In case you haven’t noticed, the Google Android dam has broken. For almost a year, HTC was the only manufacturer to offer handsets with the operating system, but in the past month, Motorola and Samsung almost fell over each other to offer Android smartphones of their own. Moto gave us the satisfying Cliq and Samsung countered with the Moment. Though we’re not sure which “Moment” Samsung is referring to (the company’s product names baffle us regularly), it’s clear that Sammy is taking its Android endeavor seriously. The Moment offers everything you’d expect from an Android phone while adding Sprint-specific media services. Other features are plentiful, and the sturdy design and comfortable physical keyboard offer a nice contrast to Sprint’s other Android phone, the HTC Hero. The Android OS still has its quirks, camera-editing options are nonexistent, and we had a few performance complaints, but at $179 with service, the Moment, aka the M900, is cheaper than T-Mobile’s Android options.
You wouldn’t be off base if you initially confused the Moment with Samsung’s other touch-screen phones. Indeed, with its rounded ends and prominent display it looks a lot like the Samsung Rogue. Yet, a closer look will show that the Moment is larger than its siblings and its color scheme and soft touch material on its battery cover put it more in line with the Hero. The result is a rather unremarkable design, particularly when compared with its Android counterparts, but the smooth lines give the Moment a minimalist appeal.
The Moment is more than just large (4.6 inches by 2.34 inches by 0.63 inch), it’s also quite heavy (5.67 ounces) for any kind of cell phone. The extra bulk is noticeable and the Moment can make for a tight fit in some pockets, but the trade-off is a solid device with a sturdy build. The slider mechanism is sufficiently stiff and the handset has a firm feel in the hand. We noticed, however, that when the slider is open the Moment feels a bit top-heavy. When typing, be sure to steady the back of the slider with your fingers.
Display and interface
At 3.2 inches, the Moment’s vibrant AMOLED display is smaller than the iPhone’s, but still large enough to allow for comfortable navigation. Though the resolution (480×320 pixels) is lower than on the Rogue, the rich color support (16 million hues) means that colors and graphics pop right off the screen. You can change the brightness, the wallpaper, and the backlight time, and you can adjust the accelerometer settings so that the display doesn’t change automatically when you rotate the phone. A proximity sensor will switch the screen off when you’re on a call.
The Moment ships with Android OS 1.5 so its three home screens and phone dialer interface will be familiar to Android users. The dialer features round buttons and offers quick access to a list of favorite contacts, though it lacks the additional shortcuts we liked on the Cliq. The main menu is also unchanged from other supported handsets; to access it, tap the small pull tab at the bottom of the display. Naturally, you can add or delete shortcut widgets and move them around the home screens. But in a change from other Android phones, the display offers vibrating feedback for the virtual keyboard and keypad (you can turn this feature off).
Though the capacitive display is mostly responsive, we noticed that there was a bit of lag time when opening the main menu and selecting some icons. The delay won’t be noticeable to Android virgins, but veteran users of the OS should see a change, albeit very small, from other Android handsets. It also took a firm swipe to move between the home screens and through long lists. Perhaps a screen sensitivity adjustment would help, but the Moment doesn’t offer one.
Keyboard and controls
We also had issues with the three touch controls below the display. The Home, Menu, and back buttons have a spacious arrangement, but our touch didn’t always register during our initial hours of use. Similar to the finger swiping, you’ll need to give an accurate, firm press. As with other Android phones, the Menu control opens the relevant commands for the feature that you’re using.
Fortunately, the physical controls just below the display are better. You’ll find large Talk and End/power keys and a square OK button that doubles as an optical mouse. The latter is a unique Samsung creation that acts like a touch pad. By swiping your finger cross the control, you can move the cursor or swipe between home screens. Though the optical mouse is tiny, it works well. In fact, it’s so sensitive that you need to use it carefully. On the downside, we’d prefer to have a dedicated search control.
Other exterior features include a volume rocker on the left spine and a camera shutter and a voice dialing button on the right spine. A Micro-USB port on the left spine accommodates the charger and a USB cable. We thank Samsung for giving us a standard charger port and the 3.5mm headset jack on the Moment’s top end. The camera lens, flash, and mirror sit on the rear side near a speaker. You will need to remove the battery cover to access the microSD card slot.
The Moment’s keyboard is spacious and comfortable. The keys aren’t quite as tactile as on the Cliq, but we could text quickly without making mistakes. Also, we like that with four rows of keys, numbers have dedicated buttons. Punctuation does share space with other characters, but that’s a common feature on keyboard phones. The space bar is located in the center of the bottom row and we appreciate the set of four arrow keys. Other controls include back, return, and function keys, and a function button for accessing menus and typing special symbols and emoticons. The display will rotate automatically when you open the keyboard, but using the standard Android virtual keyboard you can type with the phone closed.
Each contact in the Moment’s phone book holds eight phone numbers, four e-mail addresses, an instant-messaging handle, a birthday and an anniversary, four postal addresses, company or organization names, notes, and up to eight chat addresses for services like Windows Live, Yahoo, and Google Talk. For caller ID, you can pair contacts with a photos and one of 16 polyphonic ringtones. You even can choose to send all calls from a contact directly to voice mail.
In a change from other Android handsets, the Moment will ask you to sync new contacts to one of your synced e-mail accounts. Though we understand the need for backing up contacts, we’d also prefer an option for bypassing that step. On the other hand, you can quickly import existing contacts from your synced Gmail account.
E-mail and calendar
The Moment offers a full range of e-mail options. Besides Gmail–as with other Android phones, the Moment requires a Gmail account–you can sync with major POP3 services like Yahoo and Hotmail and use the handsets’ Microsoft ActiveSync feature to get push e-mail from Outlook. The Moment uses Moxier Mail for those work accounts, but the setup process is intuitive. And in a welcome change over T-Mobile’s first two Android handsets, you also can sync your Outlook calendar, tasks, and contacts.
We synced an Outlook and a Yahoo account; in either case it took just a few minutes to get set up. Outlook messages arrived almost instantaneously on the Moment and they were gone from our PC soon after we deleted them on the phone. In-box folders are arranged as they appear on your computer, and you can easily search your messages or perform a bulk move or delete. When opening subfolders you may need to manually sync, but that’s a minor point. Moxier Mail will display HTML messages, and you can view Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents.
Outlook appointments will show up on the Moment’s calendar, which offers day, week, and month views and the ability to create new events and send them to the attendees. Outlook contacts will sync with your phone book, but tasks will appear in a special “Work Tasks” app.
Essentials include text and multimedia messaging, a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, a calculator, an alarm clock, and a nifty “Device self Service” that allows you to, among other things, quickly activate your phone. Some basic apps like a world clock and a notepad remain absent, and we’re a little perplexed by the new File Viewer feature. Though we welcome the capability to view files that are stored on the phone–a feature not available on previous Android phones–you can’t do anything other than delete the files once you find them. To be really useful, we should be able to move files as well.
Beyond the basics, you’ll have 802.11b Wi-Fi, USB mass storage, Google Talk, instant messaging, Sprint visual voice mail, stereo Bluetooth, PC syncing, and speaker-independent voice dialing. The Moment also comes integrated with apps from Facebook, The Weather Channel, CNN, ESPN, and a demo version of Bejewled. Of course, Google voice search is also onboard and you can populate the home screen with a handy search widget.
In addition to the obvious Google Maps feature, the Moment also offers Sprint Navigation for real-time directions, a 3D map, and a points-of-interest database. Google Maps offers directions (though not in real-time turn-by-turn directions), standard map view, satellite view, and street view as well as access to Google Latitude.