First Look: Samsung Continuum review

When clamshell phones were all the rage we revelled with excitement at the idea of a second screen on the outside that would give you valuable information without having to flip open the handset. In an age where phones are blocks of plastic, metal and glass, to see what’s what, you’ve got to turn that big battery sucking screen on to see what’s going on in your life. In steps the Samsung Continuum, a phone, apparently inspired, says Samsung, by the pulse of New York City.

How? Because it’s a phone that constantly keeps you connected while doing other things with a main screen and a bottom screen “ticker”. You can do one thing on the main screen, while viewing updates on the ticker such as RSS feeds, music, or even incoming calls, to “maximise multitasking”.

The combination of the two screens is indeed the main feature on the phone, with a 3.4-inch vibrant touchscreen Super AMOLED main display and a customisable 1.8-inch dedicated ticker display that shows custom information in real-time.

For example, you can search the web on the main screen of the Continuum and be notified of an incoming call within the ticker display. Indeed, this does minimise the number of interruptions incurred while watching videos or reading emails. The other cool thing about the ticker feature is that it is customisable and changeable on-the-fly. If you’re about to dive into some business emails, but would still like to stay up to date with your tweets, you can dedicate the ticker to your Twitter stream.

Another person could dedicate their ticker to People.com’s top headlines while they watch streaming video on the main screen. Both screens are completely touch enabled and customising the ticker was pretty easy when demoed by the Samsung rep.

The Samsung Continuum minimises the rude factor with its “sensor grip” technology that allows you to only light up the ticker to view tweets or emails without lighting up your entire phone, and immediately distracting everyone in the room, cinema, your date, etc. A cool feature for those who would like to give the illusion that they are actually listening to whomever they’re with, rather than playing with their phone.

The phone itself is a lightweight piece of plastic, which immediately turned us off. Especially when compared to a device like the iPhone, which feels like a real piece of hardware in weight, design, and material. And why wouldn’t we compare the two when they’re both at a similar price point ($199 with a 2-year contract)?

The screen itself doesn’t feel small exactly, although it is at the small end of the spectrum when it comes to Android screen sizes (the Samsung Galaxy S has a near 4-inch screen). To illuminate the phone, you press one of the top buttons and swipe the main screen to access your phone. To illuminate the ticker, there are soft keys on the side, which may take some getting used to for Android users. 

There’s a 5-megapixel camera with an auto-focus and LED flash that also features HD recording 720p playback (cool!)

The phone itself features the usual array of connectivity options in the guise of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and, of course, Verizon’s EVDO Rev A network. Other features include the device coming pre-loaded with Bing Maps and Bing Search, 3G Mobile HotSpot capabilities and Swype.

Verdict

We were unimpressed with the Samsung Continuum overall since it is not being released with the latest Android 2.2 OS. Despite this let down, we were driven to give this phone a fair chance. From the moment we picked it up, we noted the cheap and lightweight quality of the phone. Call us old school, but if we’re paying near $200 USD for a phone, we expect the phone to feel like a real piece of hardware in weight, design, and feel (think iPhone. Or even Nexus One ... or Droid.)

The Samsung Continuum felt like a cheap piece of plastic. That said, the phone itself does have some cool features like the dual screen ticker. We can see us reading important emails while streaming tweets. But is that feature enough to sell the phone?

It will also be interesting to see whether the upcoming OS upgrade to Android 2.2 will actually appear and what impact this has on performance. Only time will tell.

The Samsung Continuum will be available for order starting 11 November in Verizon Wireless Communications Stores and online at www.verizonwireless.com. It'll cost $199.99 after a $100 mail-in rebate with a new 2-year customer agreement and data package.