Samsung's new Continuum: Is it worth a ticker tape parade?

One of the least kept secrets in the last 24 hours has been Samsung's new Continuum phone, which is the latest entry in the company's Galaxy S line of smartphones. Several hours before its introduction, the manual was available online, and there was talk of the 1.8-in "ticker" that runs across the bottom of the screen.

The official press event introducing the phone took place this evening in a Times Square hotel. It was one of the shortest press conferences it has been my pleasure to attend; there was a short video, an explanation of the ticker and what it's meant to do, and an invitation to go into the next room and try the phone out.

It is impossible to really tell how well a smartphone works in the few minutes that you play with it while a PR representative watches. But I have to say, on first glance, it looked to me like the ticker could be a simple but excellent idea.

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The ticker is meant to offer information without your having to actually check the main screen. It will, by default, show the weather and time; it will notify you of SMS messages, IMs, voicemails and missed calls; it shows you who is calling; it control the music player; it offers text directions while you're watching the maps on the main screen.

You access the ticker by means of two grip sensors on the lower sides of the phone. During the few minutes I tried out the phone, I found the sensors worked very nicely; they activated the ticker the first time I pressed them. Press the grips, and you activate the ticker without activating the main screen; touch something -- say, an SMS message -- on the ticker, and the main screen goes on and shows you a list of all your messages without your having to swipe it to unlock it. It's a handy system.

The Continuum itself is pretty similar to the Galaxy S. It has a 3.4-in. Super AMOLED touch screen, a 5 megapixel camera, Wi-Fi b/g/n, along with 3G and Bluetooth connectivity. It comes with an 8GB microSD card which is -- and Samsung gets points for this -- actually easily accessible from the side of the phone rather than hidden underneath the battery.

The phone itself is slim and feels good in the hand. It's a bit thicker than the original Galaxy S, but is also narrower. I was impressed with the brightness and clarity of both screens.

This won't be an inexpensive phone, by any measure. The Continuum will go on sale November 11 for pre-order through Verizon and available for purchase November 18. It will go for $199.99 with a two-year contract -- after a $100 mail-in rebate, so you'll have to shell out an initial $300.

Is it worth it? It's impossible to tell -- maybe not if having a phone that activates when you press the bottom becomes a problem when it activates accidentally.

With any luck, we'll be doing a more thorough review of the Samsung Continuum soon. Meanwhile, it's certainly an intriguing entry into the smartphone races.

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