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Samsung Galaxy Axiom (U.S. Cellular) Review
The Samsung Galaxy Axiom for U.S. Cellular packs lots of smartphone power into a compact size at a nice price.
- Affordable price
- Solid performance
- Comfortable size and shape
- 4G LTE support
- Mediocre video camera
- Average display
It may seem hard to believe, with the rise of 5.5-inch phablets like the Samsung Galaxy Note II, but not everyone wants a gigantic smartphone. Even the 4.8-inch Galaxy S III can prove unwieldy for many hands. Luckily, U.S. Cellular offers the $29.99 Samsung Galaxy Axiom, which takes many of the same features from Samsung’s larger handsets, and offers them in a comparatively petite 4-inch package. It isn’t quite as powerful as Samsung’s larger handsets, but it costs a heck of a lot less.
Design, Network, and Call Quality
The Galaxy Axiom measures 4.79 by 2.51 by 0.47 inches (HWD) and weighs 4.83 ounces. It looks a little plump, but it’s quite comfortable to hold and operate with one hand. It’s made out of the same flimsy-feeling plastic as the Galaxy Note II and Galaxy S III, with the same faux-tarnished design on the back cover.
The phone’s 4-inch, 800-by-480-pixel display looks bright and sharp. It’s a slight step down from the 4.3-inch, 960-by-540-pixel display on the Motorola Electrify M, though. The onscreen keyboard is a little cramped for typing, but you get used to it. There’s a physical Home key beneath the display, flanked by capacitive Back and Options buttons.
U.S. Cellular is seventh-largest carrier in the U.S. It runs its own 3G and 4G LTE networks in parts of 26 states. Prices are good, but not significantly better than any of the big four networks. Instead, U.S. Cellular sells itself on better customer service and network quality than other carriers. Our readers agreed, giving the carrier our Reader’s Choice award last year, for reasonable prices and a reliable network.
The Axiom supports U.S. Cellular’s relatively new 4G LTE network, which, at the moment, is still limited to four major clusters throughout the U.S. We test U.S. Cellular phones in New York City, where they roam on Sprint’s network, which can be frustratingly slow. If you’re planning to buy a phone on U.S. Cellular, you may want to take a look at the coverage map, in case you plan to spend a lot of time outside of the carrier’s native coverage area. You can also stay connected via 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi.
Voice quality on the Axiom is average. In my tests, I heard a lot of static in the earpiece, and voices were somewhat fuzzy. There’s aggressive noise cancellation in play here, which makes voices sound somewhat digitized, but otherwise clear. The speakerphone sounds fine and is loud enough to hear outside. Calls sounded good through a Jawbone Era Bluetooth headset. Samsung’s S-Voice virtual assistant is on board, and I had no trouble using it over Bluetooth. Battery life was good at 8 hours and 59 minutes of talk time.
Hardware, OS, and Apps
The Axiom is powered by a 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 MSM8960 processor. That isn’t as fast as the 1.5GHz chip in the Galaxy S III and Electrify M, but it still performed well in our benchmark tests. And since the Axiom has a lower screen resolution that either of those phones, it performs just as well for tasks like gaming. You won’t have trouble running any of the latest apps or games from the Google Play store, which offers a whopping 700,000+ titles.
The Axiom runs Android 4.0.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich). There’s no word yet on an update to a newer version. Samsung has made some modifications to the OS, most of which are the same as you’ll find on the Galaxy S III. There’s a tiny strip at the bottom of the home screen and an Apps menu that allows you slide through pages just by dragging a finger over it, or you can flick through one page at a time. You get five customizable home screens that come rather aggressively preloaded with apps and widgets. Thankfully, there isn’t much bloatware, but what’s there cannot be deleted.
The Siri-like S Voice for voice control is on-board, and does a good job with voice commands and searches. There’s also Kies Air hidden under the Settings menu, which lets you view your phone’s contacts, messages, and media through a PC’s Web browser. Additionally, the Axiom supports NFC, and Google Wallet comes preinstalled. NFC lets you use Samsung’s S Beam, which, along with Wi-Fi Direct, allows you to transfer files by tapping two phones together. There’s also DLNA support for watching content from your phone on an HDTV or monitor.
Multimedia, Camera, and Conclusions
You get 1.71GB of free internal storage. There’s also an empty, side-mounted microSD card slot on the left edge of the phone. My 32 and 64GB SanDisk cards worked fine. All of our music test files played back except for FLAC, and sound quality was fine over both wired 3.5mm headphones as well as Altec Lansing BackBeat Bluetooth headphones. All test videos played back too, at resolutions up to 1080p.
The 5-megapixel camera is decent. It takes an average of 1.2 seconds for autofocus to lock in and snap a photo, which is a bit long. But photos show a fair amount of detail and colors look accurate, if not particularly vibrant. Video performance, on the other hand, is mixed. The camera records 720p video at 30 frames per second, but they look somewhat blurry indoors, with a lot of screen tearing; video recorded outside fares much better. There’s also a decent 1.3-megapixel camera on the front of the phone for low-res stills and video chat.
As a smaller, slightly less powerful, less-expensive alternative to the Galaxy S III and Galaxy Note II, the Samsung Galaxy Axiom succeeds. It still gets you plenty of power and features, along with 4G LTE support, at a very affordable price. But if you’re looking for U.S. Cellular’s ultimate Android phone and don’t mind the extra size, the Galaxy S III is still a better choice. The Axiom’s primary competition is the Motorola Electrify M, which packs even more power into a similarly well-sized package. The Electrify has a more powerful processor and a larger, sharper display, but it also costs more than twice the price as the Axiom, and its camera isn’t as good. Both are solid phones, so it comes down to a matter of which design you prefer.
By Alex Colon, PCMag
- Service Provider: US Cellular
- Operating System: Android OS
- CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 MSM8960 Dual-Core
- Processor Speed: 1.2 GHz
- Form Factor: Candy Bar
- Physical Keyboard: No
- Screen Size: 4 inches
- Screen Details: 800-by-480-pixel TFT LCD
- Camera: Yes
- Megapixels: 5 MP
- Camera Flash: Yes
- 802.11x: 802.11 a/b/g
- Bluetooth: Yes
- GPS: Yes
- Storage Capacity (as Tested): 1.71 GB
- microSD Slot: Yes
- Network>: CDMA, LTE
- Bands: 850, 1900, 1700, 700
- High-Speed Data: EVDO Rev A, LTE, CDMA 1X
- Battery Life (As Tested): 8 hours 59 minutes