There’s a soft spot in my heart for all of the odd iterations of devices running Android, especially when they provide essentially the same software as their brothers and sisters. What this phone represents is a bridge for scaredy cats to get into smartphones – people who’ve been using cellphones for a few years, but aren’t quite ready to experience the top Android phones and appreciate them for what they are. Instead, this phone has all the buttons it needs – physical buttons, mind you, to present itself as an easy to use phone that also has smartphone features and functionality – and it’s cute!

Before we go on, please feel free to take a look at our initial Hands-On and Unboxing of this device. Then, on with it! This is a phone that fits into the palm like it was made to do so. It’s got a smooth plastic back, an oddly shaped case, and several unique form features. When a person sees this phone in your hand, they’ll wonder what it is called. That’s an “Android phone, isn’t it?” They’ll say. “I’ve never seen that phone before, what’s it called?” They’ll question. “Why, this is a Samsung Gem on US Cellular!” You’ll scream.

What’s Inside

This phone features an undeniably tiny amount of pre-loaded apps at 31, the vast majority – aka ALL of which are required by Google in order to get certification so that the manufacturer might release the phone with the official Android Market. This means there’s less to trip over. One of the biggest reasons everyday hackers in the Android community hack is that they simply want to get rid of all the apps they do not plan on using. US Cellular did away with this extra step by simply not plopping their own apps on the device.

Once you understand that the device is indeed running what basically amounts to a Vanilla version of Android – that is, one that’s not changed by the manufacturer or carrier at all, you see that it’s just gotta be the hardware that you’ve got to judge. In this category, you’re not so stripped down. This is a phone that aims to compete with the rest of the smartphone world by offering a fully customizable experience on the inside and an interesting experience on the outside due to features that give the device real spunk and personality.

Physical Buttons

That front set of buttons is where this device will win or lose all of its potential customers. There’s a gigantic gem-shaped button in the center that both brings you back to your home screen from wherever you are in any app OR bring you to “recent apps” if you long-press it. To right right and left of this giant button are menu and back buttons, and to the right and left of these buttons are call and hang-up buttons. All of these buttons are physical, and as two of them (call and hang up) don’t appear on the vast majority of Android-laden phones, it should be clear that these are made to draw in unsuspecting feature-phone lovers who would otherwise dismiss an Android phone as, again, too difficult to understand.

Samsung Gem has the ability to hold up to a 16 GB microSD card, it has the ability to act as a mobile internet hotspot, and it comes stocked with Android 2.2.1 Froyo. It’s got a fat 1500 mAh battery which on this type of device essentially means over 24 hours with no battery and medium usage, (tested by me and confirmed here,) and its processor speed isn’t the worst in the world at 800 MHz. What more could you want out of a phone that only costs $29.99 after an $80 mail-in rebate?

An easier to understand payment plan.

Also let’s take a look at photos and video, which do look fairly decent considering they were taken with a 3.2 megapixel camera:

Photo Example

Video Example

Looks alright, right?

Wrap-Up and Final Verdict

The price of the handset is very reasonable, and if you’re able to wade your way through the data / talk / messaging plans US Cellular has listed, you’re going to be golden. This is a solid little phone that, if you gave to your aunt, she’d understand – and she’d want more, too! Like I mentioned above, this is an excellent bridge onto the ever-expanding castle that is Android.

Make your newb friends purchase this phone if they’re fearful of smartphones. It’s a goodie, it’s simple, and it’ll pump them up for the future.