Samsung Intensity 3

Review: Samsung Intensity 3 -- For No-Frills Calls and Texts

2 stars
A decent basic phone, but consider low-end Android devices too.
in Phone Booth

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2.4-inches, 240 x 320 px, 262,000 colors
2.0 MP / Zoom / Night Shot / Multi-Shot / Video Recorder

cdma2000 1xRTT
256.0 MB

112 x 54 x 15 mm
115 g
1000 mAh Li-Ion
Talk Time:
5 hours
Standby Time:
13 days

In the age of smartphones, Samsung's Intensity 3 is a throwback to the old days of simple devices that only made calls and texts. As part of Verizon's entry-level selection, it offers an upgraded -- and I use that term loosely -- 2.0-megapixel camera and a slide-out keyboard. Sure, it looks like a joke compared to high-end smartphones, but actually a sturdy phone if all you want is a phone.

If you're like most people, you want a smartphone. But you're not. So who is it for? If you don't want to sign up for a data plan, that's you. If you don't need apps, that's you. If you want simple, eco-friendly phone, that's you, too. But don't let it fool you -- it's also built to military specifications to withstand a beating.

Compare With Similar Phones:

Apple IPhone 5C BlackBerry Q10 Apple IPhone 4
Apple IPhone 5C BlackBerry Q10 Apple IPhone 4

As an eco-phone, the Intensity is made of 80 percent recycled materials. There's even a function that tells when the battery is full, and a fuel mileage and carbon emissions calculator to show how green you are. Not to be too lovey-dovey, it also meets military spec 810F for all kinds of bumps and bruises -- it's tough. While environmentalists and military enthusiasts aren't always on the same side, that's two features that go together for the outdoorsy type. It's a phone that can be in the wilderness, but also tries to save it. Unfortunately, nothing else about the Intensity is intense. It's not waterproof, so don't go swimming with it. And the design couldn't be more boring. But it's strangely lightweight at just over four ounces, considering how rugged it's supposed to be.

The 2.4-inch screen, meanwhile, has a predictably low 320-by-240 resolution, lackluster 18-bit color and grainy 167-ppi pixel density -- in other words, who cares? It's easy to read text, even outdoors. It's not like you're buying this to watch movies, right? Of course, it's not really suitable for going online -- just calling and sending texts. But the low resolution isn't as big a deal. The slide-out keyboard lets you text faster. But the buttons are flat, so typing accurately can be a problem. Still, the four-row layout is well-designed -- they just sit a little too flush for my liking. The dial buttons and navigation pad on the front are easier to use, so again, it works better the less you want to do with it.

The 2-megapixel camera, meanwhile, is as bare-bones as it gets, and without auto-focus or flash, good luck taking photos in anything but the outdoors. You wouldn't expect much, but oddly, there's a panorama function on it. Mind you, photos still turn out blurry and dull, but that's proof Samsung had the outdoorsman in mind when designing this phone.

And Internet is painfully slow. In this day and age, 2G is inexcusable, not that 4G LTE would have made a difference. But the browser is a mess, and the screen is too small to surf anything -- not to mention, data charges are going to cost an arm and a leg without a plan. You'll have access to basic task management tools, but if you want to use Verizon's map service, for instance, it'll cost an extra $10 a month.

Basically, it's a cheap phone. Like dollar store cheap. Dolly Parton's polyester pants cheap. It's so cheap my sister-in-law who returns almost every present she gets for cash would think it's a piece of crap. Smartphones aren't for everyone, and they can be confusing and complicated. So if you're looking for a simple device, the Intensity does that well, because it doesn't do anything else.

Oh, there's one fun feature: it comes with a "fake call" function. That means if you're in an uncomfortable situations, you can get out of it by pressing the voice command button four times in a row -- it'll ring and you can fake an aunt getting into a fender bender and gracefully exit the awkward situation -- like when someone asks you why you have such a cheap phone.

The 480-megahertz chip is fine for handling calls and messages. Frankly, anything more than a hand-crank would do just fine. The 1,000 mAh battery, meanwhile, keeps the phone powered for days, so you won't have to carry a charger around. The call quality is exceptional too, so if it does one thing well, it's calling. I was actually surprised it comes with a microSD slot that accepts 32-gigabyte cards. That's a generous amount of storage -- for what? I have no idea, but nevertheless, it's there.

