Design and features
Twinkle, twinkle, little star. The Samsung Star, that is, which is offered as a Virgin Mobile prepaid phone. It's a light and nimble creature, at just 93.8g and at first you almost expect the Star to have a slide out keypad given its svelte design and smooth curves. While it doesn't feel that well made, it survived a good week or so of being thrown around in one of the most dangerous environments we could think of — a handbag.
The 3-inch WQVGA (240x400) resistive touchscreen developed a few scratches during that time but nothing that impinged on its visibility. Included in the box is a stylus which can help navigate the small icons on the screen should your fingernails be lacking, but for the most part your digits can do the job adequately. Underneath the aforementioned screen sit three buttons, the first being a call button, the middle a back or home button, and lastly at the very end, an end call and power button which completes the front fascia.
Unfortunately there's no 3.5mm stereo jack so you're lumbered with the included headphones that plug into the dual-purpose power/headphone port. The port's cover is particularly flimsy so should you be caught in a moment of frustrated frenzy whilst trying to remove it from its precarious position you might accidentally rip it off.
The user interface of the Samsung Star. (Credit: Samsung)
The handset's styling is somewhat similar to the original Omnia, with a few differences. Firstly, the Star feels cheaper and secondly, the specifications are not as fully fledged as the older phone; no 3G capability, for starters.
Along the side sits an expandable row of widgets, applications and common features that you may want to access, like the FM radio, as well as a myriad of social networking sites.
Inside the Star is an MP3 player as well as an FM radio (which can only be used with the bundled headphones), producing reasonable but far from astounding sound. As for the rest of the specifications, memory is expandable up to 8GB with microSD cards, and around the back is a 3 megapixel camera with smile detection (merits debatable in a mobile phone camera).
Samsung's TouchWiz user interface makes another appearance on the Star and it works well on the budget model — quick and responsive, with haptic feedback. Widgets are accessible from the side menu and you simply drag them out onto the desktop in order to use them. Social networkers will appreciate links to the most common sites on the Star, but there's no actual dedicated application, rather just a link to each one's mobile page. Browsing the web is also cumbersome due to the lack of 3G connectivity.
As for the interface, it's easy enough to pick up and use for first timers unused to a touch phone and the common tricks are also there for those who are more adept. Entering text messages can be done using the numeric keypad that pops up on screen as per usual, or through a handwriting recognition system. While this is a bit of a novelty, its accuracy leaves a lot to be desired and you won't be using it for much at all except to laugh at how the Star translates certain fragments of handwriting.
The camera itself is far from astounding, delivering average shots and in use has an annoying quirk where it's almost impossible to tell if the phone has taken a shot: there's no visual feedback or review period to show you what you've taken. Instead, you have to navigate back through to the photo gallery to observe the snaps. There's no LED flash either which makes it all but useless for low light camera phone photography.
Call quality is good and the battery seems to last for ages — we even accidentally left the phone switched on over an entire weekend with no activity and the battery was only just drained come Monday.
Samsung's Star is an ideal budget phone for those wanting to dip their toes in the touchscreen phone pool but experienced users will find limitations due to lack of 3G connectivity.