The Samsung Continuum Android smartphone on the Verizon network takes a radical approach to extending battery life by adding a second, very small 1.8-by-5-inch front-facing screen. The second screen can display the time and a scrolling ticker with news, sports and social media feeds without lighting up the main display.
I would prefer to see Samsung and Google-the power behind the Android throne-work on power-management schemes that extended battery life without the radical hardware changes seen in the Continuum. However, the dual-screen gimmick is a decent workaround. Both displays use Super AMOLED screen technology and yield a clear and bright picture.
The Samsung Continuum, which runs Android 2.1, became available on November 11. The smartphone has a full retail price of $549; with contracts and rebates the price drops to $199.
The Continuum is built around a high-performance hardware platform but doesn't set any new standards here. The device is equipped with a 1 GHz Hummingbird application processor and a 5-megapixel camera with an LED flash. The camera is also capable of HD video capture. The handset comes with 2GB of internal storage and an 8GB microSD card, with support for up to 32GB. With this combination of hardware components, I got swift and responsive screen interaction. Scrolling was consistently smooth and applications and media players responded quickly and without hesitation.
The phone uses a virtual keyboard that can be used with Swype fingertip movements, although I prefer the virtual keyboard. I got good reception on the street and in my office in downtown San Francisco. What's more, the Continuum uses a 3.5mm headphone jack and 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi connectivity, and it can act as a 3G mobile tether for up to five compatible Wi-Fi devices. The Continuum was easy to use with a single hand. The device is just under 5-inches by 2.5-inches by .5-inches and weighs 4.41 ounces.
With support for Microsoft Exchange, enterprise IT managers could very well see the Continuum show up for work. I integrated the Continuum into our Microsoft Exchange 2007 infrastructure. I was able to use Exchange policies to control user log-on, including setting the maximum number of log-on attempts before locking the handset. I was also able to successfully complete a remote wipe action on the device.
The second, smaller display provides a neat way to extend battery life while providing nearly instant access to useful information. The second display-which resides beneath the home feature buttons on the front face of the Continuum-is activated by gripping the bottom sides of the device. It took me some practice to learn how to quickly activate the second display, especially when holding it with one hand. I tested the device without a protective case, but I'll venture a guess that using the grip activation gets trickier when a rubber casing is involved.
The ticker is user-configurable. I was able to add news and sports channels tailored to my interests from the settings menu. In addition to time, weather and headline information, I could swipe the second display to get summary information about email, voice mail, and text messages. Tapping a list icon on the second display immediately activated the main screen and displayed a list of items that were running in the ticker window.