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on November 16, 2011
[Update Oct' '12]
After the latest OS upgrade, the wi-fi has (for the most part) stopped working. Although the signal status of a connection could say "Excellent" with a 36 Mbps bandwidth (or higher), apps requiring a data connection (browser, Facebook, accuweather, etc.) will simply time out with warnings such as "no internet connection" or "lost connection". Google: 'Samsung Stratosphere Wi-fi issues' and you will see that I am not alone with this problem. While minor wi-fi issues have existed for this product from day 1 (and many other phones) from what I can glean from Samsung user groups and forums; the problem has increased dramatically since the OS upgrade in September. Verizon sent me a replacement Strat that they 'guaranteed' would work; it did not. We have no troubles with other wi-fi devices in our home (2 other phones and a tablet). Verizon has acknowledged this issue and is now sending me a Galaxy S III (refurb. at some cost) as a replacement. I'm very bummed as I absolutely loved this phone. But without a good consistent wi-fi connection, it's seriously debilitated. If you are considering it, I would try test the wi-fi capabilities first in a store before taking it home. Good luck.

---------------------initial review---------------------------
So, it's not actually free as I needed to sign up for 2 more years of Verizon. But who cares, I needed to sign up with someone anyway...

I'll just hit on a few pros/cons.

-MUSIC - I downloaded the Power Amp app and the resultant audio quality on this thing is amazing. I can safely pull the card out of my Sansa Fuze and drop it in the Stratosphere. I won't miss the Fuze (which had unbelievably good sound) a bit. This is the main reason I went with this phone. I no longer need to carry both a phone and MP3 player to the gym - don't cry Sansa; you served me well
-Video playback is excellent as well.
-The screen is beautiful.
-The phone/dialer GUI is beautiful as well - so good in fact that Apple is suing Samsung because the Samsung overlay (over the Android OS) looks a little 'too' good (a copy of Apple's)
-4G - LTE, this is noticeably faster for downloads than my wife's 3G Motorola Droid X 2.
Although the phone itself, running apps, etc. isn't faster (or if it is, I can't tell the difference)
- Android OS; highly customizable. Layout the screens exactly the way you want.
- Apps galore; seriously, what App (actual useful app that is) can you get for an iPhone that you can't get for an Android now?
-Room for 36GB total (4 internal, 32 on micro SD) - getting a smartphone without a Micro SD card slot is like getting an SUV without a luggage rack.

-ergonomics. This phone is difficult to handle when trying slide out the hard-key keyboard. Also, the keys themselves are difficult to press. I don't have large fingers, but I can't press individual keys without using my thumb nails. It's not a big deal - it will just take getting used to it.
However, once the keyboard is open, it has very good balance in your hands
- NO external notification LED when a message or voicemail has been left. This seems like a no-brainer add on.
- can't tell what it's doing when plugged in. It would be nice if it would at least show the battery status when in that semi-standby mode when charging

If you're not concerned about the cons; consider this a 5 star phone

****UPDATE 12-1-11 ****
I downloaded the NoLED app and it now shows a small colored square on the screen (when off) to notify me of a new voice mail or email! (thank you Jan for the tip!) I therefore would give this phone 4 1/2 stars and the keyboard ergonomics are still a little questionable, although now after having it for a couple weeks, I can hunt-and-peck type pretty fast.

****Updated 12-6-11****
I bought the Empire hard case and it greatly improves the handling of the phone when opening the hard keyboard. This phone is about perfect for me now.

****Updated 01-29-12*****
I added a video taken with the camera - WARNING the wind hitting the microphone was really loud.
I really love this phone. I haven't had ANY problems with it in the month and a half I've had it.
I use it a lot.

