A surprisingly decent entry-level Android phone

Sprint Samsung Transform

Take the Epic 4G, slim it down and slow it down a tad, and you've got the mid-level Samsung Transform on Sprint. Hang on, hang on. Keep reading. That's not to say this is a lesser phone that should be dismissed. On the contrary. The Transform is a simpiler -- and less expensive -- Android phone -- than much of what's out there today.

Let's take hold hands and take a look, after the break.

The hardware - This ain't no Galaxy S

The Samsung Transform shares the same styling as its big brother, the Epic 4G (read our full review), a Galaxy S-class Android phone, just not quite as high-end. It's a horizontal slider, with a four-row keyboard. And, truth be told, we like this keyboard better than that of the Epic 4G. Maybe it's our fear of scientific calculators, but the Epic's keyboard is just plain overwhelming, with 49 keys. The Transform's is a little more manageable at 42 -- and those seven keys make a difference. The Transform's keyboard doesn't feel crowded at all. And the white-on-gray color scheme is easier on our aging eyes.

Samsung Transform and Epic 4G

The slider mechanism is springy and solid. It's not too tough to open, but you're not left worried that it'll flop out, either.

The phone itself is smaller than the Epic as well. It's got a 3.5-inch TFT LCD touchscreen instead of a 4-inch Super AMOLED screen. It's a lower resolution, too, which is unfortunate, but we can live with the 320x480 resolution. That's our low end now, and for a good many of you, it'll be fine. Text and images are as crisp as on a 480x800 screen, but they're readable.

Samsung Transform and Epic 4G
Samsung Epic 4G, left, and Transform.

The Transform itself is just about the perfect handful. Its dimensions are 2.42 x 4.61 x 0.61 inches, and it weighs 5.4 ounces. It's got the usual four capacitive buttons below the touchscreen in the menu-home-back-search configuration. A front-facing VGA camera is seen at the top right. That's right, a front-facing camera -- rare enough on high-end devices and pretty much unheard of on mid-level phones.

The volume rocker is on the left-hand bezel, and the power button's on the right. Just below it is a dedicated hardware button for voice dialing. And that's a nice touch, though it'd be cool if you could use it while the phone is sleeping.

Samsung TransformSamsung Transform

Up top is the requisite 3.5mm headphone jack (remember when that wasn't a mandatory feature?) and microUSB port with sliding cover.

Samsung Transform

The battery cover comes off by sliding a fingernail along the casing at the bottom of the phone. Once removed, you'll find the 1500mAh battery and microSD card, which you can swap out without actually removing the battery, which is nice.

Samsung Transform

The Transform has a Qualcomm QSC6085 processor running at 800MHz. So it's not as powerful as the 1GHz Hummingbird processor that you'll find in the Galaxy S phones, but the Transform is still OK for most basic tasks, though it can bog down a bit if downloading large amounts of data. And that's partly because it only has 256MB of RAM. It has 512MB of ROM, which is fairly standard these days.

The software

Sprint ID on the Samsung TransformThe Samsung Transform comes with Android 2.1-update 1, just like its big brothers. But unlike the Galaxy S phones, it's largely a stock Android experience, whatever that means. The launcher looks pretty standard, and you've got a smattering of app icons and widgets loaded by default. Sort of.

We say sort of because the Transform is one of the first phones to feature Sprint ID, which you'll be introduced to when you first boot up the phone. It's a pretty simple concept, actually. An "ID" is basically like a profile or theme. Choose one, and it'll slap up a new wallpaper, icons, widgets -- the works. You can download new IDs from Sprint, which is nice.

It's a lot like the "Scenes" in HTC Sense. And like those, Sprint IDs are hot-swappable, meaning you can jump from one to another. It's not a bad concept. Our only major gripe is that there's a dedicated Sprint ID button in the launcher at the bottom of the phone -- space we'd much rather see used for, say, a browser shortcut.

So about those Sprint ID profiles. They're kind of a fun idea. Everybody wants to personalize their phones, and it's not nearly as easy to do as, say on the BlackBerry. But It's also not all that easy on the Transform. First off, you have to do it over Sprint's network and not Wifi. And that's no fun if you're in a crummy reception area.

