We like rugged cell phones here at PCMag. Even if you’re not knocking about outdoors or on construction sites, they just tend to hold up better over several years. The $79.99 Samsung Convoy 2, Verizon’s newest rugged phone, is a big step up from last year’s mediocre Convoy. The new model is not quite as good as the Casio G’zOne Ravine ($199, 4 stars), which remains our Editors’ Choice, but it was much closer than I expected. If you’re looking for a tough voice phone on Verizon, the Convoy 2 fits the bill well.
Samsung Convoy 2 SCH-U660 Design, Call Quality, and Apps.
The Convoy 2 measures 3.9 by 2.0 by 0.9 inches (HWD) and weighs 3.9 ounces. These specs are more or less the same as the original, although the Convoy 2 is ever-so-slightly thinner. It meets military specification 810F, which means it’s resistant to shock, extreme temperatures, salt fog, lower pressure at higher altitudes, sand, and dust. That’s not quite as stringent as the 810G specification, though, which the Casio G’zOne Ravine meets; mainly, that means the Convoy 2 isn’t as water resistant.
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Samsung Convoy 2 SCH-U660 Specifications
- Samsung Convoy 2 SCH-U660 Screen Size
- 2.2 inches
- Samsung Convoy 2 SCH-U660 Screen Details
- 128-by-128-pixel, 65K color, 1.3-inch external TFT LCD; 240-by-320-pixel, 262K color, 2.2-inch internal TFT LCD
- Samsung Convoy 2 SCH-U660 Camera
- 850, 1900
- Samsung Convoy 2 SCH-U660 High-Speed Data
The external color display measures 1.3 inches and offers 128-by-128-pixel resolution, which is a cut above low-end devices. Better yet, you can do all sorts of things from the front display, including snapping photos and issuing voice commands. The volume buttons turn into up and down keys, so you can navigate the tiny on-screen menu. Inside, the new 2.2-inch display sports an upgraded 240-by-320-pixel resolution. It looks colorful, if not particularly bright. Beneath the screen are seven function keys and an oversized five-way control pad. The numeric keypad is membrane-style, which large keys. On my first loaner unit, it was defective; the 0 and 3 keys usually brought up the # and 2 as well when pressed. A second one worked fine, though.
The Convoy 2 is a dual-band 2G, 1xRTT (850/1900 MHz) device with no Wi-Fi. The dual-microphone design aids in external noise cancellation. In my tests, it certainly helped; the Convoy 2 is a crisp, clear sounding phone with plenty of gain. Callers uniformly said I sounded good through the microphone, and better than a nearby BlackBerry Torch 9850 (also on Verizon; review coming soon). Calls sounded fine through an Aliph Jawbone Era Bluetooth headset ($129, 4 stars). The Nuance-powered voice dialing worked perfectly over Bluetooth without training. The speakerphone went gloriously loud and sounded clear even at its maximum volume setting. The 1300mAh battery was good for an excellent 7 hours and 57 minutes on our talk time test.
The main menu consists of nine icons arranged in a grid pattern. Opera Mini 5 does a great job serving up both WAP and desktop HTML pages; the latter are at least a possibility despite the slow 2G data radio, thanks to Opera’s effective, server-side compression. The Convoy 2 also supports Verizon’s Push-To-Talk system for an extra $5 per month, which is useful if your company is on Verizon, although it’s not as well known as Nextel’s system. The Convoy 2 runs the Networks-In-Motion-powered VZ Navigator for voice-enabled, turn-by-turn GPS directions for an extra $9.99 per month. It also works with Verizon’s standard Mobile Email app, which you get free as part of any data plan for $9.99 per month or more; it hooks into most Webmail, POP, and IMAP accounts.
Samsung Convoy 2 SCH-U660 Multimedia, Camera, and Conclusions
There’s a non-standard 2.5mm headphone jack, which severely limits your music listening options. The side-mounted microSD card slot is welcome, though; my 32GB SanDisk card worked fine. There’s also 96MB of free internal memory. Music tracks sounded clear and punchy throughSamsung Modus HM6450 Bluetooth headphones ($99, 4 stars). The music player displays an animated graphic equalizer that almost, but not quite, keeps pace with the music.
The camera gets a bump to 3.2 megapixels and a new LED flash, although it still lacks auto-focus. That’s okay though, because the Convoy 2 takes great photos: sharp, colorful, and well balanced overall, with only some blurriness in darker indoor shots giving the game away. I’d have no problem using this phone for everyday shots. Forget the camcorder function; at a maximum of just 176 by 144 pixels, it only records useless, tiny videos.
All told, the Convoy 2 gets a much more enthusiastic recommendation from us this time around. Our favorite Verizon rugged phone, and our current Editors’ Choice overall, remains the Casio G’zOne Ravine. The Ravine has 3G, and it’s tougher, better looking, and a killer voice phone to boot, although the Convoy 2 sports a nicer external LCD and an even louder speakerphone. If you want a real smartphone that’s also rugged, and don’t like the idea of putting a regular one in a hard case, the Casio G’zOne Commando ($199.99, 3 stars) is a great choice; it runs Android 2.2, has a much higher resolution, capacitive touch screen, and runs over 200,000 third-party apps in the Android Market. Finally, if you want the toughest phone in the universe, head straight to the unlocked Sonim XP3300 Force ($499.99, 3.5 stars); you’ll need an AT&T or T-Mobile SIM card to use that one, though.