****Updated 3-10-12*****
Just wanted to add a couple words about the Bluetooth. I've been pairing the phone with a small Alcatel Bluetooth receiver when I go to the gym (the receiver has an 1/8th inch stereo receptacle). That way, the phone can stay safely in a gym bag or on the book shelf of a cardio machine without the threat of an accidental pull on a headphone cord resulting in the phone flying through the air. The Alcatel pairs very nicely with the phone ; I've never had to "re-pair" the connection after it connects the first time. The range is about 25-30 feet. I think both are Bluetooth 3.0 or higher, so the audio bit rate transferred is very high resulting in very good sound quality.
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on November 3, 2011
Fantastic Screen
Good camera
Good build quality
Really nice keyboard
Android 2.3

A bit on the chunky side
Battery life could be better
No 1080P video recording

My wife and I recently ditched our OG Droids. She got a Droid Charge, and I got the Stratosphere.

As far as:
Speed, mine is as fast as hers.

Software, mine has the advantage of Android 2.3.

Screen, you can't tell a difference in image quality, but her screen is a little bigger (although hers is almost too big to manage with one hand).

I'm really liking this phone so far. They keyboard is really nice (much nicer than on my Droid). Build quality is very good (although a little more plasticy than my Droid).

The camera actually is pretty good. You're not going to get DSLR pictures out of it, but it's very servicable.

The battery on the Stratosphere is bigger than on the Charge, but it doesn't seem to last much longer. Still long enough to get through a work day with pretty heavy use (I stream podcasts and books to my bluetooth headset all day). I sure miss the pre-smartphone days of recharging twice a week though. I ordered the extended battery to stretch this out a little more.

I haven't hit any performance snags yet, everything seems to be pretty buttery smooth.

I would highly recommend the Stratosphere to anyone wanting to upgrade to a new keyboard-packing smartphone.
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on January 22, 2012
First of all I am not a master techie so this will not be a very technical review, so be forewarned:)

For the past 4 years I have had 2 Blackberry Curve Smartphones. I love Verizon's service and I HAVE had other carriers over the years and none of them could hold a candle to Verizon.

Just for information, I would never buy an iPhone even though they are now offered through Verizon. First of all, for many people it is a big status symbol and some people want to "impress" by having an iPhone and maybe originally the "apps" were great, but now you can get most any app you want without having to spend more just to get an iPhone. Secondly I also have a 2nd Generation Kindle and a new Kindle Fire. When I got the 2nd Generation Kindle mostly all books (not counting text books) were $9.99 or less. Until Steve Jobs of Apple wanted to put a big dent into Amazon's e-reader market, so he got together with the 5 major publishers and devised an "Agency Model" where the publisher NOT Amazon sets the price at which Amazon can charge for e-books. All of a sudden e-book prices jumped from under $9.99 to $15.00 and more. Amazon tried to fight it and lost the battle. While the e-book was $15.00, the actual real hard covered book is selling for $16.00. In essence Jobs in collusion with the Big5 publishers formed an anti-competition cartel and as usual the customers suffer. I guess Jobs never got the memo that "you can't take it with you." Therefore I will not buy "Apple" anything. From what I have heard from friends who read the book Jobs wrote, he was bragging about this cartel and his part in it.

My daughter's friend works for Best Buy and he gave me info on the better brands to choose. My daughter had just gotten a Droid2 and she felt technically I couldn't handle it. I printed out the info on 5 top phones and laid them out and eliminated one at a time (I know, not very scientific). The Samsung Stratosphere was the winner.

First of all the screen is beautiful. I got to the app for Netflix and started to watch a movie. Th picture and colors were very impressive.

There is a virtual (on touch screen) keyboard and a slide out keyboard. The touch screen is very easy to use and the slide out keyboard has smooth keys is so much easier to type on than the Blackberry Curve keyboard.

It is an Android phone and it responds quickly and smoothly. Surfing the web, is easy. Just like surfing on the computer. When you wanted to look up something on the Blackberry, the pages that came on screen were nothing like what comes up on screen when you use a tablet or computer. With this touch screen the interface is like a computer. The touch screen allows you to use your thumb and forefinger to enlarge the area you want to see (I am sure this can be explained better, but I an somewhat technically challenged).