Installation can take a while, too. In one instance, it took us somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes to install the Golf theme. And in addition to the wallpapers and  icons and whatnot, it also downloads and installs new programs depending on the ID. And with just 512MB of ROM on the Transform, these things take up more than their share of space. Our recommendation: Find an ID you like on the transform and stick with it.

Here's an idea of what a few of the Sprint IDs look like:

Stock ID

Stock Sprint ID

Here's what you'll see when you first boot up the Samsung Transform. It's pretty sparce, with handy little tips to get you going. You're on your own to add widgets and icons to the home screens.

Golf

Golf Sprint ID on the Samsung Transform

As mentioned above, this one took forever to download and install. It added a bunch of applications, too. So remember that you're getting more than just wallpapers and widgets -- you're really getting a whole new experience.

New York City

New York City Sprint ID on the Samsung Transform

The greatest city in the world. And with it you get a cool clock widget, the Where app, Tweetcaster twitter client, and others.

So there's not really a "stock" look on this phone. When you boot up the Transform for the first time, you're going to be asked to install an ID. We suggest you go ahead and get it over with. You've got a lot to choose from: Entertainment, Where, Small Biz, Lo2yo Latino, Yahoo!, Sprint, Auto Enthusiast, Business Pro, Fashion and Beauty, Golf Enthusiast, Health and Fitness, Home Base, Socially Connected, The Big Apple, Lo2yo Futbol, Lo2yo Mujer, EA, Clean.

The camera

The Transform has a rear-facing 3.2MP camera that's surprisingly good. You're not going to be winning any awards with shots from the Transform (probably), but pictures are clearer than we expected.

Sprint Samsung Transform Camera TestSprint Samsung Transform Camera Test

Sprint Samsung Transform Camera TestSprint Samsung Transform Camera Test

Video recording, well, nothing surprising here. Video's recorded either at a paltry 352x288 resolution (that's "high quality") or the even worse 176x144, if you plan on sending video via MMS. Here's an example of the high quality.

The Transform also has a front-facing VGA camera for video conferencing. That's a little unusual for a low-end device, but it's likely on the cusp of being a standard feature on all phones.

Other odds and ends

More things to note on the Samsung Transform:

  • Wifi 802.11 b/g
  • GPS worked just fine for us, locking on in just 10 seconds or so.
  • Phone calls and Bluetooth worked just fine.
  • The speakerphone is plenty loud.
  • No live wallpapers on the Transform. Sorry.
  • You get access to all the usual Sprint fare, Sprint TV, NASCAR and the like.

Who should buy the Samsung Transform?

We're obviously used to high-end devices around here, but that's not to say there's not a place for lower-end gear. And the Transform's in an interesting place. It has a physical keyboard, which is a must for some. And a front-facing camera, if you're into that sort of thing. And when we say it's like a scaled down version of the Epic 4G, we mean it -- and we really do like the keyboard.

If you're looking at the Epic 4G but don't like the extra $10 a month that comes with it -- and especially if you don't actually have 4G service where you live -- then the Transform should be a pretty good option at $150 on contract and rebate.

Just know what you're getting: A mid-level Android phone that should do you just fine if you're looking to get into the Google ecosystem -- but one that won't be getting any faster with age.

 

Reader comments

Sprint Samsung Transform review

9 Comments

What about some benchmarks? Or if Angry Birds, Reckless Racing, Raging Thunder 2, or Asphalt 5 can play?

I want to get the Epic, but if the Transform can basically do the same thing, i'll take the Transform for the cheaper price.

PLEASE Phil or someone else answer. If it can play those games, I will order the phone right away.

My wife has this phone. bought it on 11-6-10 and had to return it on the 9th due to an electrical problem that caused they keyboard and home row keys on the from to flash on and off. The second phone did not have the electrical problem but it was running the battery down like mad. Not running a task killer dont want to, i did find that the phone was looking for signal 50% of the time. Tried the airplane mode fix i found in the forums it didnt really fix it. She is returning the Transform tomorrow and getting the EVO.