The Samsung r355c is the new CDMA phone that is now available for both Net10 (for $99.99) and Straight Talk ($129.99). For a long time, Net10 seemed to ignore the CDMA side of their business, so it’s noteworthy when they introduce any new CDMA model at all. The r355, however, is even more remarkable due to the design and feature set it offers.
It’s the first slab-style QWERTY phone introduced for Net10, and at first glance the design is reminiscent of a BlackBerry or other “smartphone.” Beyond the qwerty keyboard, there are a host of other nice features that make this an appealing device. The r355c offers a rate of 2.5 cents per text message, 1.3 megapixel camera, bluetooth, music player, web browser, voice commands, and a MicroSD card slot to store your music and pictures. This is all in addition to the standard set of features you’d expect on a phone today.
Because of its qwerty keyboard on the face of the phone, I expected this one to be heavy, but it’s surprisingly light at just under 3.7 ounces. Compare this to 4.2 ounces for the LG 290c, 4.4 ounces for the Samsung T401g, and 4.6 ounces for the Samsung r451c. When I first saw pictures of the r355c, I expected it to be large and bulky like the slider models released in October 2009 by traight Talk and Net10. However, it feels sleek and compact. It measures 4.4″ high x 2.4″ wide x 0.5” deep.
The device is tapered a little, such that it’s slightly wider at the top than at the bottom, which not only makes it seem more compact but also adds to the streamlined appearance and makes it easier to handle one-handed. Pair this design element with the nicely rounded corners and slim design, it ranks very well on my standard evaluation of “how well does it slide in and out of your pocket?”
As with any phone, how you feel about the appearance is a matter of personal preference. To me, the Samsung r355c looks like an elegant device. I really like it. Certainly there will be people that disagree with me, however, and feel that the qwerty keyboard makes the device to cluttered, but it’s not a problem for me. The only sign of this phone being a prepaid phone is a small TracFone logo centered below the screen, but it doesn’t have the words “TracFone,” “Net10,” or “Straight Talk” printed anywhere on the outside of the phone. It’s also possible to remove any airtime balance or due date from the home screen, so I highly doubt that most people would assume this is a “cheap” phone.
Indeed it’s not a cheap phone, by prepaid standards, and I think it feels like a solid and well-made device as well. The screen and the entire back of the phone are glossy and attractive, while the sides of the phone and the keyboard are made of slightly more “rubbery” plastic that allows for easy handling (so it is less likely to slip out of your hand). The keys feel solid and give just the right amount of a “click” sensation when pressed. I’ll get into more detail on the keyboard later in the review, but so far I like it.
General Phone Function
The reception and signal strength so far has been very impressive. In fact, it’s the best phone I’ve ever used among Net10 CDMA or Straight Talk phones. It is definitely better than the Samsung r451c or Finesse in that regard, and even outperforms the LG 290c and 220c, both of which do a good job on reception. I have been able to make calls in fringe areas and deep inside buildings where other phones have failed me.
The voice quality is good, especially among CDMA models. In my experience, the audio on the Samsung r355c better than the r451c, and pretty close to the LG 220c and LG 290c. If you’re judging strictly on the audio quality during calls, you’ll probably want to go with one of the LG models, but if you end up going with the r355 you won’t be disappointed either.
Call volume is adequate, but I did note a decline in audio quality at the highest volume settings. In my estimation, the drop off was greater than I expected at these higher levels. So when I was using the phone in very noisy situations, I turned up the volume but lost a little clarity as a result. At the same time, the person on the other end of the call said I sounded loud and clear, even where the background noise was loud on my end.
The ringtone volume was about what I expected, although the recent LG phones for Net10, Straight Talk, and TracFone are slightly louder. The phone comes with 20 default ringtones, and allows for custom ringtones that you can receive via download (from Net10 or Straight Talk, or from a third-party), by bluetooth from another phone, or by loading the tones onto a microSD card in the phone. I was also surprised to learn that full mp3 songs could be set as your ringtone. Further, specific ringtones can be assigned to either groups or specific contacts in your list.
Battery life so far has been good. On my first charge, I got four full days, although I didn’t do much calling in that time as I didn’t activate it until a few days later. I did notice that using the mp3 player seemed to take a toll on the battery, and it discharged rather quickly on a day when I used the music player for about 3 hours. I’m now on my second full charge, and have done more calling, texting, browsing, and music, and at this point I think that 3 days of use will be the average battery life for moderate use.
That’s all I’ve got for now. I’ll be back next week with more details about the Samsung r355c [EDIT 5/11/10: You can now read part 2 here]. For now, though, I’m pretty happy with it. If you can’t wait for future segments of my review, you can check out the phone from Net10 by reviewing this post, or click here to get it from Straight Talk.