In a mobile world where phones with dual-core processors and high-resolution displays take center stage, budget-friendly phones sometimes get pushed by the wayside, and it's easy to see why. Sure, you may save $100-150 on the price of the phone initially, but your monthly bill will more than likely be the same no matter which phone you buy, at least that's the argument I hear a lot. Well, believe it or not, not everyone is okay with plopping down $200 or $300 for a phone. Yes, I know, those phones may be well worth the money, but I'm sure you watch the news; you're familiar with the state of the world's economy. It's all about priorities, and everyone's list is different.
At $50 with a contract, the Samsung DoubleTime is about as budget-friendly as you can get, unless your other option is for free. It's a low-end phone by all accounts but it's a smartphone nonetheless. Theoretically, it should allow you to surf the web, check your e-mail, download apps, update your social network, and stream music. I don't believe in making room for failings in terms of those features, even if it is a cheap, low-end phone. I understand performance won't always be the best, but this is still a smartphone. If you're okay with a phone that doesn't have the best web browsing capabilities, then buy a featurephone. I'll make concessions for a budget-friendly smartphone, but not too many.
I've been testing the DoubleTime for about a day. Here is what I think of it so far:
- This phone has a pretty cool form factor. It's a lot like the enV 3 and enV Touch by LG except both displays are a touchscreen. I've been using the main display for most tasks and then switching to the internal display only when I'm using an app that requires a lot of text input. Of course, everyone will find their own way to use the two displays. I guess that's the beauty of it. For times when only minimal text input is needed, I'm still using the virtual keyboard on the external display. It's easier than flipping the phone open for just a few letters. The build quality isn't fantastic, but again, consider how much you're paying for the phone. Plastic should be expected.
- Let's talk about these two keyboards. The external display can be used for typing since you still have the virtual keyboard. (The phone comes with the Android keyboard and Swype.) The physical keyboard has been great. It took a little while to get used to the flat keys, especially since they're hardly raised above the surface at all, but the rubber texture and the fact that they're easy to press makes for a good typing experience. I can rapidly type out a sentence with no problems at all. The keyboard has four directional arrows and dedicated keys for the period, comma, and question mark.
- Surprisingly, the DoubleTime ships with Android 2.2. Considering that version 2.3 has been available for a year now, I consider this discrepancy on Samsung's part to be totally unacceptable. At the same time, I understand that most consumers who are looking into a budget-friendly phone probably do not care which version of Android it ships with. On top of Android, Samsung has included its TouchWiz UI. Love it or hate it, TouchWiz adds necessary color and polish to Android. Without it, Android 2.2 is pretty drab.
- Both displays measure 3.2-inches diagonally and have a resolution of 320x480. The external display works in both landscape and portrait mode but the internal display works only in landscape mode. So far, both displays have been responsive. With such a low resolution, you will notice significant pixelation and a good (or bad, I should say) amount of graininess. Other than that, I don't have any complaints about either display.
- The DoubleTime is powered by a 600 MHz Qualcomm processor and has 278 MB of RAM. Those numbers are nothing to brag about; however, the fact is that numbers aren't everything. Performance is what matters. For simple, everyday tasks, the DoubleTime was fine. I noticed significant lag when more than one app was running, when trying to quickly move through multiple apps and tasks, and when web browsing. Is it still usable? Absolutely. Low-end and mid-range phones generally lag in day-to-day use so it's not like the DoubleTime is underperforming. The low amount of RAM is what scares me. Don't plan on doing a whole lot of multi-tasking with this phone.
- I don't have a lot of notes on battery life as I've only had it for one day and that day gave me results that I hope are an anomaly. The phone was fully charged around 9 a.m. and was at 50% around noon. Playing Fruit Ninja for two minutes dropped the battery life from 60% to 45%. Another two minutes (literally, two minutes) took it from 45% to 16%. You see what I'm saying about my hope that this is an anomaly, right? This better not be what battery life is actually like. The phone ships with a 1200 mAh battery - small for an Android device. Still, with a small display and not a lot of power under the hood, I would expect better battery life than what I got on the first day. I'll post my final results in the written review.
- The DoubleTime is equipped with a 3-megapixel autofocus camera and captures QVGA video. I'm not expecting anything impressive here. You'll probably use this camera for quick snapshots to send via MMS or to upload to Twitter and Facebook. I've taken a few test pictures and quality is about what I expected: grainy and blurry but good enough. There is no flash for the camera and the phone does not have a front-facing camera.
The DoubleTime has an interesting foam factor, but so far, I can't tell how this improves the overall experience. The LG DoublePlay, a phone that also has dual-display technology but implemented it differently, seems much more attractive in terms of a unique form factor that adds to your experience. It's never a good thing when a phone's stand-out feature is really not that stand-out at all. Still, you want to know if it's worth buying and how it performs. I'll test it out further and give you my results in the video review and the written review.