The Samsung Intercept, my first Android phone. Being a user of traditional cellphones that of which are considered "dumb" phones today, I was overjoyed when I finally got my hands on this phone. But before I begin let me tell you about a little story of the events leading up to my purchase of this phone...
The year was 2011, and I had began my first job. Having used the same phone for over 5 years which was the Samsung T509 I felt it was time for a much needed upgrade. Don't get me wrong, I still love the 509 and use it to this day as one of my primary backup phones, should I not have a steady phone provider.
There were several things that I considered when searching for a new phone, which I'm sure most of you look for as well. Those were usability, reliability, cost, and in my case a full Qwerty keyboard. The reason I wanted a full Qwerty keyboard is because I like to text a lot. My first choice would have been a rather convenient one the Nokia X2. It would have been as simple as buying the phone, swapping the SIM card out, and I would have been set. The down side to that is I would have still been stuck on a prepaid plan that would become too pricey if I wanted nearly unlimited everything, which T-Mobile does not have for their pay as you go plans ($100 for 1000 minutes and 10 cent per text incoming/receiving), so it was clear a change of carriers was needed.
Then I heard about Virgin Mobile, and their $50 unlimited everything plan. Sounded good to me, now to find a phone that met my criteria and luckily the Intercept met such requirements. As it would be my first Android based phone I was thrilled and anxious to acquire it. Which led to my first attempt to purchase the phone at a local RaidoShack.
After showing him the sign he agreed, but he said there was nothing that could be done about the price in the computer. This is when my friend stepped in, as he works at the same mall that the RaidoShack was located in. He stated that the Point of Sale program they use is the exact one that he uses in his store, and that the button that would allow him to override the sale price was starring him in the face in the bottom corner the whole time.
The gentlemen stated that he couldn't override the price without the manager there to input his code. As we asked for the manager the cashier stated that he just left for the night. I was screwed out of saving $80, so I asked him if I could come back tomorrow and if he could hold the phone for me as the mall was about to close, he agreed and took down my name and my friend's name as he would be able to pick it up for me since he worked there the next day.
I gave my friend the money for the phone and he went back the next day. The same person from the night before was working, but the cashier stated that he could not sell him the phone as it was being held for someone else and that it was the last one left. As my friend got irritated with him, he asked them how they could hold the phone for us when they already had it on hold for someone else; they had no reply. He asked them when they would get more in, they said not for another day, he inquired whether the current sale price of $99 would be honored and the cashier said no, as the sale would be over. After getting angry with both the manger and the cashier, as he has worked in that mall for over four years, he explained to them that this was no way to conduct proper business, and that if a price is advertised it should be honored, and left the store.
After informing me of what had happened, I called Best Buy and asked if they had the phone, which they did, but at the original $179.99 price. I said screw it and asked my friend to just get it from there, so he agreed to go get it for me on his break, and bring it to me after work that night.
I won’t even get into the semantics regarding customer satisfaction, but you shouldn't promise someone an item then turn around and hold it for another person when there is only one left in the store. In cases like that, "first come, first serve" should take priority. It's your job to sell the product to which ever customer comes through that door first, at any cost.
I hoped you enjoyed the story and the hardships I and my friend had to go through to procure this device, now let's get to the phone itself.
When you first set your eyes on the phone, you're greeted by this large 3 inch screen. But then your eyes become attracted to this rather large button near the bottom, that's trimmed in silver. While it may look appealing at first, this button becomes the most useless object on the phone before it's even out of the box. For some reason, Samsung felt to include an optical trackpad on this phone. While it might have been necessary on older Android devices, it is, as I said, useless on a phone with a fully functional touchscreen.
Aside from that, you get your traditional Android menu buttons (Left to right; Menu, Home, Back, and Search) which are part of the capacitive screen, and at the bottom you get a set of hard-press call and end buttons. All of it is surrounded by a chrome trim, while the bottom half of the phone remains solid black. If you slide the phone open you are greeted by a full Qwerty keyboard, complete with a dedicated number row, Shift key, Directional pad, Enter and Backspace keys, and a secondary menu key. as well as a Function key, which enables the alternate functions of the keyboard.
On the rear of the phone you have the 3.2 megapixel camera with sighting mirror at the top, and the speakerphone at bottom. Around the edges you have on the right a loop-through for a lanyard, a standard 3.5mm headphone jack and a dedicated camera button.
On the left side of the phone you have the volume rocker, and a MicroSD card slot (a 2GB card is included in the box, but the phone is expandable up to 32GB). On the top is the charger port which is covered by a swing open door, exposing a standard mini USB-A port. The bottom has, of course, the microphone, and a slight indentation on which you can remove the phone’s back cover.
The phone has a rather sturdy feel to it when held in your hand, and has a slight sense of heft to it, but it somehow still feels light. This is probably due to fact that most of the phone is made of plastic, and most of the weight is centered to keep the phone balanced. After sometime with the phone, I noticed that it can make your hand feel somewhat clammy after holding it for extended periods of use, and it tends to heat up when pressed against your face, again due to the mostly plastic construction.
In this case it's a little bit of both. I had mixed results with the Intercept. There were days when the phone felt rather speedy, then there where instances where it dragged it's feet just to open Gmail. The phone has an 800mhz processor, which may sound pretty fast, but it's where the phone lacks in RAM that makes it feel slow as it only has 256MB's worth. This means that if you have a lot of things running either in the background, or in the foreground, it will begin to hiccup, and you will notice it. You will need all the extra space you can get on this phone since the internal memory may sound like a lot, topping out at 512MB, but after all the un-removable crapware you are left with about half of that. So if the 2GB MicroSD card is not enough for you, you may need to invest in a larger capacity one.