If you want a cheap phone, give a low-end Android phone, like the LG Lucid, a look. You can install apps like WhatsApp that'll save you even more money by chatting over the Internet than sending text messages -- and you can actually browse the Web. But you won't have a physical keyboard. If you need that, Verizon has a limited choice -- a few BlackBerrys and the Droid Pro -- none of which is particularly appetizing. But if you insist that you don't need anything, the Intensity 3 is a decent phone if you just want to make calls and send texts.

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User Reviews

I Downgraded

Rating: 1 of 5 | I Regret Buying This on February 19, 2013

One thing I love about the phone? Probably the default "Falling Leaves" background. Maybe the fake call option too... i'm sorry, it's really the only good thing I think of.

When I talk on the phone, people say I sounds really far away. Scrolling though texts is hard. Freezes more than often. It vibrates 3 times for one text message so if I forget to turn my phone on silent in class, I get it taken away. The camera though... Oh Lord, that camera... Is the biggest disappointment of my life. Honestly, you'd think it at least would have flash to make up for the worse than crappy quality and resolution. The zoom is also crap. You will not be able to send anyone pictures of anything that has writing on it and expect them to see what it says because they won't. If you buy this phone, please, please just don't raise your expectations. If you want the bare minimums, then this phone is PERFECT for you. But if you want to do something other than call people for short periods of time and text, then don't buy this phone.

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Not so good...

Rating: 2 of 5 | Joe Smith on January 15, 2013

Easy to set up. Nice weight. Fairly simple menus and navigation structure. Seems fairly durable in construction. Price was ok (upgrade price).

I can't recommend this phone. Battery life on standby seems very low; only about 2-3 days at most. There don't seem to be batteries larger than the supplied 1000mAh. Texting keyboard is fairly hard to type on -- keys are small and not raised enough. Will not synch with Windows XP, I can only transfer photos using a Windows 7 PC. The number keys are not quite large enough for my medium size hands so even dialing a phone numbers requires concentration. I would return it if I could justify that cost-wise; may re-activate an old Motorola Razr phone that still works and keep this as a "next one that breaks" replacement. Disappointing. There is a place for entry-level phones but Verizon and the manufacturers don't seem to want to cover that client base anymore. (I can't justify the monthly cost of a smartphone as I use my WiFi tablet for all of those things, as a 7" screen is much more satisfying than a phone.)

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Not a Smartphone

Rating: 4 of 5 | Anne on November 15, 2013

Shockingly, everyone in the world doesn't want/need a Smartphone or want to pay the extra money for a data package. I just upgraded to the Intensity III from an Intensity I a couple weeks ago. Huge for me. Bigger screen, better sound, better picture quality. The phone is $10 a month on our plan. $10. A. Month. I use the phone to talk and text. I snap some pictures of my daughter, but I don't expect them to be sharp and pristine. They aren't going to be with this phone. However, they work just fine as my wallpaper. I like that I can customize individual text message tones, which was not available on the original Intensity. It also has video capabilities, though I haven't tried it out yet.

The XT9 does not seem to add new words as quickly as my old phone did. Also, the battery doesn't last as long, but I'm sure that has something to do with the bigger screen needing more battery power or something along those lines. I still only need to charge it every other day. I'm also getting used to the new keyboard and keys. The buttons are closer together on this phone and the layout is different.

If you are looking for a basic phone to use as a phone, not a small computer, then I recommend the Intensity III. It does what it is supposed to do. For $10 a month, I can't complain.

I'll say it again one more time, just in case it hasn't gotten through: THIS IS NOT A SMARTPHONE. Don't get it expecting the features of a Smartphone. Don't review it by comparing it to a Smartphone. You might as well be comparing a lizard to a bear.

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Faulty Alarm

Rating: 2 of 5 | Dave P on December 03, 2012

Ease of Texting and quick access through the shortcuts to the alarm, new text, calendar, etc.

I have had an Intensity II for over two years, it running perfect out-of-the box. I purchased an Intensity III for my wife five days ago. The alarm did not work. I took the phone back and got a second one. The alarm still does not work. I would buy another intensity ll, but they are no longer available. I believe the lll series of this phone is not ready for prime time.

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Rating: 5 of 5 | coolperson on December 01, 2012

this phone is very good it is easy to text on and call with very good service!!!

Mine slowed down a little other than that its perfect!

