Samsung Freeform 4 (U.S. Cellular)

The free-with-contract Samsung Freeform 4 is a perfectly average messaging phone for U.S. Cellular subscribers.

Samsung Freeform 4 (U.S. Cellular): Front

Visually, the Samsung Freeform 4 most closely resembles a BlackBerry. At 4.4 by 2.4 by .4 inches (HWD) and just 3.2 ounces, it's extremely light and comfortable to handle. 

Samsung Freeform 4 (U.S. Cellular): Camera

The Freeform 4's 2-megapixel camera lacks flash or auto-focus. Shutter speeds are fast, but photos are poor. 

Samsung Freeform 4 (U.S. Cellular): Left

The Samsung Freeform 4 is a tri-band 1xRTT device, which means you're stuck with slow 2G speeds. 

Samsung Freeform 4 (U.S. Cellular): Angle

The Freeform 4's keys are somewhat tiny, but they have a nice, clicky bite to them, which makes for easy typing.
***********************REVIEW*****************************
When you've reached the fourth in a series, you know you're doing something right. Samsung's Freeform line isn't particularly innovative, but it provides users with an inexpensive messaging device to stay in touch while on the go. The Samsung Freeform 4 doesn't change this formula. Instead, it remains a perfectly decent messaging phone, with good call quality and a nice keyboard, and you can get one for free with a standard plan on U.S. Cellular.

Design, Keyboard, and Voice Quality
Visually, the Freeform 4 most closely resembles a BlackBerry. At 4.4 by 2.4 by 0.4 inches (HWD) and just 3.2 ounces, it's extremely light and comfortable to handle. Made made entirely of plastic, it's got a black, lightly textured back panel, and a shiny dark gray ring surrounding the display and keyboard.

The phone's 2.4-inch, 320-by-240-pixel LCD looks acceptably bright and sharp, though the viewing angle is somewhat narrow—if you hold it off-center, it becomes very difficult to see. There's a five-way control pad beneath the display, sandwiched between three function keys on either side. Luckily, the keys are all well sized, so the phone doesn't feel crowded. Beneath the function keys lay the Freeform's four-row QWERTY keyboard. The keys are somewhat tiny, but they have a nice, clicky bite to them, which makes for easy typing. Unfortunately, messages aren't threaded and there's no integrated email, which are strange omissions for a messaging device.

The Samsung Freeform 4 is a tri-band 1xRTT (800/1700/1900 MHz) device with no Wi-Fi. That means you're stuck with slow 2G speeds. This isn't much of an internet phone, so that's not a major deal, but it makes for very slow Web browsing.

Reception is fine, and voice quality is rather good. Voices are a little fuzzy but easy to hear in the earpiece, with a good punch of volume. Calls made with the phone sound clear and noise cancellation is average. Calls sounded good through a Jawbone Era Bluetooth headset ($129, 4.5 stars) and the Nuance-powered voice dialing worked fine over Bluetooth. The speakerphone sounds fine but doesn't go loud enough to use outdoors. Battery life was good at 6 hours and 24 minutes of talk time.

Apps, Multimedia, Camera, and Conclusions
The main menu is an animated collection of 9 icons. It's easy to navigate, though there's little you can do with the Freeform outside of calls and text messaging. From the main menu, you can access the phone's Myriad Web browser. It works fine, though text and photos are tiny, and those 2G data speeds feel painfully slow. You also get standard apps like an alarm clock, calculator, calendar, memo pad, and stopwatch. You can download additional apps through U.S. Cellular's easyedge store, but the selection is limited.

When you're not busy texting, the Freeform 4 is a decent media player. There's 74MB of free internal memory, along with an empty microSD card slot, in which my 32 and 64GB SanDisk cards worked fine. The phone recognized all of the music and video files on my microSD card without needing to place them in a specific folder, which is a plus. I was only able to play MP3 and WMA audio files, though both sounded good over the included 3.5mm headphones as well as Altec Lansing Backbeat Bluetooth headphones ($99.99, 3.5 stars). For video, the Freeform 4 played was able to play H.264 and MPEG-4 video files at resolutions up to 320-by-240-pixels, but audio wouldn't play over Bluetooth.

The 2-megapixel camera lacks flash or auto-focus. Shutter speeds are super fast, at just 0.1 second, but photos are poor. Images look blurry, colors are dull, and lighting is all over the map. The video camera is worse. Videos max out at the size of a postage stamp and have a tendency to stutter.

The Samsung Freeform 4 is a fine choice if all you need is a phone to make calls and send text messages. Even better is the Samsung Character (3.5 stars), which gets you better multimedia support, a roomier keyboard, and a touch display for just $20. The Pantech Verse (2 stars) has a whimsical design, but terrible battery life and a non-standard headphone jack; avoid it. If you're looking for more out of your phone than just talking and texting, the Samsung Mesmerize (4.5 stars) is a powerful Android smartphone that costs $79.99, though you'll be paying more for a monthly data fee. And if you want to keep the keyboard, the BlackBerry Curve 9350 is free, though it too requires a data plan and doesn't have access to nearly as many quality apps as the Mesmerize.

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  • Pros Good call quality. Nice keyboard.
  • Cons Poor camera. Narrow viewing angle. No 3G. Messaging isn't threaded.
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MSRP
$0.00
SPEC DATA:Samsung Freeform 4 (U.S. Cellular)
Service Provider: US Cellular
Operating System: Other
Processor Speed: 480 MHz
Screen Size: 2.4 inches
Screen Details: 320-by-240-pixel TFT LCD
Camera: Yes
Megapixels: 2 MP
802.11x: No
Bluetooth: Yes
Web Browser: Yes
Form Factor: Candy Bar
Network: CDMA
Bands: 850, 1900, 1700
High-Speed Data: CDMA 1X
Storage Capacity (as Tested): 74 MB
Keyboard: Yes
Continuous Talk Time: 6 hours 24 minutes
BENCHMARK
Continuous Talk Time 6 hours 24

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