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Any time we see a smartphone with a unique form factor, it draws our attention. However, for some reason, manufacturers always seem to use these interesting and unique form factors on phones that are otherwise unimpressive and offer lackluster performance. Phones like the Kyocera Echo, Motorola Flipout, Motorola Backflip, and LG DoublePlay, to name a few, featured ground-breaking form factors that had amazing potential. But these phones were quickly tossed aside once features and performance were considered. Now we have another phone to add to this category of devices with a unique form factor that are otherwise plagued with a lack of effort in nearly every other area.

The dual-display design that the Samsung DoubleTime features is not necessarily new to phones, but we've yet to see it on a smartphone. Not only that, but both displays are a touchscreen, an aspect we haven't seen in any other phone with this form factor. But outside of the form factor, nothing about this phone is going to 'Wow' you. Samsung must have spent all of their time designing the hardware and threw in the towel when it came to other components.

 

Design & Features

Unlike most smartphones that offer a white model as a special edition, the DoubleTime only comes in white. Adding to the 'teen' nature of the phone, the physical buttons below the display are accented in pink. The paint has an almost metallic aspect to it, making it look more like Pearl instead of just straight-up White. It's a small device, measuring only 4.45-inches tall and 2.44-inches wide. Due to its physical keyboard, the DoubleTime is slightly chunky at .6-inches thick. (Think 'original Motorola Droid from two years ago' as a thickness comparison.) The back of the phone has a textured finish but I still felt that it was a little too slippery. I never quite felt like I could get a solid grip on it.

Both displays measure 3.2-inches diagonally and have a resolution of 320 x 480 pixels. Quite frankly, the 3.2-inch display size that has seemingly become standard on low-end smartphones is growing long in the tooth. Thankfully, you have a physical keyboard for typing, but I'm still frustrated by manufacturers' insistence on using such small displays. The low resolution, even on such a small screen, makes text look blocky and pixelated.

Because of the hinge on the right side of the phone, that side is devoid of buttons and ports. The volume rocker button is on the left side, the microUSB port is on the bottom, and the 3.5mm headphone jack and Screen Lock/Power button are on the top of the phone. The phone's camera is on the back next to the speaker grill. There is no front-facing camera or LED notification light. The microSD card slot is underneath the battery cover. The phone ships with a 2GB card and supports up to 32GB of additional memory. It is necessary to remove the battery in order to access the microSD card slot. With all of the pre-installed apps, the phone has only 260 MB of internal storage remaining. Some of these pre-installed apps from AT&T and Samsung can be uninstalled but not all of them.

 

Usability & Performance

One of my frustrations with the DoubleTime is software. It ships with Android 2.2 (Froyo), an outdated and antiquated-looking version of the OS. Why would Samsung release a phone with a version of Android that is a year and a half old when a newer version has been available for a year? I have no idea. The apathy that this shows on the part of Samsung is ridiculous. Call me crazy, but based on this fact alone, I would recommend going with another Android device. However, reviews aren't based on one single aspect or feature of the product so I must continue. Thankfully, Samsung included its custom skin, TouchWiz, to give the phone a little more polish. TouchWiz adds a shortcut dock, a rethemed notification panel, a new design to the app drawer, and a heavily customized look to other apps like Phone and Messaging.

The DoubleTime ships with a 600 MHz processor and 278 MB of RAM. In a world where phones with nearly twice the processing power can be had for the same price as the DoubleTime or for free, I wonder where the DoubleTime fits in. Performance was decent and most basic tasks could be done with only minor lag. However, using multiple apps at once as well as web browsing took its toll on the processor and much more lag was apparent. Why go through this frustration when AT&T has much better phones for the same price or cheaper? Really, there is no reason. Not only does the slow processor have a hard time keeping up, but the low amount of RAM makes multi-tasking nearly impossible. The DoubleTime's Qualcomm chip scored a 576 on the Quadrant Standard benchmark test and recorded 7.731 MFLOPS in 21.82 seconds on a multi-thread test using Linpack for Android.

Back to web browsing, the DoubleTime is a 3G GSM phone. While testing it in the Dallas area, I recorded speed test results of 400-700 kbps with a high of 1.3 Mbps and a low of 418 kbps. Considering previous tests with other 3G devices I've tested, these are average speeds and good results. Keep in mind that speeds will vary depending on coverage in your area. Web browsing on the small 3.2-inch display can be a pain, not to mention that browser performance was lackluster anyway. Pinch-to-zoom was very choppy and unresponsive.

The DoubleTime's physical keyboard is quite possibly the only shining point of the phone. It is very well-designed and a joy to use. Although the keys are considerably flat and flush with the surface, they are island-style keys and have a rubbery texture that contrasts with the smooth texture of the surface. This makes feeling each key individually very easy. I can quickly type with little or no problems at all. There is no dedicated number row; it is integrated in the top row of letters. There are primary keys for the period, question mark, comma, and '.com'. The keyboard has a triple-wide Spacebar that also acts as a Ringer Silencer and there are four directional arrow keys on the right side. Overall, I love the keyboard.

The DoubleTime's 3-megapixel camera offered good picture quality for a low-end phone. The camera is equipped with an autofocus which helps tremendously. Colors showed up very well and overall clarity was good. You're obviously going to notice some graininess and blurriness when you look closely, but I felt it offered good quality considering the caliber of the phone. The camera captures QVGA video. As expected, videos were choppy and blurry and the sound quality was terrible.

If you read my First Impressions article for the DoubleTime then you may remember that I was getting extremely poor battery performance. It was so bad I was sure it was simply a mistake on my part. Admittedly, the 1200 mAh battery that the DoubleTime ships with is rather small for an Android smartphone, but I still expected to get through at least a full workday on one charge. Battery life was terrible the first day I was testing the phone and it didn't get any better. Playing a game for two minutes would drain the battery significantly. I would start with 60% and be left with 45% after just a few minutes of use. I can sit and watch the battery percentage drop within minutes even when I'm not even using it. My guess is that I simply got a defective device or battery; therefore, I cannot give reliable information on what battery life will be like.

 

Conclusion

I've been pleasantly surprised by a number of low-end and mid-range smartphones that offered performance that far exceeded my expectations for such a device. The DoubleTime is not one of those phones. Outside of its stellar QWERTY keyboard, there's nothing that convinces me that this is the phone you should go for, even if you are on a budget. I would recommend looking at other options from AT&T like the HTC Status, LG Phoenix, Samsung Focus Flash, or Samsung Infuse (on sale right now)- all of which can be had for the same price of the DoubleTime or cheaper and will offer a much better smartphone experience.

 

Wrap-Up

The Good: Terrific physical keyboard; good 3G speeds while testing in the Dallas area; good camera quality.

The Bad: Outdated version of Android; small display is uncomfortable at times; sluggish performance especially when using multiple apps and when web browsing; terrible battery life with the unit I was testing (could be a defective battery).

The Verdict: For the price, you would be much better off going with one of AT&T's other budget-friendly options. Honestly, the DoubleTime is not worth your consideration.


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