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Great Reception, Long Battery Life

Rating: 5 of 5 | Samantha Jones on July 20, 2012

I love my Samsung Intensity 3. Usually I'm not a fan of cell phones, but this one is so easy to use -- especially for texting. I live out among the mountains, so coverage is really spotty, but I've had no problems with service -- it has amazing reception. In addition, I like to leave my phone on for days, and this one lasts for days.

The only compliant I have is that, when typing, the font on the screen is a little small -- and you can't change it. Otherwise, this phone is great for people who need fast texting, good reception and a long battery.

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Should be called a 2.5

Rating: 4 of 5 | LIatty on January 19, 2013

This phone is not much different from the Intensity 2... certainly not enough to characterize it as a 3. Anyway one major advantage is that you do not need to pay for a data plan with this phone. Also, and I am sure I am revealing my ignorance here, the author states "who texts anymore?" Is that really true, because I do and everyone I know does. ANd what is the replacement for texting, I guess IM?

It claer that the author is still too young to pay the bills.

I am not sure, but I am sure of this: A mechanical keyboard is great and data plans a re a complete rip off. So, the Samsung intensity 3 should be given major kudos.

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Simply Good, But Spacebar Problem

Rating: 4 of 5 | Laura L. on July 10, 2012

This is my first phone with a full keyboard, and overall it's pretty nice to be through with T9 texting -- tap, tap, pause, tap. The phone is as simple as advertised -- it's a sturdy device with an uncomplicated design. Of course, since this isn't a smartphone, you're not going to get all those fancy apps and features. This phone is for someone who just needs a phone. If you want a camera, MP3 player, gaming device, this is the farthest thing from it. But for texting messaging and voice, you won't find a more durable device.

Overall, I have nothing too bad to say about it, except the spacebar can be unresponsive at times. Sometime I'll have to tap it a few times to get it to register.

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Good phone

Rating: 4 of 5 | Al on July 27, 2012

Easy to use menus, nice size and feel to the materials. I like the rugged factor. Good reception, even in areas with spotty coverage.

Battery life seems a little iffy -- one 30 min call will decrease battery by one bar, which is not as good as my old Intensity II. QWERTY keys feel a little odd; I find it can be hard to type on. I agree with previous reviewer about the spacebar -- you have to hit it in the right place.

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Great thus far

Rating: 4 of 5 | Me on February 15, 2013

I just got this phone yesterday, but it's been really great. I don't need a phone with lots of apps, so it fits my purposes well. The texting and call features are good. The fake call feature is also pretty cool.

I don't have many complaints. The quality of calls is questionable. Searching through old texts is a pain and takes a lot of time. I don't have many to search through at the moment, but my friend has nearly the same phone, and I'll look through hers sometimes. It is also REALLY simple. So, if you want to do more than text and call, not the phone for you.

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Annoying and Inflexible

Rating: 1 of 5 | Redd Ruffensore on September 27, 2012

It takes calls, it sends and receives texts. Camera is pretty good for this price range. Music playback is acceptable. Port for auxiliary memory is nicely accessible. Slide-out keyboard is a cute novelty.

Inflexible, unintuitive, needlessly complicated for simple operations.

My first Intensity III totally crapped out after 2 days. My second one is fading after a week.

The most important function of my cell is to take calls. One would think the single big button top center of the keypad would be associated with this operation. One would be wrong. Pushing the big button to answer the phone takes you to a screen of auto-text responses. There does not seem to be a way to permanently defeat this function. Setting Answer to "any key" apparently means "any key except the big one at the center of the keypad." Resetting in Tools offers a temporary fix, sometimes.

You can't take calls until you set up your Verizon voicemail acct. This would be nice to know in advance.

Cute little keyboard -- it too small to do much. Not notably faster than T9 if you have big thumbs.

Verizon add-on with random updates and announcement of who is calling are a novelty that quickly wears thin. Overall, Verizon offers a bunch of on-line "features" but is pretty vague about costs. This could lead to a bad surprise when the bill comes. I don't like surprises.

Camera has a many editing features that are unusable on the tiny screen. Camera itself is serviceable but clunky if you want to rattle off a bunch of shots in a row.

Music playback quality is good, though barebones. You can't adjust EQ settings and use Bluetooth headphones. There's a port for wired headset, but who wants a wired headset?

