Sprint's new midrange Android smartphone, the Samsung Intercept, tries to pack a lot of features into a decent-looking case for a reasonable price. Although Samsung has made some odd choices here, phones like this are all about balance, and the Intercept has a decent feature array for something that will cost under $100 after rebate.
I spent a few minutes with a pink Intercept - it also comes in gray - and while it's definitely a big step down from super phones like the HTC EVO 4G, it seems to be a decent midrange device. The phone measures 4.4 inches by 2.2 by 0.6 inches and weighs 4.9 ounces, which is to say it's of pretty average size and weight for a sliding-keyboard smartphone. The pink color gives a bit of jazz and style to what could otherwise have been a really dull design.
The phone's sliding mechanism felt solid, but the keypad felt like it was made of pretty cheap material. The keys were well separated, if a bit mushy.
The 3.5-mm headphone jack is on the left side, which could cause some problems for sticking the thing in your pocket and using it as a music player.
The Intercept runs a relatively stock version of Android 2.1, with a bunch of Sprint apps tacked on. Unlike AT&T's bloatware, Sprint's apps are actually useful; there are exclusive NFL and NASCAR apps, along with Sprint's rich streaming TV lineup. One sour note, though, is the inclusion of the vile WHERE app, which automatically opts you into a monthly fee even for trying it out.
Android 2.1 runs well here on an 800 MHz, ARM11 Samsung S3C6410 processor, the same one in the Samsung Moment for Sprint. Like many midrange Android phones, there's 256 Mbytes of RAM here to run programs in. The phone comes with a 2 Gbytes MicroSD memory card that fits into a convenient slot on the side.
I surfed to some Web sites using the Intercept's browser, and there weren't any real surprises; the phone works as expected, very similar to the earlier Moment (but, in the case of my unit, much girlier.)
Sprint has said that the Intercept will eventually get an upgrade to Android 2.2, but one of the new OS's top features, Adobe Flash, probably won't be available. Flash requires a Cortex-A8 processor, according to Adobe.
However, Samsung also made one really bothersome choice. The Intercept's 3-inch capacitive LCD touchscreen is a weird 240-by-400 resolution, according to Sprint's spec sheet. Most other Android phones are either 320-by-240, 320-by-480 or 800-by-480. The Intercept's odd resolution may limit the number of third-party apps available to it in the Android Market. Also, compared to other phones on the market, the screen felt a bit cramped.
Samsung also went with a slower EVDO Rev 0 modem here rather than the faster EVDO Rev A, and the modem choice will throttle the Intercept's speeds down to around 700 Kbits/sec. I'm not as worried about that as about the app issue, though. If you need a faster Internet connection, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g is onboard.
If you're looking for an Android-powered smartphone with a keyboard on Sprint, you'll soon have three choices. The Moment is no longer a viable pick because Sprint has said they won't upgrade it to Android 2.2 - it's a dead end. That leaves you with the less-expensive Intercept and the higher-end, more expensive Epic. I'm looking forward to checking out both of these phones further with full reviews.
The Samsung Intercept goes on sale on July 11 for $199.99 with a two-year contract, minus a $100 mail-in rebate.