Samsung's got a lot going for them these days. They're shipping mad numbers of devices, making phones for different price points and consumers, and shoot, they even got build the coveted Galaxy Nexus.
The phone in question right now is the Conquer 4G, a not-quite-midrange, not-quite-high-end phone that's out on Sprint. I find it (personally) a little hard to classify because some of the hardware screams budget phone and some of it doesn't.
So where does it stand in the heiarchy of smartphones? Is it far outside the über-friends club of "superphones," relegated to eating lunch in the bathroom? Or is it second string on the JV basketball team, still fairly strong, but lacking in a few departments? We aim to cover all that (and more), so join us after the break for the full Conquer 4G review.
It's small, relatively thin, and incredibly light. It's got 4G (for when you're in a service area), and it's also running a near-vanilla version of Android.
The screen isn't as sharp as some of the higher-end displays. It's also carrying a single-core 1GHz processor, so the bleeding edge won't be impressed. Cameras leave a bit to be desired.
Yet another phone built to appeal to the smartphone shopper on a budget, the Conquer 4G does most of what it's tasked to do well. It's not priced competitively, though, as there's far better phones available at the same price.
Inside this review
The Conquer 4G definitely tries to carve out a niche for itself, that's for sure. Instead of being a gargantuan phone that requires a bit of thumb acrobatics to wield one-handed, Samsung opted for something a bit smaller, a bit more pocketable, and without a bit of flashiness.
And when I say small, I don't mean your hand will dwarf it or anything. At 11.7 mm thick, it's still being bested by a small handful of even slimmer phones, but it doesn't come off as chunky in the slightest, especially for being a WiMax phone.
The rest of the size is a pretty standard affair. It's 4.57 inches x 2.38 inches. Again, size is nothing to phone home about, but if you've got small hands syndrome, the Conquer is right up your alley. And it's light, too. The Conquer weighs a mere 4.1 ounces.
So you're thinking, "A phone so small, what's the deal with the screen?" Glad you asked. The Conquer 4G is sporting 3.5-inch TFT LCD display with a rather dismal 320 x 480 resolution. That's not completely unheard of for a phone this small, but it just looks and feels tiny. The colors are pretty nice, but the Conquer 4G runs into the same issues I reported on the Kyocera Milano. With a DPI of only 160, nothing on the display ever looks quite as crisp as it should.
At the very top of the phone is the Samsung logo, plastic earpiece, amibient light sensor, and notification light. The light is a really good size, so there's no chance you'll miss something. To the left of the notification light is a 1.3MP front-facing camera, so if you're one to video chat, the Conquer 4G has you covered.
Just south of the display is your Sprint logo and four physical buttons. Yes, you read that correctly. Samsung eschewed all the normal conventions of Android phone building in this regard, but the phone isn't worse for it. The buttons are solid, with a pretty strong click when they've been pressed. If you love tactile feedback, these buttons are it. There's also a tiny pinhole mic underneath the menu button.
On the top bezel there's a circular power button and 3.5 mm headphone jack.
The phone's left bezel houses the volume rocker, all by it's lonesome. The volume rocker itself is a single piece of plastic with a slight curved dent in the middle. Like the physical buttons on the front of the phone, there's a good push-and-click to the volume rocker.
The bottom of the bezel of the phone sports your microUSB charging port and the aforementioned pinhole mic. No more, no less.
The right bezel has the phone's physical shutter button. Are these making a comeback? I hope so. Kudos to Samsung for not skimping out, either. The Conquer 4G's shutter button is definitely a joy to use, using that awesome two-level method, where a half-press focuses the photo and a full press takes the shot.
Hop over to the back of the phone and you're greeted by a 3.2MP camera (with flash) and the phone's speaker. The battery cover has a great criss-cross texture to it, not unlike what you'll find on the Epic Touch. Pop off the battery cover to get to the phone's included 1500 mAh battery and the microSD card slot.
