PROS / This pay-as-you-go smartphone has oodles of high-tech features and exceptional access to apps.
CONS / Music, internet, email and games makes this phone more expensive than basic prepaid models.
VERDICT / The Samsung Vitality is the most sophisticated phone available for zero-commitment service plans.
The Samsung Vitality combines smartphone features such as email, internet access and easy data transfer with a new music service, a 3.2MP camera and video recording capability. These features make the Samsung prepaid cell phone the best on the market if you're looking for top-of-the-line functionality with zero service-plan commitment. The Samsung Vitality is a touchscreen phone with shiny cherry casing. It comes with the Android 2.3 Gingerbread operating system and is our Top Ten Reviews Gold Award winner for pay-as-you-go phones.
While the Samsung Vitality is a superior option for no-commitment phones, it lacks the latest Android operating system and some of the best smartphone options such as a front-facing camera for video chat capabilities. The phone also has a reputation for having a low-quality speaker. This factor could turn away the most ardent of music lovers. Furthermore, the music you download through Muve Music is only yours to keep as long as you continue to pay your monthly phone bill. That makes the service more like a rental service than a purchasing one.
The Samsung Vitality is available through Cricket Wireless. The Muve Music plan it comes with includes unlimited phone time, web access and music. Altogether, your monthly bill for this smartphone will be about $15 less than comparable plans that require long-term contracts. If you decide it's not worth it, you can cancel anytime.
The Samsung Vitality comes standard with the Android 2.3 operating system, also known as the Gingerbread operating system. This system isn't the latest from the Google-owned Android line, but it gives you access to most of the 2,000 apps available on the market. Vitality's version of Android runs on the phone's 800 MHz processor.
Before you use your phone to play games, access the internet or listen to music, you need it to function as a phone. The Samsung Vitality does a great job in this arena. It even comes with extras to make your calling experience ideal. First, you can use your Samsung Vitality and Cricket Wireless service to place and receive an unlimited number of calls. You also have access to voicemail, call waiting, 3-way or conference calling and free 411 service. Speakerphone capability is also included, but this feature has a poor reputation on the Samsung Vitality because the external speaker is rather quiet.
The Samsung Vitality prepaid cell phone is a great communication tool when it comes to messaging. You can send an unlimited number of text, picture or video messages. Even international texting is supported, and you can do it all easily with the support of Swype technology. This feature is an integral part of Vitality's touchscreen functionality. It works by way of a four-line QWERTY keyboard that pops up on the screen when you select a text box. Slide your finger across the letters of the word you're trying to type and your phone will recognize and enter your word. You can also use the touchscreen keyboard to enter letters one-at-a-time. When you do this, the words will become part of your personalized Swype dictionary. While Swype makes texting faster than ever before, it comes with a few quirks. For example, you might accidentally enter "invariant badged potatoes" when you mean "instant mashed potatoes," or "I'd" instead of "is." Luckily, you can reduce your Swypo rate by deleting incorrect words from your personalized dictionary. We recommend going through the Swype tutorial before you start texting. We also highly recommend proof-reading your messages before your press Send.
Depending on your usage habits such as the number of apps you have running and whether you use the phone's built-in camera, the Samsung Vitality's lithium-ion battery supports up to 250 hours of standby time. But that number is pretty unrealistic. In comparison with other prepaid phones, the standby time of the Vitality is slightly below average. Talk time, on the other hand, is above average. It was the second-best we found among our Top Ten prepaid phones. As with standby time, talk time per battery charge will vary based on your usage habits.
Samsung Vitality's claim to fame is that it is the first smartphone with Muve Music, the proprietary media player from Cricket Wireless. You can use this new music player by downloading music from an exclusive library using your computer and a USB data cable. Unfortunately, you can't download Muve Music wirelessly. Nevertheless, you can download as much music as you want. You won't be able to find a catalog of available music before you buy this prepaid phone, but Cricket representatives say Muve supports all genres.
Other features of Muve Music (pronounced move) make it more than just a media player. Muve comes with Shazam, which can identify almost any recorded song or classical piece simply by listening electronically. It's like the most well-versed record store owner in the world, and it fits right into your pocket. If the music you discover using Shazam is available from the Muve library, you can download it to your device next time you plug in. Muve also acts as a radio DJ. Every morning, if you so choose, you can get a customized selection of new music on your phone. Furthermore, you can use Muve to create ringtones to alert you of incoming calls and ringback tones to entertain callers while they wait for you to answer. Unlimited mobile video entertainment is also included. It's important to note that if you choose not to pay for any months' service, your media collection will disappear when you use Muve. Furthermore, you can't transfer your tunes from your phone to your computer or any other listening device. That makes the player more like a rental service than comparable download services such as Apple iTunes or Amazon Cloud Services. Fortunately, you can download the Amazon service to your phone if Muve proves insufficient for your music listening requirements. Vitality comes with 4GB of memory, much of which is taken up by the included apps, but you can upgrade to 32GB with a microSD card.
The Android operating system is another standout feature of the Samsung Vitality prepaid smartphone. It gives you access to great features such as web browsing and email connectivity. All major public providers such as Yahoo mail and Gmail are supported, as are many private providers. You also get access to the apps store with Samsung Vitality. That means you can get free games such as Angry Birds or Sudoku. You can also get more sophisticated apps like the Kindle or New York Times readers or educational ones like Celeste for astronomy or Algebra Tutor. Other app options include social networking tools, Netflix, task managers and battery savers, Google Maps, sports tracking and more.
Additional entertainment features are built into the Samsung Vitality. They include a 3.2MP digital camera with video recording capability and a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. You also get Bluetooth connectivity, 3G Wi-Fi and Tri-Band frequency support.
Compared to other pay-as-you-go phones, one of the Samsung Vitality's best features is its touchscreen. The 3.5-inch screen is HVGA, meaning it uses half the resolution of standard TV screens. That amounts to 480x320 pixels, a 3:2 aspect ratio. This resolution is low compared to the high-definition picture you get on many digital televisions and computer screens, but it's sufficient for personal use on-the-go. The resolution and screen size are comparable to other prepaid smartphones we reviewed.
The size and weight of the Vitality are also in the average range compared to other prepaid smartphones. This pay-as-you-go phone is slightly more than half an inch thick and is 4.6 inches tall, about a third again the width of a standard credit card. The Samsung Galaxy weighs more than a quarter pound, thanks to its large touchscreen.
The Samsung Vitality is a great phone option for commitment-phobes with a yen for technical features such as music on-the-go, web and email access and excellent app availability. Unfortunately, the nature of the pay-as-you-go service that comes with the Vitality means that a lot of your digital content will be lost if you decide to cancel your account. The phone also has some minor design flaws such as a limited battery life and a bigger size than most competing prepaid phones. Nevertheless, this phone is a great option for pay-as-you-go users. The Samsung Vitality is not only a phone, but a veritable mini-computer small enough for almost any pants pocket, purse or briefcase.