There are tons of apps, just like the iPhone. You can go onto Amazon and go under the menu to "apps for android" (games movies, productivity tools, books newspapers etc) in addition to what Samsung offers. As I previously indicated I have a Kindle2 and a Kindle Fire (like a tablet) and I can sync e-books from the K2 and the Fire to this phone and wherever I end on one of the three, the other 2 sync to the same place I stopped reading at. You can adjust the size of the font larger if you want.

I read in one of the reviews that there is no "front facing camera" There IS a front facing camera and a rear facing camera. The camera is a 5 mega pixel which is not huge, but my point and shoot camera is only a 6 mega pixel and it takes beautiful pictures. Someone said there was no zoom on the camera, but there is. I took a picture on my daughter's birthday and I know I used the zoom, but I can't exactly remember what I did. I only have had the phone for 10 days so there is much I still have to learn.

I have had no trouble making a phone call. With Verizon's "Back-up Assistant" I downloaded almost 100 contacts that were in Blackberry into my Samsung with the push of a button. Also when you make a call there is a button on screen for Speakerphone and a red button to hang up call etc...

I have down loaded a couple of games, but if you get an app from Amazon, on many you can "Test Drive" the app on your computer to see if it is what you want. Many apps are free, but some games are sample type and you might have to buy the game to get the complete version, but you don't have to. The most expensive game I have seen is $4.99. Many books, apps and games are free. The apps I buy for my Kindle Fire can also be downloaded into my cell phone for free.

I liked the wallpaper that came on the phone out of the box and there is a handful of pictures that you can use preloaded and they also have a couple of cute animated wallpapers. I checked them out and figured that they might use too much battery power (especially since I put the phone to sleep when I put it down).

Another viewer complained about the phone "going to sleep" (aka the screen goes black to preserve the battery. THAT can be adjusted in the settings. I have mine go to sleep fairly quickly in order to get as much out of a battery charge as I can.

I might be crazy, but I think the length of time the battery goes between charges is better than it was for my Blackberry and that didn't have half the power this phone has.

The phone makes calls that are very clear both hearing the other person and how clear the person hears you. You can mostly set your preferences under the "settings." Since this phone is really a mini computer, I would suggest you get an anti-virus like you use on your computer. I use AVG and it is free.

If you remember, my daughter though I wouldn't be able to handle the Droid2. Well she really likes my phone and she is amazed how I haven't asked her to do everything for me :) BUT I still have a lot to learn,

I hope this helps someone who doesn't understand the more technical reviews.
Just experiment to find out what you want to do. Along the base of the phone there is a "Home" button, a "search" button, a "menu" button and like the Blackberry, a button that takes you back one screen at a time
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on November 20, 2011
This is my first smartphone, so my review comes from that point of view.

Overall, I like it.

This phone is big. I'm a smallish female, and this phone is bulky and almost downright awkward in my hands. I can't put it in a pocket or my wristlet wallet. It will only fit in my big purse. I highly recommend a screen protector for these reasons. I can carry it around in my hand, but it's so big it feels like an extra appendage and not just an extension of my arm like my old phone was.

The main reason I wanted this phone was for the slide out keyboard. I was a super fast texter on my old EnV Touch, and thought I would continue to be if I found a slide out keyboard. I was wrong. I don't know if it's the spacing of the keys, or my small hands, but I make many, many mistakes when I try to text fast, and have experienced some frustration because of this. This is the most disappointing thing about the phone, for me.

Also, regarding the keyboard; the sliding function feels a little flimsy when I slide it in and out. It honestly doesn't feel like it would withstand careless "sliding" and I'm starting to doubt it will even survive the length of my new 2 yr contract.

This is actually my second Stratosphere. The first one arrived and took about 4 hours to activate; it couldn't find a signal. Even after activation the signal was HORRIBLE and at times I even roamed, even though I was sitting in my living room. Spent a couple of hours on phone with Tech Support two different times and they finally sent me to a VZW store for hands-on support. They couldn't fix it, either. Called Amazon and they overnight shipped me the new one without issue. When this current phone activated within a minute, I was extremely happy!

