We first got a look at the Samsung Transform at CTIA in San Francisco after it was announced alongside the LG Optimus S and Sanyo Zio as Sprint’s first 3 phones to rock Sprint ID. I had pretty high hopes for the Transform for a number of reasons; but summarizing, it seemed like the Epic 4G on training wheels and a great fit for a beginning Android enthusiasts.
While it was a valiant effort by Samsung and Sprint, I was disappointed in the end result. Check out my review video alongside further details below:
The “Epic 4G on training wheels” tag definitely applies to the hardware from a LOT of aspects. It has the slideout QWERTY keyboard but feels a bit more plasticky and tones down the specs all around. The 3.5-inch screen is only 480×320 pixel resolution, but considering the target, I thought this was suitable if the object is to limit the processing weight and conserve battery life.
I was pretty satisfied with the FEEL of the Samsung Transform and although it wasn’t a beast of a phone, there is a HUGE market for mid-range Androids. Unfortunately, my assumptions that the 800 MHz processor and 256 MB RAM could shoulder the load weren’t reality.
On the surface the hardware seemed great, but it forced the software to drag it’s feet, and things you usually take for granted – like a good camera – were missing in action.
One of my biggest hopes for the Samsung Transform was that it would effectively utilize Sprint ID, a service that I think has some great potential. As I’ve said before, I wouldn’t personally use Sprint ID myself, but there are a huge number of people who would benefit greatly from the concept.
If you’re a beginning Android user (and perhaps first time smartphone user) and the sheer volume of applications on Android market overwhelms you – Sprint ID is for you. The entire user experience is very much a vanilla Android, Google experience phone, save for a little “ID” button in the bottom right. Press on that and you’ll open up Sprint’s own little market of Sprint ID Application Packs.
Instead of downloading one application or game at a time, Sprint ID allows you to select from different “experiences” made by developers. For example you could download the “Yahoo” Sprint ID pack and immediately your wallpaper and ringtones are changed to Yahoo related media and your phone is packed with all the Yahoo Apps for Android Market.
While similar concepts can be seen from other companies loading up their own wares, like EA Mobile ID pack installing demos of all the games, the concept can (and hopefully will) be taken much further. For example an entertainment pack that installs the best entertainment related apps from a multitude of sources… not just one company trying to self-promote.
I found the current Sprint ID offerings to be pretty limited and somewhat disappointing, but these are the first Sprint ID phones. As more developers create ID packs, there will be better options to choose from and I think it will really provide new Android users a solid experience without having to be all that tech savvy.
Right here, right now though? Sprint ID is a work in process and not a primary reason to buy the Transform. Take a look at and keep an eye on All the Sprint ID Packs.
Beyond Sprint ID, the Samsung Transform is very much your plain Jane Android phone that does everything you would expect it to… albeit a little bit slower and more choppy. The Transform is running Android 2.1 and it feels like the 800 MHz processor just is just a couple steps behind where the UI is running. While a bit of slowness and choppiness in Apps, Games and general navigation isn’t a complete phone killer, it’s definitely noticeable if you’re used to a higher powered handset.
In the video above, you can see the demo of Angry Birds as a primary example – that is clearly NOT the best gaming experience and NOT what you would get/enjoy on other Android handsets. You can still play the game and it’s still fun – it just gives the impression of an unpolished product.
The hope here is that the Transform will get Android 2.2, which includes processing optimizations, and will immediately benefit with smoother and quicker operations. We’ll have to wait and see how early 2.2 comes, and even more interesting will be Sprint ID’s role in any delays to firmware updates. In terms of customizations it’s minimalistic on the frontend, but who knows how much code Sprint will have to sort through to make their ID service work on new OS pushes.
Generally speaking, the software is what you would expect from Android, just a little slow which definitely hindered the experience.
With a regular 3.2MP camera on the rear and a front facing .3MP camera on the front, I thought the Samsung Transform would perform decently for taking pictures and videos. I guess if you keep it’s only 3.2 MP, “decent’ would be a good description, but it’s definitely not one of the best 3.2 MP cams on the market. Let me show you some of the highlights and then share what was the more common “mediocrity”.
Take for example this picture of a pumpkin – I think it turned out pretty good:
And I rather enjoyed the setting for making “Fall Colors” pop out – see it unused on the first and then in action below that:
I also thought the front-facing cam did a decent job at simple “self-pics” being only .3 MP:
But more often than not, a lot of the pictures I took seemed fuzzy and were without detail, definition and color.
I will say, however, that the zoom seemed to work pretty darn good:
Another total mystery was the camera’s ability to take pictures in low or no light. I could EASILY see colors on the posters below through the viewfinder and the lighting was dim- not pitch black or terribly dark- but the outcome seemed practically like a black and white photo:
But the flash worked fantastically… under the same lighting, check out how the colors jump out of the picture:
So the picture-taking ability was limited and mediocre with flashes of greatness (no pun intended). Unfortunately, the Transform took video that was practically unusable unless you’re recording a person at very close distance. This should give you an idea of what I mean:
That pretty much explains that…
The Bottom Line
The Samsung Transform falls short of what I would wish for in a mid-range Android phone, mainly because of the software’s roughness around the corners. There are just too many good low to mid-range Android phones out there to consider a phone that right off the bat seems a bit slow and unpolished.
At the time of this review, the pricing is/was $150 on a 2-year contract and the phone was running Android 2.1. If either, or preferably both, of those details change then the Transform could possibly transform into a good deal. But for now, I’d suggest you fulfill your Android appetite elsewhere.