Review: Samsung Craft
The screen on the Samsung Craft is definitely the phone’s standout feature. The 3.3-inch, AMOLED display is colorful and bright, though it’s not as bright with colors or dark with inky blacks as the Super AMOLED displays on Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S phones. In any case, text is completely legible, even at small sizes, thanks to the generous 800 x 480 pixel resolution. Pictures look crisp and sharp. The phone does lose much of its dazzle outdoors, where the display fades considerably. I was still able to read the display in bright sunlight, but it helped when I was standing in a shady spot.
Call quality on the Samsung Craft was not very good. Voices came through with a slightly muffled, digital effect. The Craft uses the older CDMA 1x network for voice, and it sounds like a phone using an old network. On their end, my callers reported some static and even some clipping where my voice would drop out completely for a moment, but this was not common.
The Craft does have a good speakerphone. It’s loud enough for a moving car, and ringtones also played loudly. I had no trouble hearing the phone ring across the house. With the sound off, the vibration was a bit weak, and could use a little pick-me-up.
One complaint I had is that the volume rocker keys only work from the main, three-panel homescreen. If you’re in any app or browsing any other menu, the volume keys don’t do squat. Oh, actually they make a beeping noise, but that beep remains at a constant volume, whether you’re pressing up or down.
I received my Samsung Craft review unit before the announcement that Dallas would get LTE service, so imagine my surprise when I found the 4G icon in the notification bar. Even more surprising? LTE coverage is fantastic. MetroPCS says they tried to launch with about 80% coverage, and in my travels around the greater Dallas metroplex (a large area), I never had trouble finding a 4G signal. Compared to Sprint 4G and Clear WiMAX devices I’ve tested (which both use the same WiMAX network), MetroPCS has come out swinging with a very impressive early network. Of course, they only launched in two cities so far, but who’s counting?
Performance was another issue, but not a complete disappointment. The MetroPCS LTE network performed like it was last year’s model. It kept pace with phones I have running on Verizon Wireless’ EV-DO network. In a straight download test, my Google Nexus One, running at 7.2Mbps on T-Mobile’s HSPA network, bested the Samsung Craft handily. But in a side-by-side browser test (which you can see in my hands-on video), the two ran neck-in-neck.
In the speedtests I ran, download times usually hovered around 1.2Mbps. In the same spots, my Google Nexus One running on T-Mobile’s HSDPA network often doubled those speeds, and sometimes ran even faster. Right now, MetroPCS’ LTE network is performing like a low-end 3G network. Of course, Metro skipped 3G altogether, leaping directly from 1xRTT to LTE in a single bound, so these speeds should still dazzle current MetroPCS customers.
The bottom line is that MetroPCS’ LTE network hasn’t reached the super fast speeds that LTE promises, but it is a stable network and it works without hesitation. There were no delays in load times and I never lost my data connection. The Craft was always able to connect to the network without delay, and the 4G network never disappeared from the notification bar. I’ll be very curious to see how smartphones perform, especially when MetroPCS launches a phone with tethered support.
I did have some trouble making phone calls. On the 1x network for calling, the Samsung Craft occasionally failed to place calls. I got a variety of error messages from the phone. I would say less than 1 in 10 calls failed to go through, but it was enough that I noticed. Text messages and incoming calls seemed to have no such trouble finding their destination.
Battery life on the Samsung Craft is pretty awful. I started testing the phone early in the morning, focusing primarily on multimedia features and calling, and the phone was dead by lunch. Even in a more realistic, mixed-use situation, the Samsung Craft did not last all day. Worse yet, in my tests I never used Wi-Fi and I only barely used GPS. This phone deserves more than a warning to charge it during the day. You might actually need an extra battery if you’re going to be taxing that LTE network on a regular basis.