When AT&T announced a slew of new messaging devices at CTIA 2010, we weren't surprised to see two Samsung phones on the list. Samsung is hardly new to the messaging phone trend, after all. However, we were surprised to see the Samsung Sunburst classified as a messaging device, since it doesn't have a keyboard. Indeed, the touch screen only Sunburst looks and feels a lot like other Samsung touch-screen handsets. Still, it comes with a host of messaging features plus it is one of the first phones to feature AT&T's online cloud services like AT&T Address Book. The Samsung Sunburst will cost you $59.99 with a new two-year service agreement.
Despite its sunny name, the Samsung Sunburst does not exactly exude a feeling of warmth or joy--its simple gray slab design is slightly reminiscent of a thick fog. Measuring 4.3-inches long by 2.1-inches wide by 0.5-inch thick, the Sunburst looks a lot like of other Samsung touch-screen handsets we've seen before, like the Caliber for example. However, it feels really comfortable in the hand, thanks to the rounded edges and the soft-touch finish of the body. It's wrapped mostly in a matte gray, with chrome details along the side.
Dominating the phone's front surface is a 3-inch display, which is a little smaller than we would like for a touch screen. Still, this is probably where the Sunburst moniker really makes sense--the QVGA screen supports displaying 262,000 colors, which makes images look vibrant and colorful. The screen is resistive, so it is a touch slower to use than the capacitive screens of an iPhone or the Nexus One for example. You can also add haptic feedback if you need the phone to vibrate whenever you select something. You can adjust the font type, the greeting message, the transition effects between page swipes, the brightness, and the backlight time.
On the left side of the Sunburst's home screen is the familiar Samsung TouchWiz interface, which consists of a variety of widgets and shortcuts. You can also drag and drop a few to the home screen if you like having quicker access to them. Like the Caliber, the Sunburst has three different home screens that you can customize with whatever widgets or shortcuts you want. You switch between them by swiping your finger across the screen, and you can have different backgrounds for each if you like. Along the bottom row of each home screen are shortcuts to the dial pad, the contacts list, and the main menu.
The virtual dial pad on the Sunburst is as you would expect--the keys are nice and big, so you won't likely press a number by mistake. The dial pad also has quick access to the contacts list and a new text message. If you want to send a text message, you can either enter text via a T9 keypad, handwriting recognition, or a virtual QWERTY keyboard. The Sunburst has an internal accelerometer, so the QWERTY keyboard will appear automatically when you rotate the phone sideways. The keyboard is quite spacious and we found it easy enough to use. It does feel a little slower than using a regular physical keyboard, but you get used to it soon enough.
Underneath the display are three physical controls arranged in a curved fashion. They are the Send key, the Clear key, and the End/Power key, all of which are fairly easy to press. On the left spine of the phone are the volume rocker and microSD card slot, while the camera key, the screen lock key, and the charger jack are on the right. The camera lens is on the back.
The Samsung Sunburst has a 1,000-entry phonebook, with room in each entry for four numbers, two e-mail addresses, a URL, a nickname, a company name, a job title, street addresses, a birth date, and a note. You can organize them into caller groups, and customize them with photos for caller ID or one of 17 polyphonic ringtones. You can also set your own music or recorded audio as a ringtone. The phone's basic features include a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, text and multimedia messaging, a calculator, a tip calculator, an alarm clock, a calendar, a memo pad, a tasks list, a unit converter, a world clock, a timer, and a stopwatch. There's even a sketchpad where you can draw little doodles and send them out to friends.
If you have a little more know-how, you might like some of the more advanced features of the phone, like voice command, voice recording, stereo Bluetooth, GPS with AT&T Navigator's turn-by-turn directions, PC syncing, USB mass storage, instant messaging (AIM, Windows Live Messenger, and Yahoo Messenger), and mobile e-mail. Mobile e-mail only gives you access to certain web e-mail services like Yahoo Mail and Gmail, plus you'll have to pay $5 a month for the privilege.