Editor's note: Since the time we posted this review, Verizon has added new V Cast cities. Please see CNET's quick guide to 3G for a complete list.
Samsung's SCH-A890 is the company's first cell phone to take advantage of Verizon's new , which offers 3G multimedia content in select U.S. cities. The handset excels at playing smooth, full-motion video clips, while the integrated 1.3-megapixel camera lets you shoot clips of your own. But the mobile doesn't neglect its primary phone duties either, as we enjoyed satisfactory call quality and battery life. Business users, however, will bemoan the lack of both Bluetooth support and a speakerphone. With a list price of $319, the SCH-A890 is pricey, but you should be able to find it for less with service. Similar in style to most of the company's phones, the Samsung SCH-A890 has a fairly traditional silver clamshell design. It weighs a slightly hefty 4 ounces and measures 3.5 by 1.9 by 0.9 inches, which gives it a solid feel that is comfortable to hold while talking. It also opens and closes with authority, but the extendable antenna is a bit flimsy. The postage-stamp external display supports 65,000 colors and displays the date, the time, battery life, signal strength, photos, and caller-ID information (where available). You can't change the backlighting though, and the display is rather hard to see when it is turned off.
The 1.3-megapixel camera is set into the handset's hinge and swivels so you can take self-portraits easily with the external display. A flash sits just below the lens, while a multicolored LED is embedded behind the Samsung logo on the front flap. A dedicated camera button sits on the right spine, and a volume rocker and headset jack are located on the left spine.
Inside the phone is a relatively large 2-inch-diagonal display that supports an eye-popping 262,000 colors. It is great for viewing photos and videos and makes 3D games playable. But be advised that you can't change the font size and the screen is hard to see, both in direct sunlight and when the adjustable backlighting is turned off. Below the display are the navigation keys for maneuvering through the user-friendly menus, available in two styles. A four-way toggle acts as a shortcut to messaging, the Web browser, Verizon's Get It Now service, and one user-defined function. There's also an OK button in the toggle's center, which is always a plus, and we appreciated the toggle's large size. Other controls consist of two soft keys, a Clear button, and the traditional Talk and End keys.
The keypad buttons were a distraction, however. Though they are well-spaced and have a bright backlighting, they are flush with the surface of the phone. As a result, it was difficult to dial by feel.The Samsung SCH-A890's key selling point is its compatibility with service, which offers a variety of streaming video content at data speeds of 300Kbps to 500Kbps. Yet the phone is loaded with other features as well. The address book can store as many as 500 contacts with room in each entry for multiple phone numbers, an e-mail address, a Web address, and notes. Other calling features include caller groups, voice-activated dialing (see below), and picture-caller ID (on the external screen). Contacts also can be paired with any of 40 polyphonic or 5 monophonic ring tones. The A890 also comes with a vibrate mode; text and multimedia messaging; a WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser; and a suite of basic productivity applications, including a calendar, a to-do list, a voice-memo recorder, an alarm clock, a memo pad, a world clock, and a calculator.
The voice-activated dialing is based on VoiceSignal's technology, which lets you dial names, numbers, or access virtually any phone option by voice. Unlike many voice-recognition systems, VoiceSignal does not require you to train it first, but this also means that anyone can use the voice-command system for your phone. This type of voice recognition would be great with a wireless headset, but sadly, the A890 doesn't support Bluetooth.