The second coming of the Samsung Freeform, the Freeform II, keeps the e-mail and messaging features we enjoyed in the first iteration and introduces a new keyboard that's much easier to manipulate. The result is a much more polished-looking handset. The keyboard bears such a resemblance to a competitor's that we're fairly convinced the Freeform II has been formulated to attract people seeking a professional-looking phone on a tighter budget. The Freeform II is a very affordable choice at $49.99 with an instant $50 rebate for MetroPCS.
Samsung's original Freeform had a curved candy-bar design; its brightly colored bodies (in teal and red in addition to black) introduced some playfulness. The Freeform II, on the other hand, goes all-business, with a glossy black face and matte black sides. The new, subtle angles in the phone's design and the pointed "chin" at the bottom add polish. At 4.1 inches tall by 2.1 inches wide by 0.6 inch thick, the Freeform II is shorter, wider, and thicker than its predecessor. It's also a tad heavier, at 3.8 ounces. We noticed during our test calls that the Freeform II feels a little blocky on the ear.
We weren't fans of the Freeform's original keyboard design, and Samsung must have taken our grumbles to heart, at least in the looks department. With tall, backlit keys that peak just off-center, the Freeform II's keyboard heavily resembles that of RIM's BlackBerry Bold, which we do like. Unfortunately, the Freeform II's isn't quite as good. Its compact keyboard is borderline cramped, and its slightly stiff keys aren't the easiest to press.
On the right spine are a camera trigger, a Micro-USB charging port, and a 3.5-millimeter headset jack. On the left is the volume rocker. There's a 1.3-megapixel camera on the back, but the Freeform II inexplicably loses the self-portrait mirror found in the original Freeform. Pop off the back cover (with its soft-touch finish) to reveal a MicroSD card slot. It can hold up to 16GB external memory, but as we expected, the phone doesn't come with any right out of the box.
Features in the Freeform II don't stray from those on similar messaging phones. There's a generous 1,000-contact address book with room in each entry for five phone numbers, an e-mail address, a group, one of 21 ringtones (plus silent), and a photo. You'll find plenty of standard organizer tools such as a calendar, a memo pad, an alarm clock, a calculator, a tip calculator, a world clock, a stop watch, and a converter. There are also Bluetooth and voice commands. MetroPCS preloads some of its own branded apps, too, like the @metro online storefront, which gives you access to MetroBackup, alternative wallpaper, and games like Bejeweled.