I'm surprised by how fast the battery drains. But apparently this is typical of all smartphones. I need to recharge about every 36 hours.

Some positives: it's super fast, looks nice, great camera. There seem to be lots of apps and fun little things like that. But since this is my first smartphone, I'm still trying to figure it out. I do have lots of fun using the scanner when I'm price matching items when I'm out shopping!!

Overall, I would probably buy the phone again. I would just go in to the deal with lower expectations for the keyboard/texting. If VZW would offer a FLIP keyboard instead of a slider (and make the keys similar to the enV's), I would probably be in phone heaven.
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on December 16, 2011
My wife and I were up to upgrade. We previously had the EnV3 (non-smartphone) At first I couldn't decide between an iPhone or a Droid cause those are what you always hear about. Well, my wife and her mom got the Stratosphere, which was an amazing $19.99 price with an accessory pack at Costco. Verizon had the phone alone, no accessory pack for $99 buy one get one free. I went ahead, after many 2nd, 3rd, & 4th thoughts...And upgraded to the Driod Bionic for $199.99...I literally kept the phone for for 1 day. After seeing how easy it was for my wife to use the Stratosphere and comparing with the Bionic...other than the 8 MP camera and 1080p HD Video, the Stratosphere did just fine on both...I decided I wanted what she had. So yes, I returned the $200 phone for a $20 phone and LOVE IT! Just wish we could figure out if you can zoom the camera when using it and the video.
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on January 31, 2012
I've been reluctant to jump on the smart phone bandwagon largely because I dislike touch screens. The slide-out keypad made the Samsung Stratosphere a less-intimidating choice for me. I've had the phone for a while now, and thus far, I've had no real problems with it! Over all, the construction quality is high, and the phone itself looks sharp. The camera, for me, is nothing more than a point-and-shoot device, so as long as I can recognize the picture, I'm happy, and this camera works for me (quite well, actually, but I don't feel that my opinion would be the most helpful.)

Here are some things that I like:

*The AMOLED screen is amazingly sharp! Animations and videos run very smooth, and swiping your finger over the polished glass surface has a very fluid feel to it.
*Signal strength and call quality haven't been an issue for me. I still haven't taken it into the elevator in the basement of the Student Center at Wayne State University (my old phone used to be able to get signal in it, when most people didn't.)
*The slide-out keypad takes some getting used to... My old LG enV 3's keypad was fairly compact. Long gone are the days of one-handed operation! This one is substantially larger! Like any other device, once you acquaint yourself with the layout, you're good to go.
*Wireless and 4G speeds are quite fast! Pages load fairly quickly, and there isn't much waiting for the installation of most apps.
*Users complain about battery life. This has kind of perplexed me for some time: This phone has a 1ghz CPU in it, as well as a large, bright screen. These aren't laptops with huge batteries. While I don't talk much on my phone, I do use the wireless and 4G connections quite a bit, and I have no problems making it through a whole work day. (I really only have to charge it at night.) If you're not talking on your phone or using power-intensive settings and your battery is still dying fast, you might want to check your settings.
* Upgradable memory (by way of Micro SD) is a great feature. All phones and tablets should have this.
*Total integration with my Google Account is very nice! As I said, this is my first smart phone, and having access to my Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Google + and Voice where ever I go is quite handy!
*Some reviews indicate that the 1ghz processor is less desirable. As of now, I don't see why. The phone seems fast enough to handle the tasks I throw at it, and any faster processor would likely drain the battery faster. The combination of reasonable price point and decent battery life make this phone a winner in my book.

I haven't found anything that was so annoying that it's worthy of a comment. Actually, all the annoyances I had stemmed from my lack of understanding of the device. It does have a slight learning curve, for those who have never had a Smart Phone. I managed to work out at least most of those kinks in about 2 days. Ultimately, I highly recommend this phone.

