If you're a simple cell phone, there are three necessary qualities for achieving greatness in your class: a sturdy, comfortable design; easy navigation; and great call quality. The original Samsung Gusto crashed and burned on all three counts. Thankfully, Verizon's second stab at the Gusto line, the Samsung Gusto 2, excels, leaving only a few lingering problems.
Without explicitly saying so, the Gusto 2's accessibility features nod toward seniors and people who prefer to rely on audio, rather than visual, inputs. The Samsung Gusto 2 will cost $79.99 at launch after a $50 mail-in rebate and with a new two-year contract. At the time of review, Verizon hadn't publicly set the phone's release date.
A vast improvement over its cheap-feeling predecessor in the design department, the clamshell Gusto 2 both looks and feels appealing. Measuring 3.8 inches tall by 1.9 inches wide by 0.75 inch thick, the Gusto 2 gets a smooth, gunmetal finish; a compact feel; and contouring that makes it extremely grippable. I could take the handset for a jog without ever worrying about it sliding loose. It feels fine on the ear, and the construction seems strong enough to withstand multiple drops and endless opening and closing. The 3.9-ounce weight contributes to the overall impression of strength.
Design-wise, the Gusto 2 is a flip-phone faithful. There's a 1-inch color external screen that displays essentials like the date, time, battery strength, signal strength, and alerts to missed calls and messages. Above that is the camera lens. Flip open the phone face on its thick hinge to greet the 2-inch display.
Here's where the first bit of bad news rears up. Like the original Gusto, the sequel has a QQVGA resolution on its internal screen, which means it uses only 128x160 pixels to display the picture. Most simple phones bottom out at the QVGA resolution (320x240 pixels), so the result is a display that comes across as soft, rather than crisp. It's disappointing that Samsung didn't improve the quality here. There is support for 260,000 colors, and the colors look bright and deep enough.
Below the screens, the keypad is composed of some extensive shortcut and navigation buttons, and the backlit, alphanumeric dial buttons. Buttons are large, rubberized, responsive, and comfortable. The two soft keys and directional pad with the central select button take care of most navigation. There are also shortcuts for ICE (in case of emergency) numbers, for the texting menu, and for voice mail access. You can also do things like turn vibrate mode on and off from the keypad, and launch voice commands.
The Gusto 2 has quite a few other external buttons. On the left spine sits the volume rocker and Micro-USB charging port. On the right is an identical rocker to launch the camera and speakerphone. I had no problem pressing the buttons, but I'm imagining my grandma fumbling around and wishing they were larger and better marked. I also wish that Samsung had added a little more redundancy with a software speakerphone option as well as the physical button. The right spine is also home to a 2.5mm headset jack, another opportunity Samsung missed to elevate the Gusto 2 to the 3.5mm standard.
Since the Gusto 2 is primarily about calling, let's tackle the phone book first. There's room for five phone numbers, e-mail, a photo ID, and one of 20 polyphonic ringtones, including silent mode. There's also support for calling groups, physical addresses, a birth date, and notes.
Speed dial also comes standard, but what's nice is that as part of the enhanced accessibility features, you also get the three ICE numbers for emergencies, whisper mode (which makes it easier for recipients to hear soft-spoken callers), and audio readout for menus and submenus, texts, the dial pad, caller ID, and missed calls. The voice commands feature is another Verizon standard.