What's good: Battery life, shape, call quality
What's bad: Cramped keyboard
Thanks to devices such as the Apple iPhone and the Palm Pre, 2009 has been unofficially coined as the year of the smartphone, and each manufacturer has worked to keep with the demand or new devices. Samsung is no exception, launching a broad range of new devices just in time for the summer shopping season. The Propel Pro has taken the popular form factor of the Propel, and morphed it into a device that's acceptable in the corporate world.
Realizing the success of slider phones, Samsung has taken the form factor of the Propel, and transferred it into something that is appropriate (albeit new) in a business setting. Though it is prone to fingerprints, the dramatic colors have been replaced by glossy silver, and the manufacturer has replaced its typical user interface with Windows Mobile 6.1. Much like the current trend in inexpensive smartphones, the Propel Pro includes an AC adapter, USB cable, software CD, and instruction manual in the box. On the left side of the device, the power button, volume rocker, and microSD card slot can be found; the right side of the device houses the camera button and the charging port/proprietary headphone input. If there is anything that irritates us about Samsung, it is their unwillingness to use the 3.5mm jack on their devices.
The device itself is relatively powerful, sporting a 528 MHz processor, 126 MB RAM, 256 MB ROM, Bluetooth 2.0, a 3-megapixel camera, and a microSD card slot with support for up to an 8 GB card. The 320x320, 65,000 color screen clocked in at 2.5-inches, and displayed colors well. The phone feels good in the hand as well; it is sturdy, and the slider hinge offers a strong ?click? when opened. Despite its feeling in the hand, the Propel Pro is a bit larger than other devices, and offers more of a "square-like" design; one could relate it to the LG Lotus when closed. As such, it is a bit different when trying to fit it into tight spaces. Some may like it, while others may prefer a more elongated phone. We enjoyed it; it is about the size of a deck of cards, and fit easily into a normal pocket.
Coming in at 3 megapixels, the camera was decent. Shutter speed is slow, but given the decent quality of the picture, we were pleasantly surprised. Just make sure to have everyone hold still for several seconds. On the video front, the Propel Pro was decent; a bit of blurriness here and there, but nothing major. Given that its first priority is to be a cell phone, we understand.
If you're a frequent e-mailer or enjoy text messaging on a regular basis, the Propel Pro's keyboard may be a bit frustrating over time. Though the keys are square and relatively large in comparison to other devices, they're sandwiched together, making it challenging for large hands to type effectively. On a positive note, text messaging is threaded, making it significantly easier to keep track of conversations. The joystick, on the other hand, is a bit challenging to navigate at times. Every now and then, it wouldn't recognize our gestures, making it a bit frustrating when trying to quickly move through menus.
The device is stocked with numerous programs along with the usual PIM applications, which is typical of Windows Mobile smartphones. Included on the device is Microsoft Office Mobile, AT&T's Xpress mail, support for Microsoft Outlook e-mail thanks to Microsoft's Direct Push Technology, PDF viewer, alarm, world clock, D-Day countdown clock, and more. Additionally, AT&T preloads a few programs of their own, most notably My-Cast Weather, eBay, MobiTV, and AT&T Navigator. One of our favorite features, however, centered around AT&T's Today screen. It does a fantastic job of organizing the necessary programs onto the main screen: time/date, missed calls, voicemail, text messaging, e-mail, appointments, AT&T services, music, photos, and profile/settings.
Additionally, the bottom right key changes depending on what menu the user is in. Simplistic and aesthetically pleasing today screens like TouchFLO 3D are very popular, and AT&T doesn't disappoint in this category.
As a quad-band device with support for GSM 850/900/1800/1900 MHz and tri-band support for UMTS/HSDPA, the Propel Pro can be used around the world. Though no world calls were made, we tested the Propel Pro's call qualities extensively, and our calls sounded excellent. Everyone said we sounded clear, and reception on our end was strong. Of equal importance, the earpiece was relatively loud, making it easier to conduct a conversation. Speakerphone was ever so slightly tinny, but we could still hear our callers. Another thing we were pleased with was battery life; estimated talk time places the Propel Pro at 6.5 hours, and we got about 7 before the device powered off. With a combination of talking and standby, we were able to get just over two days. Considering the features that this device offers, the battery life is quite a respectable.
The Samsung Propel Pro is a fantastic entry-level smartphone that provides a number of strong features and looks professional to boot. The slider form factor is a relatively new concept in the business field, and Samsung did a fantastic job of integrating consumer looks with professional abilities. Despite a few minor setbacks, it offers fantastic battery life and call quality. As long as the keyboard and form factor are thoroughly tested before purchase, it should be a pleasure to own.