It’s refreshing to review a phone that doesn’t beg the inevitable iPhone comparison. With the marvelous Samsung Galaxy S i9000 slugging it out with the Apple iPhone 4 at the top of the smartphone pyramid, the Koreans still managed to release the Samsung Champ C3300, a small touch-screen phone to address those with modest budget and who don’t need all the bells and whistles.
As soon as you hold the Champ, you will know it’s not pretending to be a premium phone. It’s light, plasticky, and small. Still, apparent effort was made to make the design pleasant. A transparent layer of plastic surrounds the phone, giving it a slight "floating" look; the back plastic is shiny and will have OC owners reaching for a wiping cloth all the time; and there are minimal buttons to be found on the unit. In other words, if you haven’t held its more premium Omnia and Galaxy brothers, the Champ can actually pass off as a classy second phone.
A nice touch is the industry standard 3.5mm audio jack on top, allowing you to use better-sounding earphones. Located beside the audio jack is the microUSB port for charging and data transfer. An attached flap reveals the port, then snaps back in when nothing is plugged in.
When in standby mode, the Champ is activated by pressing the dedicated unlock button on the right side of the screen. Press the unlock button once, and the screen lights up with a lock icon displayed on the bottom left. Hold the unlock icon for half a second and the screen unlocks, giving you full access to the screen controls.
The Champ uses Samsung’s own Bada operating system. It feels very similar to Android (we thought it was Android), especially the multiple home screens with different functions on each screen. At the bottom of the screen are 3 virtual buttons: keypad, contacts, and menu. Tap the menu button, and a 3x3 grid of icons will appear. The icons don’t have the polish of the iPhone’s icons, and this leads to another Android comparison.
Okay, basic functions first. Calling is a straightforward affair once you’ve located the person’s name. You can do this by scrolling many, many times or by tapping the search button and inputting the person’s first few letters. To make a call, just tap on the green phone icon beside the name, and it will connect immediately.
Texting is another matter. One way to look at how the Champ texts is that you will have longer life because texting while driving is next to impossible with this phone. By the way, if your mortality is not a deterrent to texting while behind the wheel, maybe the fact that traffic enforcers now apprehend those caught texting while driving will. (It’s ‘ber’ season, guys.)
To access the messaging program via normal means is already a pain. From the main screen, you tap menu, then Messages, then Create Message, then To, then Contacts. Lastly, you have to tap the empty box to go to another screen where the virtual keyboard is. That’s a total of 6 button taps just to start texting. At this point, the ordeal is far from over.
Using the virtual keypad, those with big thumbs (like this reviewer) will be prone to mistakes even with full use and mastery of the T9 dictionary. There’s the option of using the virtual QWERTY keyboard, and the smaller keys only make matters more difficult. A stylus that slots neatly into the back is provided, but the mark of how intuitive and responsive a touch screen is is by its ease to navigate without a stylus. Maybe more petite fingers will have better luck, although that eases the Champ more towards the female demographic.
The rest of the features are nothing to write home about. There’s an MP3 and video player, an organizer, FM radio, and a disappointing 1.3-megapixel camera. Compared to other phones’ cameras and considering the quality, this can be used as a back-up if your back-up camera fails. There’s no Wi-Fi, so expect to use data from your carrier to browse the Internet or use the included apps: Facebook, Flickr, Photobucket, Picasa, and Friendster (aka jejemon central). If you get lost, just keep pressing the back button on the center of the phone, located under the logo and sandwiched between the call and hang-up buttons.
The main problem
The main issue with the Champ is its screen. While its compact 2.4-inch dimensions have contributed to the phone’s portability, it also made the Champ a pain when texting and viewing webpages. If the point of touch-screen phones is to offer plenty of screen real estate for a better multimedia experience, maybe Samsung went too far in lowering the Champ’s specifications to reach a broader market. Even if the price of admission is tempting, the user experience is compromised.
As Samsung goes down market to make an affordable touch-screen phone, it makes one wonder if they’ve gone too far.
Click here to see the Samsung Champ C3300 in the Buyer's Guide.