At every price point, there are certain phones that are built like tanks -- finely-tuned machines that were obviously designed and built with a meticulous eye for detail. They don't always look good, but they feel good -- and when you're talking about a device that you're likely going to be holding, using, and typing on for hours each and every day, "feels good" is a surprisingly important checkbox to mark.
The Samsung Exclaim doesn't fall into that category. At $79.99 on contract, it's cheap, but it's not that cheap -- in the QWERTY category, the Rant, Lotus, and Rumor 2 all cost less and we're pretty sure we'd rather have any of them, particularly the Lotus. Sprint Navigation works well (as it usually does -- though we didn't like how the portrait softkeys were still functional in landscape mode, so the bottom key confusingly corresponded to the left function) and the Exclaim has one of the loudest, best speakerphones we've heard, but it's doomed by its whopping 17.8mm of girth, its cheap, bendy plastics, and the fact that it lacks a rudimentary touchscreen for entering digits -- something that the similar LG Neon has (for $50 less) and the Rant overcomes with a dedicated, fixed numeric keypad. Yes, the Exclaim slides down to provide the functionality, but it's an unnecessary mechanical burden that adds more thickness than it's worth -- put simply, there are better ways of doing this.
For what it's worth, the slide-out keyboard works quite well -- teens and twentysomethings will appreciate the dedicated text and emoticon buttons, and the duplicated softkeys and directional keys are helpful -- and 3G is a plus, but in the face of hot, cheap competition from other models in Sprint's lineup (including some of Samsung's own, ironically), the Exclaim is a definite pass.
Gallery | 28 Photos
Samsung Exclaim hands-on