With the SCH-U550's 1.3-megapixel camera, you can 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 settings, a metering exposure, adjustable ISO, a multishot mode, a self-timer, five color effects, and a digital zoom. There are also a selection of shutter and camera function sounds, or you can silence the phone completely. The camcorder records clips with sound and offers editing options similar to the still camera. Clips meant for multimedia messages are capped at 30 seconds; otherwise you can shoot for as long as the phone's available memory permits. Unfortunately, the photo quality is no better than the SCH-U540's. In other words, it's much too blurry for a megapixel camera. The handset comes with approximately 25MB (an additional 10MB over the SCH-U540) of internal shared memory, plus a MicroSD card slot.
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 Verizon's GPS service, VZ Navigator.
You can personalize the SCH-U550 with a selection of wallpaper, display themes, and clock formats. More options are available from Verizon using the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser, where you also can get more ringtones. The SCH-U550 doesn't come with any games, but you can buy titles if you want them.
We tested the dual-band, dual-mode (CDMA 800/1900; EV-DO) Samsung SCH-U550 in San Francisco using Verizon Wireless service. Call quality wasn't quite up to the usual Verizon standards. Though the volume output was relatively strong, voices sounded hollow, as they did on the SCH-U540. But unlike the SCH-U540, there was a bit of static on the line. On the upside, we had no trouble getting a signal.
Callers said we sounded fine, though they noticed some distortion as well. Also, they had trouble hearing us if we were talking in a place with a lot of background noise. It was the same story with automated calling systems--it was fine when we were inside but when we were outside we had more problems. Speakerphone calls were decent though voices were a tad tinny. On the other hand, the volume level was quite loud.
V Cast steaming video quality wasn't the best we've seen. The quality was pretty choppy with a lot of visible pixels, and the video couldn't handle quick movements very well. The sound quality was a bit better; voices tended to match the speakers' mouths, but the sound had a lot of bass at the higher levels. The same was true for the music quality. At the higher volumes, the audio from the SCH-U550's sole speaker was distorted. Also, the song download took a long time, even with a strong EV-DO connection.
The Samsung SCH-U550 has a rated battery life of 3.53 hours talk time and 8.33 days standby time. Our tests revealed a talk time of 3 hours and 57 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the SCH-U550 has a digital SAR rating rating of 1.39 watts per kilogram.