When we first heard about the Samsung Continuum, we were equally skeptical and intrigued. Does a full touch smartphone really need a secondary "ticker" display? While we found the ticker display more useful than annoying, it still might not be for everyone, and it can occasionally be a pain to use.
Slim, attractive design
In terms of design, the Continuum looks a bit different than its Galaxy siblings. It is a bit narrower and longer, measuring 4.9-by-2.3-by-0.5-inches thick. It weighs a comfortable 4.4 ounces, yet feels solid in hand.
It is very much in the Samsung design aesthetic with its piano black finish, rounded edges and a subtly patterned battery cover. It's a bit plasticky feeling and definitely finger-print prone, but the Continuum is quite attractive overall.
On the face of the phone, you'll find the typical Android softkeys: Menu, Home, Back and Search. These keys are sort of awkwardly placed though, between the main display and the ticker display (more on that in a bit).
On the top of the phone, you'll find the power button and the 3.5-mm headphone jack. On the right spine, there's the volume rocker and the micro-USB port and on the back you'll find the 5-megapixel camera and flash.
The main attraction of the Continuum, of course, is its dual displays. There's a 3.4-inch Super AMOLED display the small secondary display (also Super AMOLED) that lies below it. The main display is a bit smaller than what we're used to on Galaxy phones, but the Super AMOLED technology is really quite fantastic. Colours burst out of the display and animations appear lively and smooth.
Some reviewers have noted that colors look oversaturated, but I don't really mind the effect. The display also does quite well in bright outdoor light, too, though the phone's glossy hardware sometimes reflects a killer glare.
The smaller, narrower screen makes typing incredibly frustrating. The keyboard feels very cramped and we made more mistakes typing on the Continuum than on other Galaxy phones. You can switch to Swype (gesture-based keyboard), but even that was somewhat excruciating to use.
It also displays notifications for new messages, emails or missed calls. The bottom sides of the phone are touch-sensitive so you can activate the ticker display by simply picking up the phone. The idea behind the ticker display is that you can always be tuned in to what's happening on your phone without having to wake it up.
Our opinions were somewhat mixed regarding the ticker display. On the one hand, it seems gimmicky, unnecessary and distracting. But the touch sensors worked quite well and we slowly got used to the feature. You can scroll through your various feeds by flicking the display side-to-side, but this wasn't always so responsive.
It lagged a bit transitioning from Twitter to the weather feed. Also, when we were trying to swipe, we'd accidentally click on a notification, which would open up the app associated with it. This could be incredibly annoying and doesn't really support the "at-a-glance" purpose of the ticker display.
To really get the most out of the ticker display, you have to be very selective about what shows up on it. If you sync your Twitter account to it and follow a lot of people, you're going to get really sick of seeing your friends' updates. Make sure to only subscribe to feeds you actually care about or else you'll constantly be flooded with useless information. Thankfully, it is quite easy to program your feeds via the Settings menu.
We really liked being able to control the music player from the ticker display. There's no need to switch away from the app you're using on the main display, it is quite a clever feature. The ticker switches over to show basic audio controls (back, play/pause, forward) whenever music is playing.
Unfortunately, the ticker display's APIs have not been opened up to third party developers so you can only program a handful of apps or feeds to show up.