1 - R355C Write-up
The Straight Talk Samsung R355C is a fun prepaid cell phone with vertical QWERTY keyboard, 1.3 megapixel camera and MP3 music player. The phone is compatible with both the $30 All You Need plan as well as the $45 unlimited plan.
More recent versions of this phone are the S390G and S380C.
This keyboard works great. The buttons on the navigation keys have a very smooth action – they are easy to press, and you know for sure that you’ve pressed the button – something that isn’t always true on other phones. The buttons on the QWERTY portion of the keyboard are good as well. Of course, they have to be in this vertical layout because the buttons are quite small.
I did confirm that it was possible to operate the buttons on the Samsung R355C individually with my fingertips, though in normal use I usually use the edges of my thumbnails.
Because it’s not a flip or slider phone, you should place the phone in a case or holster or lock the keys to prevent accidental key presses. The auto keylock feature is not set by default, but you can change that in the settings.
The 1.3 megapixel camera that takes clear well-focused 1280 x 960 pixel images. The camera is easy to use and the camera settings are also clear and easily accessible. You can transfer the images you take via Bluetooth to your PC or via picture message.
These pictures can be sent to friends or to make small prints or to use as your desktop background or screen-saver.
I thought that there was a small drawback on this camera feature having to do with the dedicated camera button on the side. You can use the dedicated button to take your picture when you’re in camera mode, however it appears that you cannot press the button to go straight to the camera mode from the main menu. This is unlike the Samsung T401g, where you can press the dedicated camera button to immediately start taking pictures.
It was pointed out to me (Thanks, Ryan and others!) that you have to press the dedicated camera button for about a second before it goes into camera mode. This is to prevent going into camera mode from accidental camera presses. This is actually a good thing.
After playing around with the camera a bit, I discovered you can take small (176 x 144) pics with fun frames around them that are perfect for sending as picture messages. I combined a few of those to make the silly collage at the bottom of the About Me page on this site.
At this point I do have to mention one real drawback. If you are used to playing games on your phone you may be disappointed that there are no games on this Straight Talk phone. So if you’re looking for a phone that plays games, this isn’t it.
If you’re looking for something on your phone to use up your time when you’re bored, you do have a . . .
The MP3 music player plays music that you store on a microSD card that you insert in the appropriate slot.
One nice thing about the phone is that it has a standard (but not so common) 3.5 mm jack which means you can plug in any standard stereo earphones.
Note, you definitely need a microSD card to use this feature. In contrast to the camera, you cannot use the phone's internal memory to store songs.
Luckily, microSD cards are really cheap these days, and they're a snap to use with this phone.
As soon as you stick your microSD card into your phone, the Straight Talk Samsung R355c creates a set of folders to store your files – My_Images, My_Music, and My_Ringtones. It also creates two files, a “NowPlaying.m3u” file which I believe is a playlist file, and, finally, a SamsungMusicKey text file. The music key on mine is 5663, but I don’t know if that varies or even matters.
I stuck my microSD card (with SD adapter) into my PC. Then, I dragged a couple of MP3 tracks to the My_Music folder and stuck the card back into the phone. After going to the Music Player in the menu, I found the tracks, and they tracks played right away!
The tracks do need to be in the MP3 format. I transferred a .wma Windows media file, and it did not play.
And of course, you could also use Bluetooth to transfer your music and photos to and from your PC. Pretty much all phone will have some form of Bluetooth these days, but I though I would mention that pairing the R355C with your PC is pretty simple once you make your phone visible. I had no problems transferring the photos above via Bluetooth.
You can access the web, but if you are not browsing a mobile-optimised site, it will be a little slow. From the main menu you have access to various options.
This gives to easy links to Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail, Gmail, AOL, Twitter and Myspace. I tested Gmail, and it worked fine. Of course, for the biggest social networking site there’s a separate link in the menu for Facebook.
You can check what’s going on with your friends on Facebook. I was able to check out my newsfeed on the phone just fine.
If you haven’t used Facebook much via a mobile interface (as I haven’t) it does take a little bit of getting used to. You use the up an down keys on the square navigator button to scroll up and down, and the OK button in the center to click on a link.
As I was scrolling along the newsfeed I accidentally pressed the OK button and “Liked” someone’s item, and I actually had no idea what I clicked on – whether it was someone’s score on the latest quiz or some piece of bad news that I shouldn’t have clicked on. So you have to be a little careful there!
Other mobile websites available include the popular search engines, the Super Pages directory, the Movie fone guide, and Wikipedia. Lastly, you have access to . . weather, sports and news.
I often check the weather on my phone as it’s quicker than waiting for the local weather on the TV or waiting for my computer to turn on. You can also get news from CNN, FOX and MSNBC, and sports news from Yahoo! and ESPN.
I don't think this phone is still in production, but reconditioned handsets still show up on their sites every so often. It's worth considering when they do. The Samsung R355C was available as a Straight Talk phone and also, in some areas, as a Net10 phone.
So luckily we have two sources of documentation, a manual and and interactive tutorial.
The Samsung R355C tutorial is available from here. You can try out how the various menu functions work.
You can also download a manual (pdf) here.
The Straight Talk Samsung R355C is a well-designed phone with some nice features that performs its functions well. It's comparable to the similarly prices R451C and the T401g from Samsung, but it has a vertical keyboard compared to the horizontal keyboard of the other two.
If you're looking for nice well-designed phone with a QWERTY keyboard that pleasant to use, a megapixel camera and mp3 music player, give this phone a try.
You can get the Straight Talk Samsung R355C with either the $30 All You Need plan as well as the $45 Unlimited plan here.
While the R355C was perfect for its time and what it did, there were and are a few alternatives.
The LG 500g was a simple QWERTY phone with a narrow keyboard. It added the ability to run Java apps, but it's keyboard wasn't quite as user-friendly.
The Motorola EX431g offered a compact form but was squished in the vertical direction while keeping the width fairly standard.