Ever since we first played with the Samsung F700 last year at CTIA, we've been waiting for it to come to America. And starting today, it finally has arrived on our shores--at least in a way. The new Samsung Glyde SCH-U940 for Verizon Wireless offers the same slider design that attracted us to the original F700, but in making the transition to CDMA, the phone has been thoroughly revamped to a Verizon device. The weighty feature set includes Bluetooth, a full HTML browser, GPS navigation, a 2.0-megapixel camera, and 3G. You can also bang out messages quickly on the full QWERTY keyboard. It's a powerful and well-performing handset by most accounts, but the display is too small to do the touch-interface justice. As such, we prefer the LG Voyager VX1000 and even AT&T's iPhone. The Glyde is $249 with service.
You could say the Glyde resembles the iPhone, but to do so neglects the fact that the Glyde's GSM cousin, the Samsung F700, was born before Apple's device. But even so, the similarities between the handsets are obvious. At 4.09 inches by 1.97 inches by 0.7 inch and at 4.13 ounces, the Glyde is slightly smaller than the F700, but they both rely on a touch screen with a single button just below. Touch-screen handsets certainly are "in" these days; in the past year we've seen not only the iPhone and the Voyager, but also the LG Prada, the LG Glimmer, the HTC Touch, and the LG Vu. And coming up shortly, Sprint will start selling its attractive Samsung Instinct.
Though the Glyde has the added benefit of a full alphabetic keyboard, when you compare it with the rival handsets listed above, it's the least successful at integrating its touch interface. Though the 262,000-color display is bright and beautiful, it measures only 2.75 inches, which is pretty small as touch screens go. It left us feeling a bit cramped, and at times we had to take care to avoid hitting the wrong selection. Nimble-fingered users and those with small hands probably won't have a problem, but anyone with decently-sized digits will need to practice. Normally we hate a big clunky cell phone, but bigger really is better on a touch-screen device.
On the upside, we were glad to see that the Glyde's touch screen offers haptic vibrating feedback, and we like that you can adjust the length of the vibration. The adjustable touch sensitivity is another plus, but even on its highest setting, the display felt a little sluggish. It wasn't a huge problem, but on a few occasions we needed to press a selection twice. Also, there were other times, particularly when we were touching the edge of the display, where the display wouldn't register our choice correctly. From the home screen you're offered a few selections. At the top of the display are three touch controls for the dialpad, the main menu, and your contacts list. The dialpad has a traditional 12-button design, plus dedicated Talk and End controls, a clear button, and shortcuts for your contacts and recent calls lists. This is the best way to dial numbers, as the QWERTY keyboard lacks dedicated numeric keys. Fortunately, the touch dialpad is easy to use. You also can use it to type messages, but we're not sure why you'd want to.
The main menu shows the new Verizon design that uses icons instead of the confusing tabs seen on other Verizon handsets. Unfortunately, the convoluted organizational system remains. We still don't get why the camera is under the "Get it Now" menu. On the other hand, we like that on the main menu page, intersecting blue bars show where you're pressing. And even better, the bars will follow your finger around the display as you swipe.
In the center of the Glyde's display is a small blue square. Though it's not marked as such, it takes you to a shortcuts menu with 12 user-programmable icons. Though we like having everything at our fingertips, this is one menu where we felt a little crowded. You can choose from a variety of wallpaper including two options that are interactive. One allows you to move stars in constellations around the sky, while the other lets you interact with a two-dimensional graphic of a Rubik's Cube. The former is fun, but the latter is enough to drive you crazy. At the bottom of the display is another shortcut bar that takes you to seven set functions including the speakerphone, the message in-box, the missed calls list, the calendar, and the alarm clock. It's a nice feature, but we wish that the bar was a little bigger.
To expose the alphabetic keyboard, just turn the phone to the left and then slide up the front face. The slider mechanism is well constructed; you can open and close it with one hand, and it snaps into place. The keyboard is spacious and tactile even if the buttons are almost flush. We had no issues with banging out long messages, but the Glyde doesn't balance well on a table when opened. There's a dedicated button for each letter of the alphabet. As previously mentioned, however, there are no dedicated numeric buttons. Other buttons include a shift key, a function button for typing punctuation and numbers, a back control, a return key, and arrow controls for moving around a typed message. The space bar is well positioned in the middle of the bottom row. You can make calls with the phone open, but they go directly to the speakerphone.
In contrast to the Voyager, the Glyde's keyboard does not offer any navigation controls so you must use the touch screen at all times. You can move through a long menu or a Web page by pressing and dragging your finger across the display. That display responds smoothly most of the time (more on that later), but constantly moving your finger back and forth between the display and the keyboard can take a little getting used to. When opening the keyboard, the display changes to a landscape orientation automatically. The onscreen menu options remain the same except that you also get a handy messaging shortcut.
The Glyde's right spine includes a volume rocker/camera zoom, a camera shutter, and a power control. The latter control also locks the display to avoid any misdials. To unlock the phone, just press the icon on the screen. It's an efficient arrangement, except when you're on a call and you need to unlock the screen to hang up, turn on the speakerphone, or mute your line. You can turn the autolock off, but we much prefer how the iPhone's display goes dark when you put the Apple phone next to your ear. Also, when you're on a call and the backlighting turns off, you must press the Home button to light the screen again.
As we said earlier, the Home button just below the display will return you to the standby screen. The camera lens, flash, and self-portrait mirror are on the back of the device. When it's held horizontally with the camera buttons pointing up, the Glyde takes on the ergonomics of a standalone camera. The headset port and the headset jack are (thankfully) separated, but you'll have to remove the battery cover to access the memory card slot.
The Glyde is packed with features, but we'll first start with the basics. The 500-contact phone book is a tad small, but each entry can hold the standard five phone numbers, two e-mail addresses, and notes. You can save callers to groups and pair them with a photo or one of seven, 72-chord polyphonic ringtones (a measly selection, to say the least). Other essentials include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a calculator, a calendar, an alarm clock, a stop watch, a world clock, and a notepad. You also get text-to-speech functionality.
More demanding users will find a decent selection of other options. There's stereo Bluetooth, speaker independent voice recognition, a voice memo recorder, and instant messaging. Verizon's VZ Navigator provides turn-by-turn directions and a host of other features. E-mail support is included, as well, but without a dedicated e-mail app, the experience isn't easy. The Glyde supports Yahoo Mail, Windows Live, Gmail, and AOL Mail accounts, but you must log onto the Web browser to use them. Also, you must access each account individually and you can't view attachments. IMAP4 e-mail is an even trickier proposition. The Glyde doesn't offer e-mail MicorsoftActive Sync, so it's not the best option for road warriors. Also, there's no Wi-Fi for times when you're away from 3G coverage.
Streaming video quality was comparable to other V Cast phones. The picture was relatively sharp with decent graphics, but there was some color distortion, and quick movements were pixelated and blurry. Also, small text--like subtitles--was difficult to read. Videos never paused for rebuffering, and the player didn't freeze. Sound quality on videos was rather hollow, but voices matched the speakers' mouths. Fortunately, music quality was more satisfying. The sole speaker provides decent output, but as is usually the case on a music phone, the sound is distorted at the highest levels. A headset will provide the best experience.