We've got to chuckle a bit at the Samsung Trender (also known as the Samsung SPH-M380), Sprint's latest messaging phone, and we have to wonder if Samsung purposely dabbled in irony when naming it. It's been months since we've seen a device of this type that skipped over Android in favor of Samsung's proprietary operating system, and trust us, this software is anything but trendy. It's surprising that Samsung didn't opt for Android with this model, since those smartphones are on such a rampage and since it's still compatible with the QWERTY design, but the smallish screen size could have something to do with it, and so could the fact that not every customer wants to be locked into a monthly data plan. Even so, the Trender will have difficulty standing up to Sprint's lineup of budget Android smartphones.
Since it wasn't announced as such, we were surprised to see the Trender arrive in Sprint's eco-packaging of recycled cardboard and recycled paper. We're always happy to see Earth-conscious electronics that make a smaller footprint, although the packaging never affects our review of the hardware it houses.
The Trender costs $29.99 and comes in sapphire and amethyst--we reviewed it in sapphire.
The Samsung Trender resembles a sparser Samsung Messager Touch, with its rounded edges and slide-out QWERTY keyboard. It's a fairly compact device that you shouldn't have any problem toting around--4.2 inches tall by 2.2 inches wide by 0.6 inch thick. Its 4-ounce weight gives it enough heft that it won't feel like a toy.
The Trender has a 2.8-inch touch screen with a QVGA resolution (320x240 pixels) and support for 65,000 colors. The brightness and screen resolution were just fine on the petite display. Although it wasn't sunny enough outdoors during our test period to tell how readable the screen is in direct sunlight, this type of material typically washes out. You can adjust brightness and dimmer times, as well as the keyboard backlight time.
Although multitouch isn't an option, navigation is easy enough with single taps. The interface is broken into four tabs: Favs, Main, Fun, and Web. In turn, each tab is divided into a large grid with touch-friendly icons corresponding to the apps and tools. Although moving among them is a breeze, we wish we could reorder the tabs.
Below the screen are three hardware buttons for going Back, the Home/select button, and pulling up the Phone menu, which includes favorites, contacts, your call history, and the dialer. On the right spine is the camera shutter button. The volume rocker is on the left, and the 3.5mm headset jack and power/lock button are up top. You'll charge your phone through a Micro-USB charging port on the bottom of the phone. A 1.3-megapixel camera lens in on the back, and behind the back cover is where you'll find a microSD card slot that accepts up to 32GB external storage.
Slide open the phone to find the four-row QWERTY keyboard; on the sapphire version, keys are colored blue and gray. The keys are fairly level to the phone's surface, and while the buttons snap back, the flatness impeded our typing speed. We wish they rose just a bit from the surface, or were slightly domed so our fingers had somewhere to go. There's no virtual keyboard on the Trender, so this keyboard does all your typing.