With most Verizon Wireless 4G LTE smartphones debuting at $299 for a 2-year contract, its difficult for some consumers to jump on the “lightning fast” bandwagon. Samsung is looking to change that with the Stratosphere. These specs aren’t high end, but for most consumers, they’re more than satisfactory. Priced at $149 makes this affordable for everyone and brings the speeds of 4G LTE to the mainstream. Here is a more in depth look, but you can also checkout our initial hands on video.
This is a mid-range phone so don’t expect it to be thin. It comes in at .55 inches thick (about 14mm). Part of the reason is it has a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. Fans of physical keyboards are going to love this one as it has 5 rows and the keys are spread out nicely. I found it very easy to type.
I did have one major issue, and it seems to be a trend with Samsung. The device is very slippery and for most phones it’s not a huge deal, but I found it to be a major problem because of the slide-out keyboard. I found that while holding the phone horizontally and when sliding out the QWERTY keyboard, I literally had a hard time keeping it in my hands. A few times it actually fell in my lap. I used to have an original DROID, and although the keyboard itself was not as good as this, it was a lot easier to hold and slide open. I found the best way to open the Stratosphere was to hold the phone in the vertical position and slide the screen to right with my right hand (middle and ring finger at the top / thumb at the bottom). I would have a hard time recommending the Stratosphere on this basis alone. Maybe I am being a little dramatic, but the only way to find out is to head over to the store and try it out before you buy it.
The Stratosphere has a 4-inch Super AMOLED display with the typical resolution for most Samsung devices, 800 x 480. Under the hood, it has a 1GHz Cortex single-core processor with 512MB RAM. I would have liked to seen at least 768MB of RAM like the HTC Rhyme, but Samsung really wanted to hit the $149 price point. As previously mentioned, the QWERTY slider has 5 rows which respond well. The rear camera is 5MP with flash and the front camera is 1.3MP.
This is a 4G LTE phone so if you are connected to LTE all day you will have the same issues as all other LTE phones. They did throw in a 1800mAh battery, which is really nice, so with light use, you can get a whole day out of it. With heavy use it will barely make it though the work day. Be sure to either invest in an additional battery or extra charger. I prefer a car charger to give me some extra boost throughout the day.
For a 1GHz processor and only 512MB RAM, I thought it performed well. The AnTuTu Benchmark came in at 2984, which is just above the Nexus S which is good based on the hardware specs. I am not big on benchmarks because it really comes down to everyday use, of which I found the Stratosphere to be adequate for the average user. For downloads over 4G LTE, I was hitting anywhere from 20Mbps to 35Mbps with uploads of 5Mbps to 8Mbps, but of course that is more of a function of the network as opposed to the hardware.
Touchwiz is a nice compliment as it’s not as intrusive as something like HTC’s Sense. It really comes down to the launcher, added widgets, and some enhancements. There are 5 home screens and a nice touch is the home screen switches to landscape mode when the keyboard is opened. If you opt for the onscreen keyboard, you will have your choice of Samsung’s or Swype, the default keyboard out of the box. I also found that in the default settings the keypad time out was way too short. It was set at 1.5 seconds, so when I was typing in a dimly lit area, the keyboard would go dark too fast. I was then stuck trying find my next letter I needed to tap. I recommend increasing this setting from the get go.
A lot of people will complain that the Stratosphere has only a 5MP camera. Unless you are a serious photographer, this is more than enough. The bottomline is if it takes decent enough pictures to leave your point and shoot at home? The Stratosphere isn’t on par with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S II or even the upcoming 5MP on the Galaxy Nexus, but it’s a better than the average camera. If you are someone who rely’s on your phone a lot for pictures, you might want to consider a higher end model, but if you are the occasional photographer, you won’t have any complaints. Here are some example photos.
The Stratosphere records video at 480p, but I would like to have seen 720p. Yes, 480p is adequate for most, but we are now well into the HD era and the specs on this device should be able to handle 720p. I found the video recording to be average at best so don’t expect to do any heavy filming with this one.
For those wanting to get a 4G LTE phone, but don’t want to spend $300, the Stratosphere is definitely worth a look. Overall the performance was adequate, but the slippery feel when opening the keyboard concerns me enough to not buy it or recommend it. I would say that you should go to the store and try it out for yourself. If it feels comfortable to you then I wouldn’t hesitate in purchasing it.