The Samsung Craft is being touted as the "first 4G phone on an official 4G network". Though I don't think anyone would have expected something like this to come from a regional carrier like MetroPCS, it's definitely a big deal. The phone packed with features that you would generally see only on a smartphone, but it's a messaging phone.

Design and Features

The Craft's 3.3-inch AMOLED display is probably the most outstanding feature of the phone, but the design of the entire phone is great. It's built like a smartphone - solid, sturdy, like you're holding a phone that's worth the $350 that you shelled out for it. There is some heft to the phone, simply because it has a physical keyboard and because of it's solid design. Weighing in at 5.29 ounces, it's not enough to help you build any arm muscle, but it lets you know that it's there. In all, the phone measures 4.48 inches tall, 2.21 inches wide, and .6 inches thick.



On the front panel you're given three physical buttons for Talk/Send, Back, and End/Power. The right side of the phone features a dedicated camera button, the microUSB port, and the screen lock/unlock button. The top of the phone is where you'll find the 3.5mm headphone jack and the left side contains the volume rocker buttons, voice recognition button, and the microSD card slot. The phone ships with a 2 GB card and supports up to 32 GB of external memory.

Usability and Performance

First of all, the AMOLED screen on the Craft is beautiful. Colors are rich and vibrant and text shows up so crisply. The responsiveness of the capacitive touchscreen blew me away. There are a couple of other messaging phones with capacitive touchscreens that are not that great, but this one is spectacular. It's in the same class as the touchscreens on most smartphones today. However, It does not support multitouch or pinch-to-zoom.

The Craft uses Samsung's TouchWiz UI. You're given three homescreens to customize with different wallpapers, widgets, and icons. This makes it easy to quickly access the features that matter most to you, whether it's social media, web browsing, e-mail, music, or anything else. There was a bit of a lag when switching between each screen, but that's to be expected from a messaging phone. It may have 4G, but the processor itself is still probably nothing to brag about. The phone comes pre-loaded with several custom MetroPCS apps. This may seem like unnecessary "bloatware", but you'll actually probably use most of the apps. They include an e-mail client, MetroStudio for downloading ringtones, a navigator, a web browser, and other handy apps.



I mentioned that the phone does have apps for social media, e-mail, and web browsing. Considering that the phone is 4G compatible, it's worth noting the performance of these and other data-intensive features. Web browsing on MetroPCS' 4G network was okay. It was slightly faster than 3G, but it wasn't blazingly fast. Granted, it's definitely more comfortable than the experience you'll get on other messaging phones, but don't expect the web browser to be anything like one on a smartphone. The e-mail client was nicely designed and performed adequately. It didn't always sync up quite right and I usually had to manually tell it to check for new e-mails, but the interface is easy to use and the design of the app itself is nicely done.



The Craft is fitted with a 3.2 megapixel camera that also features autofocus and an LED flash. These specs are nice to see on a messaging phone, but, more importantly, the quality was amazing. The autofocus helps out tremendously and makes each picture come out clear and just beautiful. I tested the flash while in a pitch-black room and it was great. I could see the object clearly and it wasn't too overbearing. The camera also captures VGA quality video. While capturing video, you can use the flash as a backlight for dark or night time scenes. Overall, I was very impressed with the camera. I found myself taking more pictures than I normally do when testing a phone because the pictures came out so well.



The keyboard is one feature that I was a little "iffy" on when it came to performance and ease-of-use. In some ways it's great and in some ways I wish it was different. The keys themselves are rubbery and easy to type on, it's wide enough to be comfortable and not too scrunched, and the action on the keys was great. The layout is what got me. The spacebar is in a row of letters, which I generally don't like; however, instead of it being in it's usual place, between the V and the B, it was positioned slightly to the right, between the B and the N. Sounds like it doesn't make that much of a difference, right? Well, it does. Though it wasn't as comfortable as a keyboard with a dedicated spacebar row, it was easier to type on than I thought it would be. Another thing that bugged me was that there is no dedicated period key. This seems unacceptable considering how often we use the period key. It didn't bother me as much as I thought it would, but I still see it as a negative when it comes to the keyboard.

The messaging interface itself is simple and easy to use, but the phone does not feature threaded text messaging. Messages are categorized into an Inbox and an Outbox and then listed in order by date and time received.



Battery life on the Craft was not as great as I thought it would be. The phone ships with a 1500 mAh battery, which seems like enough to keep it powered on for about three days, but it actually only lasted about 1.5 days. This isn't too bad, since it's long enough to hold you until you can charge it again, but it's something to take note of.

Conclusion

After testing the Craft extensively, I believe it could easily vie for the top spot in the messaging phone market. One thing to keep in mind though is to not have your expectations set too high. It may be a 4G phone and have WIFI and all of these great features, but it's still a messaging phone. Web browsing won't be amazing, there may be a bit of a lag when using it, and the overall performance will not in any way compare to that of a smartphone. If you have reasonable expectations, the Samsung Craft will make you very happy. It is currently available only in MetroPCS' two 4G markets, Las Vegas, Nevada and Dallas, Texas. The normal retail price is $349. I strongly recommend checking it out if you're in one of MetroPCS' 4G markets and a current MetroPCS customer.


Overview

The Good: 4G; WIFI; beautiful AMOLED display; responsive capacitive touchscreen; excellent 3.2 MP camera with autofocus and a flash; solid build quality. 

The Bad: Somewhat poor battery life; keyboard layout.

The Verdict: The Samsung Craft is easily one of the best messaging phones on the market right now, if not THE best messaging phone.


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