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printed September 17, 2014
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Review: Samsung Continuum

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For the most part, the Samsung Continuum uses the exact same interface design as the Samsung Fascinate, with all of Samsung's brightly colored widgets and app icons in place. The interface might be too cheery for some folks, but I think the bright colors really show off the sAMOLED display.

The ticker at the bottom is a thin strip of sAMOLED display. You can cycle between three or four different features, depending on whether you're playing music, by swiping the ticker left or right. First you'll see the time and date, with a little icon that indicates your local weather (sun, clouds, etc). Swipe that away to get to message notifications, where the ticker will indicate how many texts, voicemails, emails, missed calls or IM chat messages you've received. If you tap on the indicator, you're taken directly to that feature so you can jump to your new email messages quickly.

The ticker also offers a constantly updating feed. It can display new tweets from Twitter, not just direct messages or @ mentions. It will show status updates from Facebook, or new text messages. You can also get RSS updates from the ticker, either from a list of preset RSS feeds, or you can add your own RSS feed addresses. The display has a high enough resolution that it can show you quite a bit of the incoming message, which gives you a good idea if you want to click through to read more.

At the far right of the ticker there is a window button. Press that button and you get a complete look at all of your incoming feeds. Or you can pick one of the tabs up top to only view social networking service messages, incoming RSS articles or just text messages.

My attitude about the ticker was neutral at first; when I saw it I thought "okay, why not?" But I wonder if the ticker causes other problems on the phone. The Continuum has the same processor as the Fascinate, but here it's driving a second display, and constantly updating your feeds while it's performing other tasks. From the start, I felt the hit to the Continuum's performance, and the phone reacted much more slowly to opening and closing apps, or switching between tasks, than other Galaxy S phones.

Graphically intense games and Flash playback in the browser were also sub-par, compared to the rest of the Galaxy family. Using Android benchmark software, the Continuum achieved half the score of other modern smartphones, like the fast new myTouch 4G, and a much lower score than similarly spec'd phones. Some hardcore games wouldn't even play on this device, even though they loaded properly on other Galaxy S phones.

I definitely found the ticker useful. I would turn off the steady stream of Twitter messages if you follow an active group of tweeters. But with only a few RSS feeds loaded and incoming messages displayed, I often found myself squeezing the phone to check the ticker when I normally might have unlocked the screen and opened separate apps. I also liked being able to jump right into my incoming messages or voicemails.

My biggest concern about the ticker is that I worry Samsung won't offer new features for the little bar, or follow through on its offer to share the APIs with other developers. Since it only appears on one device, Samsung might not have the motivation to constantly improve it, but I think there's a lot of untapped potential in that little screen.

The Galaxy S lock screen is a bit silly. You drag a puzzle piece into place to open the screen. When you have a new message, a second puzzle piece appears with your message count, and dragging it into place takes you directly to the messaging app. But other Android phones let you mute the sound from the lock screen, which is a nice feature. Also, the lock screen offers music playback controls when music is playing, but the same controls appear on the ticker, which is sort of redundant.

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