What's Good: Nice specs for a mid-range device; good physical QWERTY keyboard.
What's Bad: Camera quality is mediocre, and device was laggy at times.
When it comes to the Android push (or any rollout, for that matter), the more device options available, the better. To date, regional carriers like US Cellular haven't carried Android devices, but that changes with the Samsung Acclaim, available now. With a physical QWERTY keyboard, reasonably fast processor, and up to date version of Android, it's a nice first device for the regional carrier, and should give US Cellular customers a positive first impression of Android.
Design & Features
The Acclaim ships with an 800 MHz processor, 3.2-inch display, QWERTY keyboard, Android 2.1, and EVDO Rev. A connectivity, similar to Sprint's Samsung Moment. That being said, it trades in the Moment's bulky look with a revised, curved shape that looks a lot like the Samsung Intercept (also available on Sprint). Coming in at 4.49 inches long by 2.32 inches wide by 0.6 inch thick, it weighs 4.93 ounces, so it fits in a tight pocket or purse well. In a time where devices ship with a charger and battery, the Acclaim offers a few goodies. Once you remove the US Cellular outer casing, you'll find a nice Samsung branded box with the device, battery, AC adapter, USB cable, headset, 4 GB microSD card (in device), and instruction manuals inside.
The left side houses the volume rocker and microSD card slot, while the microUSB charging port and camera shortcut button can be found on the right. The power button and 3.5mm headphone jack are on the top, and the camera and speakerphone are on the back. Menu, Home, Back, and Search shortcut keys are below the display, and the Acclaim offers an optical trackpad for navigational purposes.
Usability & Performance
The Acclaim offers Android 2.1 with no custom overlay or special tweaks. Though I've become used to custom user interface options like Sense UI, TouchWiz, and MOTOBLUR, it was nice to use vanilla Android again. I'm guessing the 800 MHz processor kept Samsung from installing TouchWiz, but the stock version of Android 2.1 is consumer-friendly enough to use on a regular basis. That said, while I was testing it, it suffered from unpredictable lag a few times. It was never in a particular application; rather, it was at random times. I found that it would freeze for 2-3 seconds, and suddenly try to catch up to everything I had attempted to do during the outage. It was frustrating, but didn't happen that often.
Slide the phone to the right to reveal the physical QWERTY keyboard. Though it took some getting used to, I was able to type with ease after a few hours. The keys are tactile, large, and easy to use. Despite the nice keys, I was somewhat frustrated by the layout, as I prefer an extra row for the space bar and various symbols. For touchscreen-only fans, the Android on-screen keyboard is also included.
The Acclaim offers a 3-megapixel shooter, so as you would expect, picture quality is mediocre in comparison to other smartphones on the market. Images were often blurry thanks to the lack of autofocus and colors were washed out. Despite the frustrations, it's decent enough for the occasional snapshot. A flash is included for those low-lit situations, and editing options include white balance, color effect, picture size, picture quality, and focus mode. Video quality is good for a quick MMS or a casual recording, but not for everyday use.
I worked with the Acclaim during a recent trip through Western North Carolina, and in my testing, call quality was very good. Earpiece volume was loud, and my callers were able to hear me well. I took the device to a US Cellular dead spot in the region (it took a while to find one), and while the device migrated back and forth to zero bars of service, I was able to maintain the call. It was choppy at times, but barring the occasional word, callers were able to understand what I was saying. I took the Acclaim to a local coffee shop, and tested the speakerphone volume. With grinders blaring, my callers were able to understand me (though they complained about the background noise). I paired the Plantronics Voyager Pro headset to the unit, and used it during my drive to the region. My two callers reported good sound quality, and it was pleasing on my end as well.
The Acclaim supports EVDO Rev. A connectivity, and I was reasonably pleased with the 3G data speeds. I've been spoiled by HSPA and HSPA+ connectivity, but the Acclaim performed well given the size of the towns I traveled through. When working with the SpeedTest.net app, I was able to attain a download speed of 1,293 Kbps, and an upload speed of 772 Kbps. The CNN mobile homepage loaded in about eight seconds, and the full PhoneDog page loaded in about 27 seconds. Apps downloaded with ease, and data-centric programs loaded without a hiccup.
With an estimated talk time of eight hours, and average standby time of 18 days, the Acclaim is on the higher end of the Android battery life chart. With moderate use encompassing calling, text messaging, e-mail, use of the web, and downloading apps via the Android Market, the 1,500 mAh battery was able to make it about 13 hours before it powered down. With light use, I was able to spread the following charge through two full days. It certainly fared better than the 3.7+-inch devices on the market, but like any Android-powered device, I'd recommend keeping a spare charger handy.
It won't move mountains when competing with high-end Android alternatives, but the mid-range Acclaim is an excellent first Android device on US Cellular. With the physical QWERTY keyboard, it appeals to both the pro-keyboard and pro-touchscreen demographics. It's reasonably fast (save for a few laggy moments here and there), and should please those US Cellular customers that are itching for something new. Just be sure to check the camera quality and general OS prior to purchasing, and snag a car charger while you're in the store. Available now, the Acclaim is $99.95 with a two-year agreement. Check out the gallery below for additional pictures!