Samsung Continuum for Verizon: First Impressions (and Video!)

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Samung unveiled its newest Galaxy phone, the Continuum this evening in New York City to a full house of bloggers and reporters. I got a chance to play with the Samsung Continuum and overall, I was impressed with this dual-screen Android phone. The Continuum is coming to Verizon on November 11 for $200 with a two-year contract.

Lightweight Design

In hand, the Continuum feels pretty good: It has nice, natural curves and it's comfortable to hold. It is very light (compared to a Motorola Droid, for instance) but it's a bit plasticky, which makes it feel slightly cheap.

The screen is beautiful, as you would expect from Samsung's Super AMOLED. However, at 3.4 inches, it's a bit smaller than the 4-inch screens you find on the other Galaxy S devices. This is, of course, to make room for the phone's standout feature, the 1.8-inch ticker screen (also Super AMOLED) found below the main screen.

In fact everything else about the phone is more or less identical to the Samsung Fascinate, also on Verizon. One nice addition is that there is a camera button on the Continuum, which was missing from the Fascinate). Still, unlike the Samsung Epic 4G, there's no front-facing camera, which is too bad.

Ticker Display Takes Some Getting Used To

The ticker display is very responsive, thanks to the phone's 1Ghz Hummingbird processor, and it's relatively easy to scroll through it. Naturally, there's a bit of a learning curve with its interface. At first, when I was trying to swipe left or right, I would accidentally click on a notification, which would open up the app associated with whatever I clicked. It seemed a bit too sensitive, but I imagine you'd get used to this pretty quickly. The other thing I noticed is that if you scroll the ticker to another panel and take a moment to read it, it will switch itself back to the main panel (that displays Date/Time/Weather) rather quickly. This can be rather frustrating, but perhaps there is a way to adjust this in the settings.

The ticker display is activated when you squeeze the grip sensors at the sides of the device. That felt pretty intuitive, and it took very little pressure to activate the display. This could really come in handy if you just want to read a quick SMS, or check the score of a game you're following, but you don't want to turn on the main display and waste battery. If your phone is pattern-protected, you can still turn on the ticker though it will only show the date, time and weather

I really liked that you can control the music player from the ticker display. It is a great idea: no need to switch away from the app you're using, or turn on the main display at all. It would be nice to see Samsung add a Power Control widget type of thing there, too, so you could turn on/off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, etc from there (though Samsung's TouchWiz UI makes this very easy to do via the notification bar).

I asked Nick DiCarlo,Samsung's director of product planning) if the APIs for the 1.8-inch screen would be released to the public any time soon. He said it was something they were working on with several companies, and gave examples of VZ Navigator and Weatherbug (which come loaded on the device). He said Samsung was working on opening the APIs up to more third-party developers, but couldn't give a timeline. I'd love to see this happen soon, as there are a lot of great apps that could take advantage of this, especially given Android's expansive app ecosystem.

Android 2.2: Possibly Delayed

I also asked DiCarlo how the ticker display would affect Samsung's timeline for Android OS updates. He said that 2.2 was coming very soon for the rest of the Galaxy S series, but because the Continuum is so new, and it because it had the additional hardware (the ticker), it would probably take longer for 2.2 (and subsequent updates) to get to it. Again, this isn't great news for those that like to stay on the cutting edge of what Google Android is up to.

Overall, the Continuum is a nice phone. Some will see the ticker as a novelty, and some will see it as the best invention ever. In terms of product line, it will be interesting to see how this stacks up against the Fascinate, which is essentially the same phone, but with a larger screen and no ticker.

Check out our hands-on video to see the dual displays in action:

The Samsung Continuum's specs rundown:

  • 1GHz Hummingbird Application Processor
  • Android 2.1 (2.2 update "coming soon")
  • Camcorder 720p
  • 8GB card pre-installed (expandable up to 32gigs)
  • Media Hub "coming soon"
  • Part of the Galaxy S line.
  • 3.4-inch Super AMOLED screen, plus 1.8-inch Super AMOLED Ticker Display
  • CDMA 1X/EVDO Rev-A
  • Wi-Fi 803.11 b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 3.0
  • 5 Megapixel CMOS Camera/Camcorder with flash (no front facing camera)
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