The original Samsung Behold was a straight-forward messaging phone from T-Mobile. But the newer Samsung Behold II is an advanced, Android-based smartphone -- so different from its predecessor that you might never know these two phone were related at all. And that's a very good thing.
Price and Availability
T-Mobile originally offered the Samsung Behold II for $230 when it debuted in the fall of 2009. As of this writing, in May 2010, the Behold is available for significantly less: T-Mobile is now offering the phone for $149.99 after a $50 mail-in rebate. That's a much more palatable price for the phone.
The Behold II is attractive, though it doesn't stand out from most of today's Android phones. It's an all touch-screen phone, so you don't get a hardware-based QWERTY keyboard. But you do get an absolutely stunning 3.2-inch AMOLED screen. AMOLED screens are sharper and brighter than LCDs, and the difference is noticeable when you're using the Behold II. The colors are vibrant and everything just seems to pop on the screen.
The display is a capacitive touch screen which was easy to use in my tests: it responded promptly to all of my taps, and scrolling through lists and Web pages was easy. At times, the 3.2-inches of real estate felt a bit cramped, though, especially after using some of today's phones that offer 3.7-inch -- or even bigger -- screens.
Below the screen, you get a variety of buttons: send, end, back, home, and menu, plus a button for accessing the multimedia cube view (which I'll explain in a bit). You also get a round navigational keypad with a center button, which makes navigating through the phone's features very easy.
The Behold II is a quad-band world phone, so you can use it to make calls overseas. In my tests, call quality ranged from decent to very good. Most callers heard me loud and clear, and vice versa. I noticed occasional static during some calls, however.
The Behold II runs Google's Android operating system, which is slightly geeky at times, but it's a powerful OS that gives you plenty of options and is fun to use. Ypu'll find a variety of apps installed on the phone, and you get access to the Android Market for adding more.
But Android can be confusing at times, in large part because different phones ship with different versions of Android. And the Behold II is no exception: this phone still ships with version 1.5 of the Android OS, which is now available in version 2.1 on other phones. For more information, read my full review of the Android OS.
The Behold II also features Samsung's TouchWiz interface, on top of the Android software. TouchWiz is designed to make navigating the phone easier, by providing a row of widgets--icons that are shortcuts to apps--on the left side of the screen. You also get a launch bar on the bottom of the screen that lets you access certain phone features, like the dial pad or the Web browser. While I was impressed with TouchWiz on other, non-smartphone devices like the Samsung Memoir, I found its use a bit mixed on an Android device. So much of its functionality is already built into the Android OS, making TouchWiz feel superfluous.
In addition to the TouchWiz interface, the Behold II also offers a 3D cube view for accessing the phone's multimedia features. The cube is cool to look at, but is really just a novelty; it doesn't actually offer much functionality that you can't get elsewhere. When you press the cube button on the phone, you'll see the cube appear, with sides offering access to the Behold II's multimedia apps, like the Amazone MP3 store, the Web browser, or your photo library. You can shake the phone to move the cube, or can use the touch screen to rotate it. It's entertaining, but not terribly useful.
Like all Android phones, the Behold II features tight integration with Gmail, but will work with any IMAP or POP3 e-mail account. The Nexus One will sync with Microsoft Exchange e-mail, calendars, and contacts.
The Behold II offers text and multimedia messaging, and features a threaded view of messages. It also features IM clients for AOL's AIM, Google Talk, Windows Live, and Yahoo Messenger.
Browsing the Web
The good news about browsing the Web is that the Behold II supports both Wi-Fi and 3G cellular networks. T-Mobile was the last of the four major nationwide carriers to launch a 3G network, but its reach is growing. In my tests of the Behold II in and around the Boston area, T-Mobile's network delivered speedy page loads and downloads.
The bad news is that the Android browser can't compete with today's top-notch mobile browsers, such as the iPhone's Safari. Too many of the options are accessible only through menus, and because the Behold II's screen doesn't support multi-touch, you can't pinch and spread the screen to zoom in and out.
The Behold II features a five-megapixel camera that captured some very good snapshots. Images were bright and clear, with sharp details. The camera offers a flash, 8x digital zoom, autofocus, as well as some advanced settings. It also captures video clips, which looked very good.
Music and More
Like all Android phones, the Behold II includes one-touch access to Amazon's MP3 store for DRM-free music downloads. As a nice bonus, you get Samsung's own media player, which is superior to the bland music player found on most Android phones. Samsung's player is more visually appealing, and has more advanced features, such as a built-in equalizer and the ability to create playlists on the fly.
You also get a dedicated YouTube app, and videos looked great on the Behold II's AMOLED display.
The Behold II is an attractive Android-based phone with some excellent multimedia features. If only it offered the most recent version of the Android OS, I could recommend it without reservation.