Innovative screen design is coming to Verizon

Samsung Continuum -- SCH-i400
The Verizon Samsung Fascinate, left, and Continuum, right.

Behold, the Verizon Continuum -- aka the Samsung SCH-i400 -- live and in person. It's an as-yet unannounced Android 2.1 phone from Samsung, destined for Verizon, and it's got a few tricks up its sleeve.

We knew a few things going into this thanks to a previous leak. So let's start with what we don't know: We don't know when it's coming. But judging by the build quailty, it'll be soon. We don't know how much it'll cost, but you can imagine it'll be in the usual $150-200 price range, after subsidy, of course.

And we don't actually have official specs just yet. OK, we've dug up some, and surmised others. But as with things of this nature, specs are subject to change, as are software features, we imagine.

So now that we have those bases covered, on to our initial thoughts of the Samsung Continuum!

Be sure to check out our video hands-on, too!

 Samsung Continuum - SCH-i400
The Samsung Continuum's "Ticker."

In a nutshell, then Continuum is sort of a smaller Samsung Galaxy S -- with a twist. You've Touchwiz, Android 2.1-update 1, and what sure looks like a Super AMOLED screen. It's as bright and responsive as all of the other Galaxy S phones weve tested and looks to be about 3.5 inches.

OK, and now the obvious: There's a sort of secondary screen beneath the four capacitive buttons. It's called the ticker, and think of it as sort of an uber-graphical RSS reader. It stretches the full width of the main screen, and it really looks like somebody put some thought into this thing.

First off, you don't actually have to have the phone fully powered on to use it. And it's surprisingly easy to use. You add feeds to it when you do the initial setup on the phone. There you add items such as news, RSS feeds, your e-mail accounts, Facebook, weather -- and it'll serve as a music app controller, too. You move through the different configurations by swiping left and right through them.

It'll take a little getting used to, for sure. But it's a very cool feature that we haven't seen before. We're going to lay awake at night, through, knowing that somewhere, someone is figuring out how to sell ads in that space. You know it's going to happen. Please, smartphone gods, hear my cry.

The phone itself is smaller than the Galaxy S phones, though it's definitely not as small as, say, the HTC Aria. The corners are nicely rounded.

Samsung Continuum - SCH-i400Samsung Continuum - SCH-i900

Up top are the power button -- remember that on the other Galaxy S phones, it's been moved to the right-hand bezel -- and the 3.5mm headphone jack.

Samsung Continuum - SCH-i400Samsung Continuum - SCH-i400

The left-hand bezel has the volume rocker and a little notch for a lanyard or (save us) a cell phone charm. And making a triumphant return to the exterior of the phone is microSD card slot. It's been a long time since we've seen one not buried beneath at least the battery cover (if not the battery itself). It's behind a little cover that you pry off with your fingernail. No sliding door like on the other Galaxy S phones.

Samsung Continuum - SCH-i400

The plastic battery door takes up the entire rear of the phone. That's also where you'll find the 5-megapixel camera and rear speaker. Note the "Galaxy S" stencil. Make no mistake, Samsung's treating this one as a high-end device, and it should.

There's not too much to say on the software side. We've used Touchwiz on four other Galaxy S phones, and it's the same here. Same colorful user interface, same launcher (you can change the dock icons, which is nice to see again). The Daily briefing app has remained intact (a pox on any carrier that removes it), and all of the other bells and whistles we've come to expect on a Galaxy S phone. The Live Wallpapers included are the same as on the Galaxy S phones.

Samsung Continuum - SCH-i400

Oh -- you saw this coming, right? -- it's been Binged. Yes, Microsoft Bing is the search engine of choice on the Continuum. As much as we'd like to be done voicing our displeasure at this, we've got to do it again. You'll need to download Google Maps, and while we didn't get to test it out, we're assuming the minor surgey we did on the Fascinate to return Google search will work on the Continuum as well.

We have to admit we're a little puzzled by the emergence of the Contiuum so soon after the launch of the Fascinate. Other than the very cool Ticker feature, you're pretty much getting a slimmed down Galaxy S. But it's not enough to make that bing a difference. We'll have to see at which market Verizon targets the Continuum, and just how hungry you folks are for it.