Hands-On: Samsung Stratosphere 4G for Verizon

Last night at CTIA’s MobileFocus show, I got to play with the recently-announced Samsung Stratosphere 4G for Verizon. The Stratosphere is Verizon’s first LTE slide-out keyboard phone. I’m usually a fan of keyboard phones, but the Stratosphere left me underwhelmed.

The Stratosphere 4G's screen and QWERTY keyboard. Image: Ginny Mies

The phone is reminiscent of Samsung's Epic 4G, which launched on Sprint last year. I really liked that phone’s design, but I found the Stratosphere’s keyboard to be too wide for my small hands, and the keys far too flat. Perhaps my taste in keyboard design has changed, but I think that’s partially due to reviewing much better keyboard phones, like the HTC myTouch 4G Slide or the Motorola Droid 3. The slider mechanism wasn’t as smooth as I would have liked either, and its plastic body is a bit on the beefy side.

Aside from those design shortcomings, I found the Stratosphere to be a pretty solid phone. The Super AMOLED 4-inch display looks great, and the single-core 1GHz processor made the phone's interface seem fast and responsive. The Stratosphere runs Android 2.3 with Samsung’s TouchWiz UI, which people either love or hate.

The Stratosphere 4G's back panel and camera. Image: Ginny Mies
Verizon 4G LTE was incredibly fast--when it worked; tradeshows really aren’t the best environments for testing data speeds. The 4G speeds combined with that gorgeous screen makes the Stratosphere ideal for streaming video or browsing the Web.

The Stratosphere is $150 with a two-year contract and will be available in-store and online on October 13.

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