As Verizon Wireless is wont to do, the carrier is unleashing all its goodies right before the holiday season, from the RIM BlackBerry Storm to the HTC Touch Pro to the subject of this review, the Samsung Saga. Like the Samsung Ace for Sprint, the Saga offers world-roaming capabilities but expands its capabilities with the addition of a touch screen, optical mouse, and Windows Mobile 6.1. Plus, with its full QWERTY keyboard, sleeker design, and faster performance, it's a better fit for Verizon's globetrotting executives than the RIM BlackBerry Storm. The Samsung Saga is available now through Verizon Wireless for an affordable $199.99 with a two-year contract.
The Samsung Saga falls into the sleek QWERTY category of smartphones and doesn't stray far from the design of the company's other messaging-centric devices, including the Samsung Epix and the Samsung Ace. The Saga measures 4.8 inches tall by 2.4 inches wide by 0.5 inch deep and weighs 4.6 ounces, so it's a bit tall but thin enough to not be too cumbersome. It's also light and feels comfortable to hold both on a call and while composing messages. The Saga also stands out with a blue soft-touch finish, while the outer edges have a black leatherette texture similar to the back of the RIM BlackBerry Bold.
Like the Epix, the Samsung Saga features a touch screen so you can select items and launch applications by tapping the screen. Unlike the Epix, there is no haptic feedback on the Saga so you won't feel any vibrations when you touch the display. Though we like having the haptic feedback to provide confirmation that the screen has registered your touch, the lack of this feature on the Saga isn't a deal breaker. The display measures 2.5 inches diagonally and shows 65,536 colors at a 320x320-pixel resolution, so images and text look sharp and bright. You can customize the Today screen with various themes, background images, and more. The default Verizon Wireless theme provides access to a lot of information from the Today screen, including tabs for Connection, Favorites, Contacts, and Settings.
Below the display, there is a standard navigation array of two soft keys, Talk and End buttons, a Start menu shortcut, an OK button, and a directional keypad/optical mouse. Like the Epix and the Samsung Omnia, the optical mouse function places a mouselike cursor onscreen that you can maneuver by moving your finger on the circular trackpad below the display and then depressing the button selects an item. The trackpad is larger than the one found on the Epix and Omnia, so it made it easy to use the optical mouse and we found it quite a convenient way to navigate the smartphone. If you find that you don't like it, you can switch modes and use the control as a traditional directional keypad.
The Saga's full QWERTY keyboard is reminiscent of the Epix. The buttons are slightly on the smaller side but there's adequate spacing between the keys. Also, unlike the BlackJack II, the keyboard isn't so stiff and hard to press, so we had a better typing experience on the Saga. We were able to compose some fairly lengthy e-mails and text messages with minimal errors. There is no dedicated number row; rather it shares space with the letter keys, but they're highlighted in white so they're easy to identify when looking at the keyboard. There are also some shortcuts on the bottom row of keys, including Messages and Music.
On the left side, there's a volume rocker and a lock button, and on the right spine, there's a proprietary Samsung power connector and a camera activation button. The top of the unit has a 2.5mm headset jack, a stylus, and a power button. You'll find the camera, self-portrait mirror, and speaker on the back of the phone. Finally, the SIM card holder and microSD/SDHC expansion slot are located behind the battery cover, but we had an awfully hard time trying to remove the battery door.
Verizon Wireless packages the Samsung Saga with a travel charger with various international adapters, a USB cable, a SIM card, software CDs, and reference material. For more add ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ring tones, and help page.
The Samsung Saga brings another world phone to Verizon's smartphone lineup, joining the RIM BlackBerry Storm and the older RIM BlackBerry 8830 World Edition. The Saga's dual-mode functionality allows the phone to automatically switch between CDMA and GSM networks to offer seamless international roaming, all while keeping the same phone number. The smartphone ships with a SIM card preinstalled but note that the phone does not support domestic GSM bands, so you can't swap in an AT&T or T-Mobile SIM card. To check for international coverage and roaming charges, you can check Verizon's Web site. The carrier also offers technical support if you need help while overseas, including a 24-hour Global Help Desk that's open seven days a week and you also get a calling card for free support calls while traveling outside of the United States from any landline phone to technical support in case your Saga is lost, broken, or stolen.