PHOENIX - Remember when smartphones had keyboards? The days of the Blackberry, the Palm Treo and the Sidekick? That was cool, right? That was SO 2006.
Now, it's all about the giant touchscreens with on-screen keyboards. Truth is, some of us just want a REAL keyboard. Luckily, there are a few companies still hanging onto the classic QWERTY.
The latest from Samsung is the T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy S Relay 4G.
The Relay is a landscape slide out QWERTY keyboard phone. This means, you'll have to flip the phone sideways to use the keyboard. The first thing I noticed is how thick the Relay feels in your hand. This is to be expected since it has a sliding keyboard but not something I'm used to compared to the slim touchscreen phones many of us carry today.
It has a fast 1.5 GHZ Dual Core processor so it should have no problem keeping up with the latest version of Android. In my tests, it seemed snappy. It has 4G on T-mobile's network. Here in Phoenix (near the airport) I was able to get speeds of 3931kbps download and 1659 upload. Not amazing but faster than 3G. Your experience will vary based on T-Mobile coverage.
The Relay has a 4" Super AMOLED screen. While the colors on the screen look great, the 480x800 resolution is starting to feel a bit inadequate compared to the 1136 x 640 resolution of the iPhone 5 and HD screens on other Android phones. I do like the 4" size. It's not too big but not too small.
There is a 5 megapixel camera on the back, and a 1.3 megapixel camera on the front for video calls. The rear camera takes good pictures and HD video (720p). It's not the best smartphone camera on the market but will work good enough for most of us.
NFC is also built into the Relay. This allows you to share contacts, web pages, photos, etc just by touching your phone to another NFC-enabled phone. Samsung has played this up in their recent Galaxy S3 commercials. It's as cool as it looks and I'm excited to see more smartphones including NFC.
In terms of software, the Relay is running Google Android 4.0 (aka Ice Cream Sandwich) with Samsung's Touch Wiz software on top of it.
Touch Wiz changes the look and feel of Android but it also adds a lot of fun functionality. I typically dislike software layers on top of Android because they often bloat and dilute the Android experience. Touch Wiz has matured and most users will find it a great addition. You can read more about my impression of Touch Wiz in my Galaxy S III review . Most of the functionality is the same on the Relay.
If you need a QWERTY keyboard, the T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy S Relay is a great Android phone for you.
The screen looks great but it's resolution is disappointing and the camera is only 5 megapixels. None the less, it'll do the job for most people searching for one of the last few Android phones that still gives you a real keyboard.
The processor is speedy and the phone keeps pace with others in its price range. The phone feels sturdy and well-built. It's Samsung quality... with a keyboard.