Verizon Wireless' Samsung Stratosphere is a solid 4G LTE Android 2.3 Gingerbread smartphone with a full QWERTY sliding keyboard.
Among the many permutations of Android phones to meet the
needs of the majority of consumers, one style that's been missing is that of a
smartphone for business equipped with a full QWERTY sliding keyboard, but
powered by a 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) network.
The Samsung Stratosphere, available from Verizon Wireless for $149 with a
two-year contract after a $50 mail-in rebate
, fits the bill. Powered by a 1 GHz processor
and Verizon's 4G LTE pipes, the Android 2.3 Gingerbread handset has a 4-inch (800-by-480 resolution), Super AMOLED screen for
bright, crisp colors in daylight and night.
Never before have I tested such a fast, powerful Android
handset with a QWERTY keyboard.
Here in Fairfield County, Conn., multiple tests
with Ookla's Speedtest app for Android revealed an average of 12M bps
download and 8M bps upload times, which I'll take any day of the week.
With speed like that, YouTube clips and Netflix for Android videos and
The five-row QWERTY keyboard stood up well to that of the Motorola Droid 3
, which, when it launched, was hailed as the premier Android
I've tried my hand at plenty of Android phones with
QWERTY keyboards, including Motorola's Droid, Dro Port and XPRT gadgets. Yet this phone's five-row
keyboard is beyond adequate for long-form typing messages, even small document
composition with Google Docs or Microsoft Word via QuickOffice. In fact, I even
prefer it to the Droid 3 keyboard. Here's why.
The Droid 3 is rectangular, so when you turn it to
landscape mode, it's boxy. That's a fine shape when you're typing with all 10
fingers, but more unwieldy when you're using two thumbs to bang away at the keys. The
Stratosphere sports Samsung's typical rounded shape, so it contours to your
forefinger and thumb as you hold it in position for typing.
Moreover, Samsung has framed the Stratosphere's letter
and number keys with four physical Android control buttons -- settings and home
on the left side, and the search and back buttons on the right. Really smart
I'm not a big QWERTY guy and have gotten totally comfortable to
the 4.3-inch display of my personal Droid X and the other larger screened
phones I've tested. But using the Stratosphere was a pure pleasure and easy to
get accustomed to.
The Stratosphere is loaded
enterprise-tailored tools, chief among them support for Microsoft Exchange
ActiveSync to enable push email, contacts and calendar, and encryption to let IT managers remotely wipe the
phone's data in case it's lost.
These business-focused perks make the Stratosphere a good
alternative to Motorola's Droid Pro line, as well as Motorola's XPRT
and Photon 4G and other business-tailored Android gadgets. The battery,
which is actually one of the more impressive power sources for a 4G LTE
phone, offered 8 hours of continuous usage. The phone only has 4GB of
internal memory, expandable to 32GB with a microSD card.
Now the bad details. At a time when most premium
smartphones, such as Samsung's Galaxy S II line, sport excellent 8 megapixel
cameras the Stratosphere comes with modest 5-megapixel rear-facing camera,
paired with a 1.3 megapixel front camera for video chat.
These features were serviceable, but nothing to brag
about. The video camera also supports 720p HD playback, but only 480p
recording. Those capabilities crumble in comparison to the 1080p HD capture and playback for the S IIs from
AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile I've tested.
Like most QWERTY sliders, the Stratosphere is both heavy
and thick: 5.8 ounces and 0.55 inches. While call quality was solid as per
usual on Verizon in my neck of the suburbs, the phone felt clunky held up next
to my ear. Not tablet clunky, but not as comfortable as some of the other
phones I've tested that were less than .4 inches thin.
Still, heft of the phone made me want
to use it in landscape mode with the slider rather than in portrait mode as
much as possible. If you prize thinness, the S II phones or even Verizon's forthcoming,
7.1 millimeter thin Motorola Droid Razr, are more your speed.
However, if you need a fast, enterprise-oriented device
with a full QWERTY keyboard, the Stratosphere will be a breath of fresh air.