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At CTIA a couple of months ago, Sprint announced Sprint ID for Android phones. The Samsung Transform is one such device released with Sprint ID. Along with this innovative feature, it contains an 800 MHz processor, Android 2.1, and a 3 megapixel camera with a flash. The premise was to have packs of apps, wallpapers, and ringtones that all pertained to a certain topic or company. When an ID Pack is selected, it will completely change the look of the device and the layout of apps and widgets. In a way, it makes keeping a Work profile and a separate Fun or Home profile easy and simple. It also means that users no longer have to hunt through the Market to find apps. They can simply download an ID Pack and get several apps at once. 

Design & Features

Most would describe the Transform as a mini-Epic 4G, a larger device that is also available from Sprint. The Transform has a 3.5-inch display with a resolution of 320 x 480. It's clear and bright and easy to view. The Transform fits nicely in the hand. It measures 4.61-inches by 2.42-inches by .61-inches. It you don't like the monstrous devices with 4+-inch displays, then the Transform's size will be perfect for you. It is mostly made out of plastic, but I didn't have any build quality issues. It feels solid enough.

Below the display, there are the typical four Android buttons for Menu, Home, Back, and Search. These are capacitive touch buttons, not physical buttons. The right spine of the phone is where you'll find the dedicated camera key as well as the voice command button and screen lock/unlock button, which doubles as the Power button. The left side of the device contains only the volume rocker buttons. The top of the phone houses the 3.5mm headphone jack and microUSB charging port.

The microSD card slot is underneath the battery cover, though you don't have to remove the battery to get to it. The phone ships with a 2 GB card and supports up to 32 GB. Along with the rear-facing camera, there is also a front-facing VGA camera just below the ear-piece on the front of the device.

Usability & Performance

The Transform ships with Android 2.1 and the aforementioned Sprint ID. Other than Sprint ID there is no custom skin or UI. The ID Packs idea is a good one for first-time Android users. These users may feel intimidated or may want a quick way to get all of the apps they want without having to search through the Market to find out what is available. Once an ID Pack is downloaded, the apps within that Pack can be uninstalled, of course, so if one isn't to your liking but the others are, you can easily customize the pack to fit your needs. In this way it's very useful. I can't see myself, or anyone else for that matter, actually switching back and forth between ID Packs as a way to actually use the features provided. Why would I take the time to switch ID's when the apps I want in that ID are already available in my App Drawer?

Interestingly, out of the box, the phone displays a few custom widgets that show the user how to navigate through Android. This makes it easy to learn Android within just a few minutes and quickly customize it to fit you.

As I mentioned in the outset, the Transform has one of the best physical keyboard I've used. The size, spacing between keys, texture, and layout are all perfect. The keys are not raised very high above the plastic molding, which made me think that they would be too flat to feel and press. This, however, was not a problem at all. The keys have a nice grip to them and are easy to press. As soon as I started using it, I could quickly type out sentences and enjoyed my experience with it. The numbers share a row with keys Q through P so the Space bar has its own row, along with a function key, emoticon key, Symbol key, "@" key, and period key. There are also four navigation arrows within the keyboard. Again, I can't stress enough how great this keyboard is. It is definitely the standout feature of the phone.

Something that was not very impressive, however, was the processor speed. The phone ships with an 800 MHz processor, though you wouldn't know it by using it. From the minute I started using the device it was slow, laggy, buggy, and unresponsive. Interestingly, it scored only 235 on the Quadrant Standard test, which is just about as low as you can get. The Optimus M I'm currently testing scored 476 and it only has a 600 MHz processor. The slowness of the device made it frustrating to perform even the simplest of tasks.

The Transform is equipped with a 3 megapixel autofocus camera and flash. In testing, picture quality was fairly decent, though the QVGA video capture was somewhat disappointing. The front-facing camera captures VGA quality video, so, as you can guess, video quality was pretty grainy and choppy. I am happy that the phone has a dedicated camera button. This may seem like a small feature, but it really does make the whole experience much easier.

The 1,500 mAh battery that ships with the Transform delivers standard performance times. With normal use, I managed to get one full day of battery life before it died. Obviously, we would all prefer to have longer battery life than that, but this has come to be standard for most Android phones, with a few exceptions.

I did have a few minor problems with Sprint's data network while testing it in the Dallas area. There were times when I would try to download an ID Pack and a notification would come up telling me that I didn't have a data connection, though I clearly did. This happened repeatedly through the course of my testing. Of course, as with all devices, data speeds will vary greatly depending on coverage in your area.

Conclusion

After testing the Samsung Transform, the one word I can come up with is Disappointed. True, the keyboard is absolutely fantastic, but that fact just makes it that much more frustrating that the overall performance of the phone and the processor was sub-par. Not only that, but I had problems with the touchscreen being too sticky for easy swiping. For $149 on contract, I would recommend either looking into another midrange Android device or spending an extra $50 for the HTC EVO. The extra $10 per month for 4G data will be worth it just to avoid the frustration of dealing with the Transform.

 

Overview

The Good: Excellent physical keyboard; decent 3 MP camera; Sprint ID Packs are great for new users.

The Bad: Slow and laggy; sticky touchscreen; data connection problems.

The Verdict: The Transform has one of the best physical keyboards I've tested, but the performance of the device was too slow and buggy to recommend.

 


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