MetroPCS surprised us in late September when it boldly launched the United States' first commercial LTE handset and LTE 4G network in Las Vegas and Dallas. Though the Samsung Craft has quite a few sophisticated features, it's no smartphone. It turns on Samsung's standard OS with TouchWiz, for one, and doesn't do push e-mail, or calendar syncing. However, the WVGA touch-screen display, the HD video playback support, and the widgets on the TouchWiz interface make it one of the highest-end phones you can get on MetroPCS, smartphone or no.
Although the Craft can claim bragging rights as a first-to-market LTE phone, keep in mind that you'll only get 4G speeds within the carrier's LTE markets. If your area hasn't been covered, you'll be stuck with 2.5G speeds until MetroPCS expands (MetroPCS offers only limited 3G in Dallas and Detroit). Since San Francisco isn't in a 4G coverage area for MetroPCS, we tested the Craft on the standard network. We'll update our review as soon as we get a chance to test the Craft with 4G network speed.
The Craft sells for $299 including a $50 instant rebate without a contract. Service costs $55 a month for unlimited talk, text, and data use. An additional $5 per month also gets you 18 channels of streaming video.
The Samsung Craft is a typical candy bar handset with rounded corners and a black, ultraglossy plastic that adds sheen as much as finger smudges. At 4.48 inches tall by 2.21 inches wide by 0.6 inch thick, the 5.29-ounce Craft is substantial in the hand. Some of that thickness is due to the Craft's slide-out QWERTY keyboard, but the hard shell lends it solidity and durability.
Most of the Craft's phone face is taken up by the screen, with the addition of Talk, End, and Back buttons below. On the right spine is a dedicated camera button, a Micro-USB port, and a lock button. On the left spine you'll find the volume rocker, the voice command button, and a microSD slot that accommodates cards up to 32GB. On top is a 3.5-millimeter headset jack, and on the back is the 3.2 megapixel camera-plus-camcorder with a Flash and small vanity mirror; the mirror is a nice touch. The Craft comes with a 2GB memory card that's been preloaded with an MPEG-4 of the 2009 movie "Star Trek."
Slide away the phone's front face to reveal a spacious QWERTY keyboard. While the keys are wide and fully separated, they're also rather flat. We would prefer slightly domed keys for easier pressing, though we wouldn't call the Craft's keyboard stiff. Multifunctional keyboard buttons include shortcuts for launching a text message, and vibrate mode.
Though it isn't quite the knockout of the Samsung Epic 4G's Super AMOLED display, the Craft's 3.3-inch AMOLED touch screen packs plenty of punch. Its crisp, bright 480x800-pixel WVGA resolution supports 262,144 colors and is worthy of high-end smartphones. It's a distinct step up for the MetroPCS lineup. The Craft features Samsung's TouchWiz interface and includes both widgets and haptic feedback, which again gives the feature phone a smartphone look and feel.
Similar to other TouchWiz phones, the Samsung Craft has multiple home screens; in this case you can swipe among three. Familiar touch-friendly icons make it easy to navigate around the dialer, address book, text messages, and Menu. There's no live (animated) wallpaper on the Craft, but you can switch among stock wallpaper and your own photos.
In addition to accessing apps and tools from the two-screen menu, you're able to drop widgets on any home screen. These are shortcuts to most of your apps, including Google Search, the music player, and the Wi-Fi manager. Drop-down trays on the top and side of each home screen feature widgets and shortcuts to common services. Drag and drop from the tray to the screen to add them and drag them back into the tray to remove them. A shortcuts tray at the top of the home screens provides instant access to the music player, browser, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth manager.
We weren't always happy with the Craft's sluggish processing speeds, but we did appreciate the intuitive, attractive interface of most of the native screens and tools, like the address book and the visually interesting Bluetooth menu.
As mentioned, the Samsung Craft is a CDMA phone that also supports Metro PCS' LTE 4G network. Las Vegas was the first, followed by the Dallas-Fort Worth area, but more will come. As we mentioned above, we weren't initially able to test 4G speeds at the time of this review, but we will as soon as we can.
The address book stores information for 2,000 contacts and there's room in each entry for five phone numbers, two e-mail addresses, and a note. You can assign a personalized ringtone, a photo ID, and a group number. From the contact record, you can also launch a phone call or a new multimedia message. There are 21 polyphonic ringtones in total, plus a silent mode.
Basic phone features include a calendar, a memo pad, an alarm clock, a world clock, a stop watch, a timer, a calculator, a tip calculator, and a converter. There's also support for voice commands, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi. GPS is on board and is especially helpful in the MetroNavigator app that's free to download and comes included in the $50 monthly plan.