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Review: Samsung Fascinate

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For email, the Samsung Fascinate only lets you use Microsoft Hotmail. Just kidding, it actually functions like all other Android phones, with dedicated apps for Gmail and Google Talk, and catch-all apps for the other services you might enjoy. Gmail and Google talk are superior in features and design to the competition, but if you have an IMAP, POP or Exchange email account, the Email app gets the job done. The Mobile IM app looks quite dated, and it could be confusing to use, but it offers rudimentary support for AIM, Yahoo and Windows Live messaging. The Mobile IM service insists on running over Verizon's data network; it won't use the Wi-Fi network. This seems like an odd restriction.

Text messaging is handled nicely on the Samsung Fascinate. The messages come through in a threaded, conversational style, and each side of the conversation gets its own brightly colored dialogue balloon. Some MMS messages gave me trouble. Picture messages that I sent from the Fascinate went through just fine, but a couple of the MMS messages I sent to the phone came through with only their text component intact, no picture on board.

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The Fascinate has a cool lock screen. Normally, to unlock the phone you drag a puzzle piece into a fitted slot. When you have new messages, more puzzle pieces appear. So, if you have a text message, you drag the message puzzle piece and the phone unlocks directly to the message screen, instead of the home screen. When you miss a call, drag the call puzzle piece to the slot to jump to the call log. It's a unique touch that's also convenient, especially for incoming messages.

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