Some hits, some misses for Samsung Continuum

I’ve had the Samsung Continuum for several weeks now, and it epitomizes the dilemma of choosing a cell phone these days.

Think you’re getting the best phone there is, and then someone says, “Hey, check out my new phone.”

Right after you’ve locked up that two-year contract for your new phone.

I switched my family all to Droids last summer. We like them. But there are better phones out there. In some respects, the Continuum is one. In other respects, it's behind the Droid.

The Continuum is part of Samsung’s Galaxy S line for Verizon. I’ve written about how one of its features – the ability to act as a wifi hotspot – is pretty great.

One of its unusual features is a second “ticker” screen at the bottom of the phone. You can customize this ticker to feed you any number of items – lots of news services, sports updates, text messages, e-mail notifications. But I found it pretty much useless. While I like being constantly connected, I’m OK with going to find content when I want it. I don’t use RSS feeds, and if I did, I might feel differently about this. And I don’t have a long commute where someone else is driving; that also might make me feel differently about this. 

Setting that ticker aside, there’s plenty to like about the phone. It does not have a slider or a hardware keyboard. And because it doesn’t need that real estate, you get a sleek, thin phone that feels natural in the hand in either portrait or landscape mode. 

The biggest obstacle: the phone is running on Android 2.1, not the “Froyo” 2.2 version that allows Adobe Flash 10.1 and many other features. A Verizon spokeswoman says she doesn’t have any updates on when the upgrade will arrive for the Continuum.

The screen is gorgeous, and the 5-megapixel camera takes fine still pictures and video, with MicroSD storage up to 16 gigs. It’s a subjective measure, but battery life is terrific.

I didn’t make many phone calls, because I don’t make many phone calls. A text sent from the Continuum to the Droid took about a second less than a text sent the other direction. But the Continuum displays text “conversations” in speech “balloon” threads. I would find that annoying pretty quickly.

When you swipe from the top of the home screen, unlike the Droid, you have instant access to different network modes, from wifi to Bluetooth to GPS to airplane mode. That’s a nice design feature.

The layout across the bottom of the screen differs from the Droid, in giving you phone, contact, text and application icons, plus the navigation icons – menu, home, back and search – that you get across the bottom of the Droid screen.

You get seven “home” screens on the Continuum. My Droid has five.

The phone uses Bing as its default search engine. I don’t use Bing, so I won’t spend much time on the differences between that and Google, the default for my Droid. But both the Continuum and my Droid have the capability for spoken searches and the Droid’s Google search was  much faster in my test. Both got the search phrase correct, and both returned the same top results, in slightly different order.

The phone gets points for its look and feel, for the included apps and the great Android Market, for the wifi hotspot capability and for the clarity of its screen. If we were getting new phones now – and this is not even five months after getting the Droids – I’d look closely at this one, but I’d probably wait and see what else is available.

The problem with that decision, of course, is that you don’t get the advantage of a new phone while you’re playing the waiting game.

That, I believe, is going to be the hallmark of cell phones for quite some time, like Illinois weather – if you don’t like it, stick around, something new will come along any minute. 

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