**4/16/12 Edit**

If you're not one to heavily use your phone, feel free to ignore this. But those of you who tend to surf the web, chat or text frequently when bored (or talk a lot, which I don't...) you might want to invest in an extended battery. I bought the Samsung brand. It adds a bulk to the phone, but it has no problem s making it through the day, even with fairly heavy use. Before, I had to put it on the charger whenever I was in the car to make sure I had a good amount of juice. After months of ownership, this is the only real issue I had with the phone, and it was rather expected, since it is a smartphone.

**7/2/12 Edit**

The extended battery does add bulk to the phone, and I wasn't able to find a case that fits it. Unfortunately that is not a winning combination if you're to drop the phone... You might want to consider that if you're clumsy!

Also, before the phone plummeted, I was noticing a lot of lag... Rebooting the phone seemed to solve most issues, though I suspect that the single core processor and the limited amount of RAM had something to do with it.
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on November 25, 2011
Pros-lightning fast downloads and web browsing in 4G areas, Beautiful display, great sound, amazing picture quality for a 5mp camera. Android Gingerbread 2.3 is WAY better than 2.2. The slide out QWERTY is so useful.

Cons-battery (like every other phone)

This phone is better than the Thunderbolt and the Charge. It's biggest fault is that it came out between the Bionic and the RAZR. Those phones may be top of the line but this phone was a penny as an upgrade. That right there makes this the best phone deal out there for an upgrade. I am shocked at some of the reviews out there. Buy with confidence.
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VINE VOICEon January 16, 2012
Let me first start by saying that I am seriously technology challenged. I have trouble figuring out how to plug in cell phones never mind how to use them. Seriously. My young adult children pull their hair out at my lack of ability in this particular arena. However, I do have a Kindle Fire and have been able to easily navigate the Android stuff and all the WiFi stuff that comes with it. I say this because the Samsung Stratosphere has the exact same face as my fire which, I am told by my ever so supportive young adult children that all Android phones are like this. GOOD, because I can't figure out her Iphone for the life of me! I don't have to sync my ITunes or whatever, I don't have to set up a credit card and I don't have this itty bitty screen to try to see and a touchy screen to type on. The Samsung Stratosphere is a large size phone, which is great for me, but is a bit bulky while handling. It has a pull out keyboard which is so much easier to use, but it also can rotate on the screen to make the little touch keys bigger if you choose to use them. I am learning how to use that pretty easily. I comes with some already installed apps, but not an overwhelming amount. I had a bit of trouble setting up the WiFi to my router, but after watching the online demo, I easily figured it out. That is the other thing, there is a lot of information right available both on the phone and online to help navigate through the different features of the phone. I love the voice recognition where you just say "" and poof, it appears on your phone! Yes, this is probably basic to all of the smartphone users, but to this newbie it is magic. Also, the Stratosphere has a front facing camera which I had to have for Skyping with my niece in Hawaii and my daughter who is studying abroad in Germany and my son who is away in college. This phone for me is worth every 5 star review it has gotten. My husband purchased one as well and the two of us couldn't be happier with our introduction into smartphone technology.
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on November 29, 2011
This is my 2nd Stratosphere and after a couple weeks I'm having the same issues that I did with the first. The phone does not transition well from an area with 4G service to an area with 3G (for example, I have 4G connectivity outside of my house, but once I go inside the phone drops to 3G or 1X). I'm constantly getting a "Network not available" message when I try to use the browser, send texts or check my email. I called Verizon customer service and talked to one of the senior techs who told me that some of the new 4G phones have problems transitioning from 4G and 3G and that they are working on an update to fix it. One of the fixes she had me try was to turn on roaming. She said to try that for a couple days and if that didn't work, go into the phone's settings and change it from CDMA/LTE to just CDMA (basically making it a 3G phone). That didn't work either.

