The Straight Talk Samsung R810C is the latest phone offering from Straight Talk, and at over $300 is easily the most expensive phone in the TracFone/Net10/Straight Talk family.
Is the R810C worth the extra expense? Only you can answer that question for you, but my goal in this review is to give you my hands-on experience with the Straight Talk Samsung R810C to help you make an informed decision.
UPDATE: I now recommend the Straight Talk Nokia E71 as the phone to get if you're interested in the best Straight Talk phone. It's a true smart phone running the Symbian operating system, and it gives a better overall experience than the R810C.
You can click here to go to some good R810C tutorials on the Straight Talk website to help familiarize yourself with the phone, which will help you understand what I'm talking about when reading my review.
You can click here to go to the Straight Talk website to check the current price and availability of the R810C. As of this writing, the phone is not yet available on walmart.com, but I've heard reports of a few Wal Mart stores having one or two in stock.
You can click here to go to the Straight Talk coverage map to get an idea of the coverage in your area.
Anyway, let's get to it...
FORM FACTOR - The R810C is a touch screen phone that is somewhat similar in look and size to an iPhone. I have an iPod Touch, and here's a picture of the Touch and R810C together (you can click on any picture in this review to see a larger image).
The R810C is a bit thicker than the Touch, but it's probably about the same thickness as an iPhone. It's hard to get a good picture of the screen, and neither device has the grainy lines on them in real life. The R810C screen is brighter than the Touch in this picture, but it's probably just the settings I'm using. The R810C screen is a bit smaller than the Touch/iPhone, but it is clear and easy to read.
One quibble I have is that the R810C screen doesn't rotate when you rotate the phone. So when you go to the internet browser, for example, you have to hold the phone horizontally. On my Touch, I find it more comfortable to hold it vertically, and it's screen does rotate so I'm not reading everything sideways.
The R810 screen is a touch screen, and you can use your fingers or a stylus, though the phone does not come with a stylus and there's no slot in the phone to hold one.
There's no slide out keyboard, but rather the phone uses a touch-screen keyboard that I found to work well.
INTERNET BROWSER - The Straight Talk Samsung R810C uses a browser that says it is the ACCESS Powered NetFront Browser v3.4. The browser looks nice on the R810C screen, and the EVDO data access downloads pages reasonably fast. The browser is not locked down. You can go to any site you want, though the mobile version of a site is still going to give you a better experience in most cases.
In fact, many sites will automatically take you to their mobile version. For example, entering www.facebook.com will take you here:
If you look, closely, though, there a line that says "To access the main site click here", which takes you to the regular version of Facebook. The picture below also shows how the screen looks if you go into full screen mode by touching the little box with arrows on the right-side menu bar.
This is a good time to mention that you can't pinch or double-tap to zoom like you can on the iTouch/iPhone. There is a zoom in and out feature, but it's not entirely useful. Expect to do a lot of right and left scrolling to be able to read pages, because it won't zoom out far enough. And if it did, the text would be too small to read anyway. I found that the scrolling around on a page is not as smooth as on the iTouch.
The browser itself is not what I'd call a full html browser, since there are some sites that give it trouble. For example, although gmail works fine, I see the following warning message:
It doesn't seem to do the AJAX type of stuff that lets you click and drag things around within a browser session. I also noticed that on Google Maps instead of being able to click and drag to move the map around, you have to click little arrow buttons.
Having said all that, I'll say that the browsing experience isn't necessarily painful, it's just not as rich as on the iPhone or iPod Touch and doesn't always support all of the features that a given website might have if you're surfing on your laptop or desktop computer with a full browser.
I also tested Yahoo mail, and it seemed to work fine. I use the classic version, though, and I didn't try to test using their updated version. I suspect that the updated version would not work properly in this browser.
I went to m.youtube.com, and you can see what videos are available to watch, but you can't watch them on this phone. It gives a file type not supported message.
I also tried to download the Opera Mini and Bolt browsers, but neither would download. Another file type not supported type of error message.
Of course, www.fone-review.com works like a charm! :-)
Tether - Speaking of internet, a question that comes up a lot is whether you can tether the phone to a laptop to use it as a modem to connect to the internet.
I gave it a go, but I couldn't find a way to make it work. I saw that the phone has an option to put it into modem mode, and I thought aha!
I connected the phone to my computer with a usb cable and went to the Windows Network and Sharing Center to try to setup a new dialup connection using the phone as the modem. Windows recognized the phone as a modem, and I used #777 as the number to dial, but it didn't work.
I also tried DataPilot software and Samsung PC Studio, but neither of those programs would recognize the phone as a supported phone.
Maybe there's another way to approach it, but after reading the following in Straight Talk's terms of service, it's clear to me that they do not intend for their phones to be used for tethering.
In another place it says this:
A person engaged in prohibited uses may have his/her service terminated without a refund.
After reading that, I decided I would drop the idea of tethering, as cool as it would be.
Well, it's late and this post has gotten long enough, so I'm going to stop here. Next week I'll cover more features of the Straight Talk Samsung R810C such as the camera and camcorder, bluetooth, widgets, and even handwriting recognition!
If you haven't done so already, this would be a good time to click here to check out the interactive R810C tutorials on the Straight Talk website. Hopefully that will keep you busy until I can get the rest of the review written! :-)
Update 6/30/10 - Yes, it's been 6 months since I wrote part 1 of this review, and no I haven't written part 2. I won't go into a lot of details, but I had a lot of things come together all at once that totally consumed my free time. Nothing tragic, just a perfect storm of life situations. Things have settled down a bit now, and I do intend to write part 2 over the coming weeks.