MetroPCS, an American regional wireless carrier is offering talk, text and Internet at 4G speeds for $50 or $60 a month - and without a contract. Their 4G plan has an impressive list of features, including a $5 monthly add-on for unlimited calling to Mexico and a $10 monthly add-on for unlimited international long distance.
For some people, that $75 monthly fee is a real bargain while they are making a lot of out of country calls from their home billing area. MetroPCS never built a 3G network, so Internet speeds of their existing phones have been pretty slow.
Their 4G offering is available in Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Detroit, a few locations in Florida, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, Sacramento and San Francisco. We tested both their 4G phone and network.
The Samsung Craft is the inaugural 4G handset for MetroPCS. It's a tri-band CDMA (800/1700/1900 MHz spectrum) device with dual-band LTE (1700/1900) and dual mode (LTE/EvDO).
To learn more about LTE and its benefits over GSM and CDMA radio technologies, check out our recent guide to LTE.
The Samsung Craft evaluated here is based on BREW and similar to the feature phone portfolio MetroPCS offers to their eight million customers over its 2G CDMA 1X network.
The Samsung Craft still has many advanced hardware features, such as the high-resolution 3.3-inch active-matrix organic (AMOLED) touchscreen, a 3.2-megapixel camera, soft keypad and hard slide-out keypad and includes a 2GB MicroSD card which can be upgraded to 32GB.
The Craft has colorful box with all you need
The Samsung Craft's TouchWiz 2.0 user interface is reasonable, but not exciting. TouchWiz 2.0 is a three-year old design that has been superseded with the much more flexible Android interface. With MetroPCS' 4G plans and the Craft you do have a HTML browser and AOL features.
A frustrating thing with the Samsung Craft is its lack of preloaded software. There are lots of icons in the main menu, like Loopt, Mobile Banking or Metro Navigator. But clicking on any of them will only provide you the choice of downloading them. It seemed like all the advanced apps had to be downloaded before we had the opportunity to use them.
The first evaluation unit we received was replaced because of multiple problems. The Samsung Craft factory specifications claim up to 200 hours of standby time. The best we observed in the second unit we tested was 21 hours while just turned-on and sitting on the desk.
The factory claim is up to six hours of talk time, while our demo unit never made it past 3.5 hours. We didn't find this surprising, since the writer has been testing cell phones since 1985 and has never come across a unit's battery that lives up to the manufacturer's specifications.
With the $60 4G plan comes a Real Networks-powered multimedia service called MetroStudio, which offers up full-track music downloads and video content from NBC Universal, Black Entertainment Television and Univision.
The touch screen is not very responsive. About one-quarter of the time we had to touch the screen a couple of times to get the Craft to activate the icon.
Instead of building a robust 4G network that can deliver 25+ Mbps download speeds claimed by other LTE operators, MetroPCS built a more modest LTE network, starting with downlink-uplink bandwidth of 5 MHz-by-5MHz spectrum. Some of their LTE locations bandwidth may be as small as 1.25 MHz, which is the same size as a CDMA channel, meaning it will be able to deliver speeds only marginally faster than 3G. More on that later.
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