My last phone was a blackberry Curve which would pick up my home WiFi from anywhere in the house, including the yard. This phone barely picks up the WiFi from one room away and doesn't pick it up at all any further away than that.

So, I'm bringing this back and hoping 3rd time's a charm. If I have the same issues with phone #3, I'm just going to switch back to my blackberry.
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on May 5, 2013
I purchased this phone through Amazon Wireless's Penny Phone program in May 2012. I guess the old adage rings true: "You get what you pay for."

First off, the upside: Because Amazon and Verizon are partnered, Verizon has replaced the phone with a certified like-new version each and every time. I'm currently waiting on phone number 4 to be delivered to me. Phone number 1- solder holding battery connection came loose and it wouldn't charge at all. Phone number 2- the phone kept giving me all kinds of sim card and sd card error messages and losing functionality. No phone calls, no internet, no apps (well, I guess the calculator was still available in all fairness). Phone number 3- won't hold a charge, won't charge above 11%, had it for two days and never once got it to charge. Phone number 4- en route to my home. I'm sure I'll be back to update when I have to get phone number 5.

Ok- the truth. This is the worst phone I have ever had. I will definitely think twice about EVER purchasing a Samsung device again. I have been a Verizon customer for over seven years. I have rarely had to call them over the years and I liked it that way. Let me pay my bill and leave me alone. It was a good arrangement. It worked for us. But then came the dreaded Stratosphere. I did not have the foresight to clock my phone calls to Verizon regarding this phone, but if I had to guess, I have spent over twelve hours in the last month and probably 20 total in 2013 listening to an untrained "tech" support person walk me through troubleshooting steps I have already completed. I've recently just taken the tack of being a complete b**** the second I get through to a person. It's surprisingly more effective than I originally anticipated. Tonight, when I called in about the phone AGAIN, the girl said, "Hello! And how are we this evening?!" I just did the long sigh and said, "Eh!" She didn't even walk me through troubleshooting but just ordered me a new phone.

All right, getting off task. The phone. Yes... it's s****y. Way s****y. Pretty much the only redeeming quality of the phone is that it's got great glass on the screen. I've dropped that sucker in nearly every parking lot in my town and the screen is still in pristine condition. What's wrong then? Well, the battery life is a joke. Unless you can be tethered to a charger approximately every hour, then I would pass on this one. No notifications when screen is in rest mode. The transition from the home screen to the apps screen is dreadfully slow. Speaking of slow, good luck making an emergency phone call if you have to power up the phone to do so. Since the entire process from start up through the media scanning (that runs EVERY time you turn the phone on) is about five minutes, you had better hope your home isn't on fire or you're not being chased by a murderer. You WILL die from this phone. And let's talk about making calls... my expectations of a phone are pretty simple. You dial a number, it rings, someone either is or isn't on the other end. Not with the Stratosphere. Here's how it works. You go to the dial screen. You dial and hit send. The phone goes back to the home screen without dialing. You frown at the screen and say something naughty to the phone. You go back to the dial screen. You dial again while muttering curse words under your breath. You dial and hit send. The phone goes back to the home screen again. You look to turn off the power button and then magically, your first phone call dials out. But then, your second call dials out. Great feature if you're into three-way calling.... however, if you are trying to call your parents who really don't get call waiting, they get real confused as to how I can be calling them while I'm already talking to them. Merging phone calls is an option, but I'm worried it's going to throw us into some kind of multi-dimensional stupor. Oh and did I mention my favorite? When the battery is low and you are on a phone call, it doesn't give you any kind of emergency warning that the battery is low. It just dies. Many times the recipient of my phone call thinks something bad has happened to me... but after I allow the phone to power up for five minutes (see above) and then dial them repeatedly hoping the phone call will go out (also see above), I'm able to call them back and let them know I'm ok.

Basically, if you are thinking about buying this phone, do yourself a favor and stab yourself with a pencil instead. Then spend some extra money and buy yourself a phone that actually works and isn't a total piece of crap.
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