Verizon Wireless Samsung Galaxy Stellar Review

Samsung has become known for their incredibly successful line of Galaxy devices. Tens of millions of people are currently using a Galaxy S, a Galaxy Tab or a Galaxy Note right now, and each newly released device outsells it’s predecessor. Samsung has even surpassed Nokia to become the world’s largest phone manufacturer.

A lot of Samsung’s success is a result of their high-end offerings, but fortunately, that doesn’t mean Samsung has forgotten about consumers that are looking for cheaper alternatives. Samsung has recently been adding to their range of affordable, yet well performing smartphones, and the Galaxy Stellar is one of the company’s latest, budget-friendly releases.

The Samsung Galaxy Stellar is a compact, 4G LTE enabled smartphone that Verizon Wireless is giving away for free when you sign a new two-year agreement and after a $50 mail-in rebate.

Verizon Wireless was kind enough to send over a Samsung Galaxy Stellar for us to review. I’ve been using the device as a second phone for the last few weeks and will now share my opinions of it.

Design:

Samsung kept the Galaxy Stellar design simple. Along the top, you’ll find a 3.5mm headphone jack and the secondary mic. There is a power button located on the upper right side, while the volume rocker and microSD card slot occupy the left side. A micro USB port on the bottom allows for charging and data transfers, and the rear features a 3.2 megapixel, flash-less camera. Upfront, you’ll find a 4-inch 480 x 800 display, just above it is a 1.3 megapixel front facing camera, and just below the screen, we have the Android buttons (back, home, recent apps, and menu). Removing the battery door cover reveals a user-replaceable 2100mAh battery.

   

   

Like other Samsung smartphones, the Galaxy Stellar is made almost entirely of polycarbonate plastic. The material is affordable, light and durable, and Samsung loves the stuff. While, the phone is made of plastic, it doesn’t feel cheap. To be honest, I thought the Galaxy Stellar felt surprisingly sturdy and it’s also comfortable to hold in the hand.

Screen:

Unlike other Samsung Galaxy smartphones, the Stellar doesn’t feature an AMOLED display. Instead, Samsung went with a standard 4-inch 480 x 800 TFT LCD that lacks the wow-factor of other screens, but does get the job done. The screen on the Galaxy Stellar reproduces colors well, and text on websites and in messages look fine. Its exactly what I would expect to find on a smartphone at this price.

The only concern I have with this display is it doesn’t seem to be bright enough to deal with sunny conditions. I found myself occasionally needing to block the sun with my body to be able to see what I was doing.

Performance:

The Samsung Galaxy Stellar is powered by a dual-core, 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor and 1GB worth of RAM. Not long ago, hardware goodies like those were staples of the best smartphones available. By today’s standards, the CPU is starting to show its age a little, but despite not having the best processor available today, the Galaxy Stellar performs well. Navigating between home screens is quick and smooth, and apps launch almost immediately with little to no noticeable lag. The Stellar was even able to handle running graphic intensive games with little fuss. Although it is a budget-friendly device, I never found a situation where the Stellar needed more power to handle what I was asking it to do.

The Stellar ships with 4GB worth of internal storage, but the OS and pre-loaded software eats up the majority of that space, leaving just 1.7GB available to the user. Thankfully, the included microSD slot supports cards as large as 32GB.

Battery:

Samsung equipped the Galaxy Stellar with a user-replaceable, 2100 mAh Lithium Ion battery that has performed very well for me.  Despite having a fast processor and 4G LTE (two things that can drain a battery quickly), the Galaxy Stellar had no problems lasting a full day to a day and a half of use.

On the day that I closely monitored battery life, I unplugged at 9:30 am, then through-out the day I used the device.  I placed a few phone calls, streamed Pandora music for a couple of hours, watched several YouTube videos, spent a few hours browsing the internet, read and replied to a bunch of emails and the battery still had 37% remaining by the time I went to bed at around 11:00 pm.  I am really impressed with those results. The battery life of the Samsung Galaxy Stellar is quite good.

Call Quality & Data:

Call quality on the Samsung Galaxy Stellar is adequate, it isn’t the best sounding phone I’ve used, but I didn’t really expect it to be.  For a free phone, it works, I was able to hear people and they could hear me. Reception was as good as any other Verizon Wireless smartphones that I’ve used in my area. I didn’t have any problems finding a signal and I never dropped a called.

Among the highlights of the Stellar’s list of features is it’s ability to use Verizon’s 4G LTE network. Verizon has built a very impressive LTE network that now covers a huge portion of the U.S. and is much larger than of it’s competitors. Depending on the coverage available in your specific area, you can expect the Stellar to download files, stream movies or TV shows and surf the internet at speeds of 5 to 12 megabits per second. At those speeds, you can exhaust a data plan pretty fast, so be sure to keep an eye on how much data you’re using and switch to Wi-Fi whenever possible.

Software: 

The Samsung Galaxy Stellar is currently running version 4.0.4 of Android (Ice Cream Sandwich), and includes Samsung’s TouchWiz user interface. That means you will get to use most of the nice software features you’ll find on the higher-end Samsung devices. Pre-loaded Samsung software titles include Media Hub, which allows you to stream movies and television shows to other devices, and the Siri-like S Voice, which works like a personal assistant on your phone. There is also Samsung’s Memo app and S Suggest, and of course, it also comes with all of the default Android apps for messaging, surfing the internet, managing your time, and keeping yourself entertained.

   

   

Samsung also included a innovative “Starter Mode” feature that simplifies the entire user interface for users that are new to Android. More advanced users can use the Galaxy Stellar in “Standard Mode” for a more traditional Android user experience. Settings for each mode are saved separately, which allows you to switch back and forth between modes as needed and without needing to reconfigure your screens each time.

I’m not new to Android at all, but I have to admit, I used the “Starter Mode” the majority of the time that I had the Stellar. I used it like I do any other Android device and I really liked the fact that “Starter Mode” doesn’t strip away too many features of the standard Android experience. It doesn’t turn the device into a feature phone, or cripple it any way, “Starter Mode” simply adds some conveniences that new users are sure to appreciate.

Conclusion:

The Samsung Galaxy Stellar provides good performance, a decent screen, Verizon 4G LTE speeds and great battery life. For the price, it isn’t a bad little phone, you could certainly do worse. It’s pretty much exactly what one would expect from a entry-level phone: It does most things fairly well, but makes a couple noticeable sacrifices along the way to get the price lower.

You can pick up the Samsung Galaxy Stellar from Verizon Wireless for free with a new 2 year contract and after a mail-in rebate. The phone is also available for just $329 without a contract. At that price, it’s hard to fault the Samsung Galaxy Stellar. It truly shines as a starter device, and I can see it being a great choice for a teenager’s first smartphone. However, more experienced Android users may want to look elsewhere, as an investment of just $50 can net you a better device.