Bluetooth generally is cranky and seems to interfere with USB operations. Music apparently can't be transferred via Bluetooth, only USB. Verizon/Samsung downloads an "update" program to your computer that interferes with basic transfer functions, so Windows XP can't open phone memory to transfer data. Both USB and Bluetooth seems buggy -- something that should have been worked out by now.

Add-on memory chip (4MB) unaccountably refuses to load above 75% of available space.

Online manual is an annoying PDF. Why not.html with functional links?

My over-all suspicion is that Verizon puts out this bare-bones turkey to force you to pay for something spiffier if you want flexibility, or even acceptable functionality.

My advice: either downgrade to bottom-of-the-line device -- I'm very tempted to get a TracPhone but I'm already committed to a family plan -- or spring for something smarter.

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alarm clock horrible!

Rating: 2 of 5 | Bob Harris on November 03, 2012

easier to text, which I seldom do, than old LG Speaker phone works well for two people talking to our children.

The alarm clock only has one ring tone and it sounds like the charge of the heavy brigade! Neither the manual nor Verizon can find a way to change it to a pleasant wake up call. I'm ready to return it.
difficult to keep from hitting a
'beep' when in my pocket and hard to get out of the carry case when I get a call. My old LG worked better for me in many ways.

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Returning It

Rating: 1 of 5 | Fifi on July 17, 2012

I thought this phone was okay when I first got it. The keyboard is nice to type on, and the simple interface makes it easy to use.

But after a few days, it started to slow down randomly. In addition, it would sometimes stop responding during texting, which really started to bug me. Then, it would freeze when I'd get texts, or during simple menu operations. I don't know if this is a software glitch, but I'd advise you to avoid this phone. I'm going to return mine tomorrow.

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Nothing Sticks in the Memory

Rating: 2 of 5 | Pickem on August 06, 2012

The rugged feel is better than the Intensity 2 I'm replacing. This sentence is only to meet the 20 word minimum. I couldn't actually hit 20 words of "likes." There are no "loves."

Not enough space to list them all. I prefer the round directional keys on the 2 as opposed to the square ones on the 3. VZ Navigator loads but will not run (won't allow me to accept the usage disclaimer). The game Tetris will not save statistics or settings. Feels like I'm the first beta tester of a not ready for release phone. The preloaded "Daily Poop", I mean "Scoop" is annoying to delete. Battery life seems very short. I know everyone at Verizon tech support on a first name basis, including their pets. Terrible, horrible, pathetic.

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I love it

Rating: 5 of 5 | Ali on June 05, 2013

Omg this phone is the best phone it is great for kids that need a starter phone. All of my friends have this phone and they love it It is great for call and texting you can not go wrong with this phone.

The cons are that there are no cons this phone is what I need. This phone has lasted me 10 years it is great

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Its a Phone. Very very very very basic phone

Rating: 3 of 5 | Dat on September 02, 2014

The phone is very sturdy and can call very well. Texting is alright though.

Where do I get started?! The phone takes and receives horrible pictures. Not only that but the spacebar isn't fully a spacebar, only the middle is. The social media is slow, and when you try to send/receive group text messages it has to download the message which takes like 5 minutes. At first my alarm didn't work but after restarting it like 3 times it ended up working. The battery life is decent but its still just a phone. If your looking for basic, this is it.

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simply bad

Rating: 1 of 5 | Samsung intensity on May 10, 2014

It is small light weight and it would not break easily and it has good reception and it is good for texting

It is a older type it is very slow on text and very easy to drop,small keyboard buttons unable to text it's just bad in so many ways I am so sorry for the people who bought it

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The Samsung Intensity 2 was better

Rating: 3 of 5 | Steve from NJ on July 07, 2013

It has a video function that the Intensity 2 didn't have. The display screen is 2.4 inches diagonal rather than the Intensity's II's 2.2 inches. A Fake Call option is available but can only be accessed via the PDF file for directions to make it functional. The camera on the 3 model is 2+ megapixels and seems better than the 2 model which is 1+ megapixels.

A strap / lanyard can not be connected to this phone as there is only one hole and it does not go through for anything to connect to it. This phone is slightly thinner, slightly not as wide and slightly shorter and 1 gram lighter. The battery from the Intensity 2 does not fit the 3 model. The 3 does fit into the 2's leather pouch but since a lanyard can not be attached, it's hard to retrieve when receiving a call, so another plastic $30 clip type holster is available. I'm thinking about putting this phone away until my Intensity 2 is no longer functional as I liked the 2 model better.

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