Most of today's new Android smartphones are all about being bigger and better than past models. Take the HTC EVO 4G and the Motorola Droid X, for example. Both pack in oversized screens and flashy features.
That's fine, if you want a smartphone with all the bells and whistles -- and don't mind paying for it. But you do have another option in the Samsung Intercept. This full-featured Android smartphone may lack the flash found on some of its higher-profile rivals, but it's still a very capable device -- and one that comes at a very affordable price.
Price and Availability
The Samsung Intercept is available from Sprint for $99.99 when you sign a new two-year service contract. That price is $100 less than what most carriers are charging for the Intercept's Android-based rivals, such as the Droid X, HTC EVO 4G, and Droid Incredible. It's also $100 less than what AT&T is charging for a 16GB iPhone 4.
The Intercept doesn't feature the most eye-catching design; in fact, it looks a whole lot like many of Samsung's other phones. When the phone is closed, you see its 3.2-inch touch-screen, below which sits four touch-sensitive keys for navigating through the Android OS. Underneath those keys, you get a square-shaped optical trackpad, which doubles as a select button, as well as send and end keys.
The Intercept's 3.2-inch display isn't roomy, especially when compared to the 4.3-inch screens found on the Droid X and the HTC EVO 4G. It also lacks the sharpness of the 3.5-inch screen found on the Apple iPhone 4. But the screen is big enough to be serviceable.
Far more impressive is the Intercept's slide-out QWERTY keyboard, which appears when you slide the display to the right. The keys are well spaced and have a rubberized texture that makes them easy to press for accurate typing. The Intercept's keyboard is, by far, the best hardware keyboard I've seen on an Android device so far.
I was very impressed with the Intercept's quality during my test calls. Voices came through loud and clear on both ends of the line, even in areas where I had a weak Sprint signal. I heard little to no distortion and experienced no dropped calls.
The Samsung Intercept ships with Android 2.1, which was the latest version of the Android OS when the phone launched. Android has since been updated to version 2.2, though, which is already available on Google's Nexus One.
Android has come a long way from its earliest versions, though, and even version 2.1 offers a refinement that previous versions were lacking. Navigating through the OS's many options has gotten easier, though I found the Intercept a bit sluggish at times, when switching screens or launching apps. And Android is still a bit geeky enough to overwhelm some newbies. For more details on Android, read my complete review of the mobile OS.
The Intercept supports Sprint's high-speed 3G network, but not its fastest iteration. The Intercept supports Sprint's EvDo Rev. O, not the speedier Rev. A version. It does not offer support for Sprint's fastest 4G network, either. But you do get support for Wi-Fi wireless networks, so you have another option for speedy Web browsing.
In better news, the browser on the Samsung Intercept is quite good. In the past, Android's browser required you to dig through menus to access simple functions (like the address bar or the back button). That doesn't seem to be the cast on the newer batch of Android phones. Like the Droid X and the Droid Incredible, the Intercept features a browser that just makes sense.The address bar is just where you'd expect to find it, and you can use the handy back button below the display to move back through Web pages. The 3.2-inch screen does feel a bit tight when you're Web browsing, but you can pinch and spread the screen to zoom in and out as needed.
What you won't find on the Intercept -- yet -- is support for Adobe's Flash technology. You'll get this support, which will allow you to view multimedia Web pages as you would on a desktop computer, when the phone is updated to the next version of Android, version 2.2.
Samsung's Intercept features a 3.2megapixel camera, which is something of a disappointment when compared to the 8-megapixel shooters found on the Droid X and the Droid Incredible. It also lacks a flash, and picture quality, overall, wasn't very impressive. Many of my images were blurry, especially when I tried to capture moving subjects. I experienced a noticeable delay between the time I pressed the shutter button and when the camera actually snapped the photo, so that I often missed the subject I wanted to capture.
The rest of the multimedia features found on the Intercept are more impressive. Like most Android phones, the Intercept offers a basic, but very usable, music player and the standard YouTube app. But you also get a good selection of services from Sprint, including Sprint TV, which lets you view live TV broadcasts right on the phone. You also get Sprint Radio, Sprint Football Live, and NASCAR Sprint Cup.
The Intercept isn't as flashy as many of today's best Android phones. If you want speedier data access or a bigger screen, you'd be better off with the Droid X, Droid Incredible, or EVO 4G. But if you're looking for a budget-friendly Android phone with the best keyboard around, the Samsung Intercept could be just what you need.