The battery was also a mixed basket. At first battery life was abysmal, topping out at around 4-5 hours. However, after adjusting the settings and disabling things like GPS and Auto-Refresh, I was managing about double that, 8 to 10 hours worth, which is enough to get you through the day, but you'll definitely want to keep your charger at arms length.
The reception is touch and go as well on this phone, seeing as Virgin Mobile uses Sprint's networks here in the states. Theoretically, you should generally have about the same coverage as someone actually on Sprint's network, which was not always the case. In populated areas I managed to get 4-5 out of the six bars available to me, but in the area where I live, I rarely get any service, 1-2 bars at the most. The 3G, when at full strength, was able to stream your typical Pandora or Last.fm stations, but it would generally bounce back and forth between high and low quality streams. Luckily this phone comes with built in Wi-Fi, which solved my streaming problems but had no effect on my call reception.
Here are the full specifications of the phone, for all of the number-crunchers out there.
4.43 x 2.19 x 0.59 (113 x 56 x 15 mm)
4.90 oz (139 g)
the average is 4.3 oz (124 g)
240 x 400 pixels
Light sensor, Proximity sensor
average is 8 h (452 min)
average is 390 h (16 days)
Mass storage device, USB charging
256 MB RAM / 512 MB ROM
Maximum card size:
Auto focus, Mirror, Scenes
256 MB RAM / 512 MB ROM
Maximum card size:
Auto focus, Mirror, Scenes
After almost a year of using the phone, it still looks brand new. Keeping it in a protective case helps, but I did manage to drop it once, and this created a small crack in the upper corner of the screen, and a scratch on the chrome finish. Although after extended use of the phone, I have noticed that the hinge does tend to give a little now, and I've recently began to have issues with the SD card not remaining mounted to the internal memory. The touchscreen has remained responsive, with the one time exception of it going non-responsive which required a battery pull and reboot of the phone. The call quality has been rather good, and I never noticed any hissing or background noise, or any kind of echoing. And as for that trackpad, I've never had a need to use it...ever.
The camera is surprisingly very good on the Intercept. When taking still photos the auto focus is quick and manages to captures the images sharply, although it can take anywhere between 3-5 seconds between pictures. For a 3.2 megapixel camera the images come out extremely detailed, and they tend to a have a decent amount of contrast and there is very little washout on the colors. Just don't try and use any kind of zooming in on the pictures, if you want to try and get detail on something. You're better off getting closer to it and cropping the picture later in some kind of photo editing program.
The Intercept comes stock with Android 2.1 Eclair out of the box, with an immediate over the air upgrade to 2.2 Froyo. If you have never used an android phone before then it might feel a little intimidating at first. With the Froyo update you get five individual home screens on which you can customize. You can have up to four icons in a row on each screen with five individual rows, or an assortment of both icons of widgets on each screen.
Android is a very intuitive and robust OS to use, once you get the general feel for where everything is. If you've used a Windows PC anytime in your life, you should feel right at home with Android. Everything is customizable, with the ability to replace any of the stock apps at your will. There is no shortage of apps, with over 400,000 available, which vary from simple games like Angry Birds to more complicated apps like the Garmin GPS app. You can find almost any kind of app on the market, but not all of them are gems.
The phone comes with several apps pre-installed such as Facebook, Twitter, Pandora, ThinkFree Office, and Amazon MP3, as well as some Virgin branded apps like WHERE, Virgin Mobile Live, My Account, and AirG Chat. Most of these can be removed, but the Virgin Mobile apps can’t. The phone comes with all the Google trimmings you would come to expect from it: Gmail, Maps, and YouTube just to name a few.
When you first start up the phone it will feel very fast, mostly due to the fact that there's nothing installed on it to hog up all of the resources. Over time it will begin to slow down, with more and more apps you use. What I found myself doing is going through all my apps every few months or so, and uninstalled what I didn't use. It does help and it doesn't hurt to use the built in task manager to free up more system RAM every once in a while when it begins to feel sluggish. I used it so much that I kept it on my home screen so I could give my phone that little boost of speed whenever it needed it.
While this version of Android was the latest version when the phone was released, it's just now three versions out of date. Don't get me wrong, it's still a great operating system, it's just not entirely up to date and might not run as well as a newer build of Android would. There were still a lot of bugs in the system when Froyo was released, which have been patched in newer versions.
There are some key features of Froyo that Virgin has chosen to disable on the Intercept. First is the live wallpaper feature, which may seem as a bummer but they did so claiming that the phone would suffer from performance issues if left intact. Also gone is the native tethering application, although one can be easily downloaded from the Android Market, provided you have root access or are able to find one that does not require it. There is also one last feature that was removed and probably the biggest of them all, Flash support, after it was just introduced in this version of Android.
As this phone came out initially in 2010 for Sprint, it is doubtful that this device will ever see another official upgrade. But there are always newer ROMS that have been created by the Android community that will upgrade this phone to 2.3 Gingerbread, provided you are willing to void your warranty, root your device and attempt to install one of these custom ROMS, provided you don't brick your phone. While Froyo might seem outdated today it is still widely used by over a quarter of the world's Android users.
Six months ago I would have told you that this was one of the best prepaid, full Qwerty Android phones available. Now that's just not the case. The market has since been saturated with many new handsets that have nearly double the power for around the same cost as when this phone was brand new. One such handset is the latest offering to hit Virgin, the LG Optimus Slider.
That doesn't mean that this phone shouldn't be overlooked, it's a great bargain now for $99 and plans starting at $35 with unlimited data. So if you're looking to take the plunge into Android, and don't want to break the bank by buying an expensive phone, than the Intercept is right for you, as it was for me. If this is your first Android phone, than you will not be disappointed.