Samsung managed to put the microSD card in the top-left of the phone, so you don't need to battery pull to swap cards. I'm hoping this is a trend that'll continue (at least for the companies who are still including microSD slots on their phones).
What's under the hood
The Conquer 4G is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8655 single-core 1GHz processor.
For reference, it's the same processor used in the HTC Thunderbolt and the Droid Incredible 2. If you had any doubts about its performance, put them to rest. It's plenty fast, especially when coupled with a smaller screen and an unskinned version of Android. The phone doesn't take long to turn on, open the app drawer, or launch apps. Web browsing even feels pretty damn quick, especially when using 4G. Simply put, the phone is as fast as you'll need it to be, so don't automatically assume the single core means it sucks.
Sprint data is, well, Sprint data. The 3G leaves something to be desired, even if you live in full coverage, but the 4G definitely seemed faster on this phone than on other phones I've used in the past. The connection was strong, and despite having to contend with the upload speed cap, download was plenty fast, just how we like it.
There's not a lot of room to install apps on, about 550 MB total. Samsung was kind enough to toss in a 2 GB microSD card with the phone, but if you're planning on using any reasonable amounts of space, you're going to want to both upgrade your microSD size and start installing to the SD. There's really no getting around that.
The Samsung Conquer 4G is running Android 2.3.4, straight out of the box. Will it see an update to Ice Cream Sandwich? That's hard to say, but at this point, my gut tells me it's unlikely.
Your home screen setup is right on par with other mid-to-low range phones running near-stock Android. You've got five screens, phone and Sprint ID shortcuts, and your app drawer. Buttons on the far left and right move your screen without the need to swipe. On your first boot, the screens are populated with helpful widgets to help you get around.
Possibly due to the Conquer 4G's lack of internal space, Sprint hasn't overburdened your app drawer full of their bloatware. There's the requisite Sprint ID (but we saw that on the home screen) app, and other than that, the list is limited to:
- My Files
- Qik Video
- Sprint Hotspot
- Sprint Mobile Wallet
- Sprint Zone
- ThinkFree Office
Overall, not too bad of a haul, especially considering that ThinkFree Office keeps you from having to buy one of the file viewing apps on the Market and My Files lets you check out your SD card, no fuss.
The Conquer 4G is sporting two cameras -- the 1.3MP cam on the front and a 3.2MP camera on the back (with flash).
The camera app is straight stock Android, so there's nothing new to see here. You can switch between photo and video with a flip of the slider, but otherwise, nothing to phone home about. The camera can do up to 4x zoom, which is neat, but not necessary.
There's also included scenes in the settings menu, which is accessible from the little settings icon on the camera app's screen. It's not all that comprehensive, and if you devote about five minutes to checking the whole app out, you'll know it through and through.
Image quality seems to depend on lighting (natually), but all of our indoor images look either washed out or slightly blurry. The outdoor images are much more crisp, so just know if you plan on using the Conquer 4G as your go-to camera, it'll really shine outside, when it's well lit.
Video only shoots at 480p. Not great, but it'll come through in a pinch.
Other odds and ends
- The automatic sleep mode for 4G is awesome. You can leave 4G on and not have to worry about watching the battery drain before your very eyes.
- GPS, Wifi, and Bluetooth work.
- Voice quality and the speakerphone are both decent. The earpiece is better than the speaker.
The Conquer 4G is another nice phone on Sprint. Is it the best? Far from it. Is it competitive with other phones at its price point? Even that'll be a challenge. With the likes of the EVO Shift 4G and Nexus S 4G populating those already crowded waters, the Conquer 4G certainly doesn't stand out as the obvious choice.
For what it does, it does well, although the screen and cameras definitely leave me wanting more. At least it's light.
If you're getting a new smartphone on Sprint and can't spring for a new, top-of-the-line phone, consider the Conquer 4G, briefly, then pick something else. It's not that it's a bad phone, but for the same amount of money, you can get phones with better hardware and software, and that really makes the decision easy.
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