Samsung Continuum, Fascinate Android Smartphones Split Hairs

Google Android's iteration pace is impressive, but the Samsung Continuum from Verizon Wireless is an example of iteration taken a little too far.

One of the key differences between Apple's iOS and Google's Android mobile operating systems is the pace of iteration.

Apple does one major upgrade to iOS and the hardware it runs each year, most recently the excellent iPhone 4 and iOS 4.2.

Android, on the other hand, is open source so things flow a little faster, if not a little willy nilly. Since January 2010, there have been two major OS builds-Android 2.1 and Android 2.2-with Android 2.3 on the way this month or in January 2011.

Google's last count had more than 60 handsets running on Android. After this holiday season, that number must be more than 70.

Carriers and phone makers are free to build, release and iterate, which is exactly what I feel Samsung and Verizon Wireless did in releasing the Continuum. I tested the Android 2.1-based Fascinate in September and have been using the Continuum for the past 10 days.

Also running Android 2.1, the Continuum itself is fine, as gorgeous as its Samsung Galaxy S class predecessors with its Super AMOLED screen. But let's be honest; it's more or less the Fascinate, with some cosmetic changes.

See for yourself in the Fascinate pictures here and the Continuum pics here.

The Fascinate is squarish, with a 4-inch screen. The Continuum is rounded and the main distinguishing feature of this device is that instead of one big screen, you get two: a main 3.4-inch display and a smaller 1.8-inch ticker screen.

In our eWEEK review, Cameron Sturdevant noted that the ticker screen is geared to extend battery life because it streams news, sports and social media feeds without lighting up the main display. Content displayed on the ticker is customizable.

This didn't make a difference for me; the battery still ran down fairly quickly. If there was some battery life saved, I didn't see it.

Both the Fascinate and Continuum have 5-megapixel cameras, with 720p HD video recording, and both have talk times of 420 minutes and standby times of 312 hours.

Both phones are preloaded with Bing search and Bing Maps and all of that fun Verizon applications, including VZ Navigator, VZ Music, VZ Videos and other apps.