes. You can also add the contacts to caller groups and associate them with photos, vibration patterns, and one of 15 polyphonic ring tones. You can also use your own MP3s as ringtones if you like. The Flight II comes with AT&T's Address Book service that lets you store your contacts in the cloud as a backup.

As the phone is a messaging device, we're happy to see text and multimedia messaging, instant messaging, and AT&T's mobile e-mail. The latter has a restricted, clunky Web-based interface that lets you access POP3 e-mail services like Gmail, AT&T Mail, Hotmail, and others, but it takes too long to launch and load. The Flight II also includes a few social networking apps like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, that offers quicker access to their status update page. If you don't want the individual app, there's an AT&T Social Net app that combines them all into one interface with different tabs. The app has an RSS reader in it as well, though you're limited to the built-in news feeds.

The phone's other basic features include a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, an alarm clock, a memo pad, a tasks list, a calculator, a tip calculator, a unit converter, a world clock, a timer, and a stopwatch. You'll also find voice command support, stereo Bluetooth, USB mass storage mode, GPS with AT&T Navigator, and a full HTML Web browser. The HTML browser is pretty basic, but you can still do things like zoom in and out of Web pages by tapping the screen, do a Yahoo search from the toolbar, and access the usual browser settings like cache and history.

As the Flight II is a 3G phone, you'll find it has access to AT&T's full array of broadband services. They include Mobile Video for streaming video content, AT&T Mobile Music, and AT&T Radio that lets you listen to various radio stations for $4.99 a month. AT&T Mobile Music has undergone a makeover since the last time we saw it. This time it's a full-fledged player and shop experience, plus it has a song identification feature built right in. You can also enter in lyrics of a song to see if it can find the song's name. Instead of going through Napster or eMusic, you can buy the song from AT&T and have it billed to the regular phone bill. If you'd rather use your own songs, you can load it to the phone via USB or microSD card. The phone has 512MB internal memory and supports up to 16GB microSD cards. The player itself is quite simple, with repeat, shuffle, and playlist creation features.

The Samsung Flight II has a 2.0-megapixel camera on the back but no flash or self-portrait mirror.

The 2.0-megapixel camera on the Flight II appears unchanged from its predecessor. It can take pictures in four resolutions and three quality settings. Other camera features include a night mode, exposure metering, four color effects, brightness, white balance, a self-timer, fun frames, a multishot mode, a smile shot feature, panoramic and mosaic shot mode, and three shutter sounds plus a silent option. Also, its camcorder can record in 320×240- and 176×44-pixel resolutions with a similar set of features from the still camera. You can record clips for about 50 seconds for MMS and as long as possible in storage mode. You can also stream the video clips via AT&T VideoShare to a compatible phone.

The Samsung Flight II doesn't take very good pictures.

The Flight II's camera photo quality was quite bad. Its images looked blurry and out of focus, and they had a pinkish tint to them. Its colors looked dim and muddy too.

You can customize the Flight II with a variety of wallpaper and ringtones, and you can always get more from the AT&T store. The Flight II also comes with a few apps and games like Mobile Banking, YellowPages Mobile, AT&T Family Map, AT&T Maps, WHERE, PicDial, Star Tweets, WikiMobile, My-Cast Weather, MobiTV, FunScreez, Monopoly Here and Now, PAC-MAN, Tetris, The Oregon Trail, and the World Series of Poker. You can download more from the AT&T AppCenter if you wish.

We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1,800/1,900MHz) Samsung Flight II in San Francisco using AT&T service. Its call quality was fairly good in general, but it had a few failings. The camera showed it had a strong signal for the most part. On our end, our callers sounded loud and clear; however, there was some noticeable static at times. Our caller's voice quality was good and sounded natural.

On their end, our callers said that we sounded a bit harsh and that there were a few times when our voice would cut out. Otherwise, its voice quality was quite clear without much static or interference. Overall, the calls we made with the speakerphone were good; our callers said we sounded much louder and more echo-heavy, but they could still hear us well.

The phone's 3G speeds did not impress us. Even though the phone indicated we were in a 3G area, it acted as if we were in an area with a much slower network. For example, it took us almost 3 minutes to download a song, and even then it disconnected halfway through. Similarly, its streaming video quality was inconsistent. Sometimes when streaming video the content would buffer quickly, but other times, it wouldn't load at all. While the phone's video quality is quite decent, there's a bit of pixelation; but it's fine for simple video clips.

The Flight II's performance was sluggish for the most part during our testing. When transitioning between menus and home screens, it often had a 1 to 2 second delay, which is much too slow, we feel.

The Flight II has a rated battery life of 5 hours talk time and 10.4 days standby time. According to FCC radiation tests, it has a digital SAR of 0.6 watts per kilogram.

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