The 1.3-megapixel camera allows you to take pictures in five resolutions (1,280x960, 640x480, 320x240, 160x120, and 128x96). Other camera features include a night mode, brightness and white balance controls, three quality modes, a metering exposure, adjustable ISO, a multishot mode, a self-timer, seven color effects, and a digital zoom. There are also a fair number of shutter and camera function sounds, or you can silence it completely. The camcorder records clips with sound and offers editing options similar to the still camera. Clips meant for multimedia messages are capped at 15 seconds; otherwise you can shoot for as long as the phone's available memory permits. Overall, the SCH-U540's photo quality is much too blurry for a megapixel camera. The handset comes with approximately 15MB of internal shared memory so we suggest relying on a memory card.
As an EV-DO phone, the SCH-U540 supports the full range of Verizon's 3G services including the V Cast video service and the V Cast music store. The music player's interface is identical to those on other Verizon phones. You also have the option to purchase a variety of Verizon applications including VZ Navigator and ChaperoneParent.
You can personalize the SCH-U540 with a variety of alert tones, display themes, wallpaper, screensavers, and banners. You can always buy more options if you're dissatisfied with what comes on the phone, or you can get more ringtones. Unfortunately, the phone does not come with any games.
We tested the dualband, dualmode (CDMA 800/1900; EV-DO) Samsung SCH-U540 in San Francisco using Verizon Wireless service. Call quality was decent overall, though voices sounded a tad hollow; almost as if the sound was coming from across a room. It wasn't a huge problem but voices didn't always sound natural. There was plenty of volume though, and we experienced no interference from other electronic devices. Also, we had no problem getting a signal.
On their end, callers said we sounded fine with little distortion or static. They also reported acceptable volume, even when we were in a noisy environment. Speakerphone and Bluetooth headset calls were about the same; calls were quite loud and neither party had much trouble understanding the other. We had less luck when calling a voice-automated service, however. We had to repeat ourselves a few times to be understood, even when we were in a quiet room.
Music quality was quite satisfactory. The stereo speakers provided a decent output and the audio quality was good. Also, we had no issues hearing the music even when we were on a busy street. Still, we prefer using a stereo headset, albeit a wired one, for the best experience. Just remember that like most cell phone speakers the audio can be a bit bass heavy; this isn't the type of crystal-clear sound that will rival your home stereo system. The EV-DO connection remained strong for the most part; it took about 2.5 minutes to download a 3.7MB track, which isn't bad. Video quality wasn't as good. Though videos weren't pixilated and never paused for rebuffering, they were a bit jerky and the voices didn't quite match the speakers' mouths.
The Samsung SCH-U540 has a rated battery life of 3.5 hours talk time and 8.3 days standby time. We managed to eke out a talk time of 4 hours, 20 minutes in our tests. According to FCC radiation tests, the SCH-U540 has a digital SAR rating of 1.34 watts per kilogram.