At a Glance
This phone features an innovative dual-hinge clamshell design with a QWERTY keyboard that makes for easy typing.
When looking for a new phone, I have some very specific priorities. I like phones with a clamshell design; I want a better-than-T9 predictive-text input system for messaging; and I'm tied to Verizon Wireless by the vagaries of signal strength at my house. And with expensive and incredibly cool new models like the iPhone waiting just around the corner, I don't want to spend too much right now. If you're in a similar frame of mind, Samsung's SCH-u740 (available for $200 with a two-year Verizon Wireless contract as of March 23, 2007) is an outstanding choice. If you have less exacting requirements, you'll probably find a better fit elsewhere.
The SCH-u740 pulls off an impressive design feat: Its dual-hinge design lets the phone open horizontally or vertically. Open it like a normal clamshell phone, and you're ready to talk or take pictures. Open it the other way, and you're ready to use the full QWERTY keyboard for text messaging, IM, or e-mail. Though the phone is small--it's almost exactly the same size and weight as a Motorola Razr--its keyboard is incredibly comfortable, thanks to keys that are taller than those on most thumb keyboards. The hinge feels quite solid; after a month of use, I wasn't at all worried that it might wear out down the road.
The dual-hinge design does have a few drawbacks. Most notably, certain features on the phone don't work in both modes. Occasionally I tried to start a game or a message in regular clamshell mode only to be told that the service was available only in rotated mode. You use the NumLock key to access symbols on the QWERTY keyboard, except in the phone's Mobile Web 2.0 browser, which disappointingly shunts them off to a menu option. Oh well. It's not like Web addresses contain lots of punctuation.
Verizon offers a number of text-based services on the SCH-u740. Its Mobile IM app lets you connect to AIM, MSN, or Yahoo instant messaging accounts, though any instant messages you send count as text messages, and you're charged for them as such on your data plan. An e-mail app uses Verizon's Mobile Web 2.0 to access AOL, Hotmail, or Yahoo Mail accounts. For an additional fee, you can download Verizon's Wireless sync e-mail application, which will push e-mail down to your phone Blackberry-style.
The device's battery life was far less impressive than its text capabilities. The SCH-u740 lasted 4.75 hours in our lab tests--better than the quoted talk time of 3.5 hours, but worse than talk time of many phones we've tested. Calls sounded clear at various signal strengths, and the clamshell design makes the phone comfortable to hold for even long calls.
The SCH-u740's built-in, 1.3-megapixel digital camera is easy to use and takes good but not great photos; it can also record short movie clips to its internal memory or to a microSD Card in the phone's slot. Using a card reader, you can also sync MP3 or WMA music to the microSD Card and play it alongside any tunes you download from Verizon's VCast music service. The phone's external playback controls make it easy to switch tracks without opening the device up. Unfortunately, the SCH-u740 doesn't include a headphone jack, so you'll need to supply Bluetooth headphones--or an annoying little adapter--to listen to music.
Despite having a few quirks, the SCH-u740 should appeal to anyone looking for an attractive, inexpensive phone with deep messaging capabilities.