As with any rugged phone, some of the most impressive features account for resistance to shock, altitude, temperature, radiation, humidity, sand and dust, and so on. In addition to that, the Convoy 2 includes push-to-talk mode.
There are other creature comforts as well. In the phone book, Samsung includes contact backup and in-case-of-emergency (ICE) numbers. There's text and photo messaging, mobile e-mail, an HTML Web browser, and a music player. There are voice commands, as well, and access to VZ Navigator and VCast Video. Universal search is also included, as is a storefront for downloading more apps, like Bing search and Uno.
Of course, the Convoy 2 also has essential tools like a calculator, a calendar, an alarm clock, a stop watch, a world clock, and a memo pad.
The camera display is messy, but navigable, and there are options for choosing one of five shooting modes, four resolutions (from 3.2 megapixels to 0.3 megapixel), four flash settings, five white balance presets, four effects, and so on. The camcorder shares many of the same settings, but can also limit your shooting resolution to better fit into a video message. It's got a tiny 128MB of internal storage for photos and video, but the microSD card will hold up to 32GB.
As for the image quality itself, color fidelity was pretty good if not perfectly rich for all shades. While some pictures we took were spot-on in focus, others were off. Manually focusing on such a small view finder is tough, and you may find you need to work harder to hold the camera still.
While video volume is serviceable, the playback was shaky and pixelated. That's to be expected from a phone of this class, so we can't hold it too much against Samsung; although we'd love to be pleasantly surprised.
We tested the dual-core Samsung Convoy 2 (CDMA 800/1900) in the San Francisco Bay Area on Verizon's network. Call quality was adequate overall, although we did notice some cut-outs and bleeps of digital distortion. On our end, caller volume was strong and voices sounded fairly faithful, although the voice clarity sounded muddy to our ears. On their end, callers described our voice as "warbly," fluctuating at frequencies. For both sides, the call quality improved over the duration of the call. We were unable to test the push-to-talk feature at this time.
Speakerphone quality was poor. Voice timbre sounded robotic and unnatural to our ears, in addition to hollow. Even with the volume boosted all the way, conversation was difficult to make out. Our friends had better luck. They noted the customary echo, but said they could tell it was us talking.
Samsung Convoy 2 call quality sample
We had good 3G (EVDO Rev. A) service during our testing period. On the Internet front, the Convoy 2 comes with the new version of Opera Mini installed--it includes Opera SpeedDial, a Google search bar, and multiple tabs, though on a screen this small we'd recommend keeping your open tabs to a minimum. CNET's mobile-optimized site loaded in about 15 seconds; ESPN's mobile site finished loading in almost half that time, albeit with blurry photos and sketchy text. The Opera browser worked very well in our tests, with plentiful features and settings options for the small screen.
While brawn is generally the most important feature in a rugged phone, the Samsung Convoy 2 also has its share of brains and a certain rugged charm to its thick, boxy clamshell design. Yes, we'd like to see more in the way of rubberized grips, but the phone gets kudos for its up-front music controls, its conveniently placed shortcut keys, and the large, edged key pad that makes dialing easier to achieve with wet or gloved hands. We're not sure if it's laziness or cost that kept Samsung from upgrading the 2.5-millimeter headset jack to a 3.5-millimeter port, but either way, it's a real turnoff for a purported music-friendly phone. The Convoy 2 was satisfying overall, although we had hoped for unimpeachable call quality on a device we can see being required for heavy voice communication. The $80 price tag seems fair, too; however those looking for a seriously heavy-duty handset, or for a rugged smartphone, may want to keep looking.