Editor's note: Ratings have been adjusted with respect to newer devices that have entered the market .
It's been a long time coming, but it looks like the Samsung SCH-i760 for Verizon Wireless was worth the wait. This highly anticipated Windows Mobile 6 smartphone features a slider design that opens up to reveal a full QWERTY keyboard, and yes, while we've seen these type of devices before (e.g., the Sprint Mogul), how many of them had an external dialpad? Zilch. But more than design, the i760 offers business users a full-featured device with messaging capabilities, various wireless options (EV-DO, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi), and good performance. It certainly has its downfalls: the handset is bulky and Verizon has curiously omitted some cool features, like Windows Live integration and V Cast services. It's also pricey at $349.99 with a two-year contract and after rebates, but for Verizon customers looking for a corporate-centric smartphone, the Samsung SCH-i760 is a solid choice.
One look at the Samsung SCH-i760 and you know it means business. Unlike its distant cousin, the Samsung BlackJack, this smartphone isn't about being thin and light. The i760 is built for utility and power. Consequently, this also means it's on the bigger side, measuring 4.4 inches by 2.2 inches by 0.7 inch and weighing 5.2 ounces. It's similar in size to the other slider Pocket PC phones like, as we mentioned, the Sprint Mogul and the AT&T Tilt. Admittedly, the i760 is bulky, especially with the extended battery, and certainly won't easily fit into a pants pocket. It's also a bit slippery (no soft-touch finish) and could get uncomfortable to hold while on a phone call after a while, but the handset is solidly built.
The Samsung SCH-i760 features a 2.8-inch touch screen that displays 65,536 colors at a 320x240 pixel resolution. It's sharp and bright for easy readability, and is viewable in most lighting conditions. Colors washed out a bit in bright sunlight but we were still able to see what was on the screen. We're also a fan of the touch-screen capabilities since it provides an easy and convenient way to launch applications, navigate the menus, input data, and more. There's a stylus included to use with the touch screen, but it's in a weird location. We had some difficulties finding it at first, but finally realized it's the little knob on the lower right side.
Below the display, you also have tactile controls for achieving the same tasks, as well as an alphanumeric dialpad. You won't find an external keypad on too many (if any) Pocket PC phones, and it's a nice option since it saves you the step of calling up the virtual dialpad. The other controls include two soft keys, a Clear button, and a four-way navigation toggle with a central select button. The latter set of buttons are clustered on the left half of the device (see image below), which offsets the position of the soft keys with the corresponding menu items onscreen so that's just something to note. Meanwhile, the Talk and End keys flank the screen but they're tiny slivers, and a bit difficult to press. Another minor complaint is that when you press the Talk button on the left side, it's easy to shift the slider screen, which got to be annoying.
To access the SCH-i760's full QWERTY keyboard, just slide the front cover to the right. This automatically switches the screen orientation from portrait to landscape mode, and unlike some of the other smartphones we've tested, the transition was fairly smooth and without too much of a delay. The keyboard itself is pretty easy to use with sizeable keys and sufficient spacing. It's also well-backlit, but the buttons tend to be a bit slippery.
There are a number of quick-launch buttons on the phone to make for easier one-handed use, but it's a bit overwhelming and will probably take some time before you're completely familiar with the layout and experience. On the left spine of the phone, you'll find a microSD expansion slot and a volume rocker, while the right side has 2.5mm headset jack, a Today/voice recorder launcher, an OK button, and a camera activation key. We do wish there was some kind of jog dial or wheel to more easily scroll through the menus. Finally, the camera lens and the flash are located on the back of the handset.