We don't get the opportunity to review many U.S. Cellular phones, but when the Samsung TwoStep came along, we knew we had to grab it. First off, we can't resist a music phone, and secondly, we love us a scroll wheel. So after the good people at U.S. Cellular finally discovered that CNET existed and sent us a review model, we had the chance to put it through its paces. On the whole it is a well-designed and easy-to-use handset with a functional, if not flashy, feature set. The music player won't wow audiophiles, but it accomplishes its goal respectably. In the end, the TwoStep remains a good choice for a low-end multimedia phone, even if its call quality could be a tad better. The TwoStep is an affordable $159.99, but you can get it for $49.99 with a two-year contract, or even for free with a mail-in rebate.
If it weren't for its scroll wheel, the Samsung TwoStep would have a rather standard flip phone design. Straight lines and sharp corners predominate; it's really just a big rectangle. But that's not to say that the phone is unattractive. You can get it in purple, orange, and red versions--we tried the purple mode, but the features are the same on all handsets.
The TwoStep measures 3.58 inches by 1.77 inches by 0.75 inch and weighs 3.6 ounces. It's portable and despite the plastic casing, it has a nice feel in the hand. The external display is smaller than we'd like, but it shows the date, time, battery life, signal strength, and caller ID. It also works as a viewfinder for the camera lens.
Below the display is the aforementioned scroll wheel. It's relatively spacious and tactile, though we wish there was more definition between the wheel and the central OK button. As expected, you can activate the player without opening the phone and you can use the wheel to scan through a long playlist. It's an intuitive and easy process. Stereo speakers are well-positioned on either side of the wheel.
The exterior of the phone holds a few more controls. On the left spine are a volume rocker and a Micro-USB slot. The latter accommodate both USB syncing cables and the charger. On the right spine you'll find a microSD card slot, a camera shutter, and (hallelujah!) a 3.5mm headset jack.
Inside the TwoStep is the 2-inch, 262,000-color (220x176 pixels) display. It's pretty standard as cell phone displays go with relatively bright colors and decent graphics. It's not eye-popping by any means, but it gets the job done. The intuitive menus come in list and icon styles; you can change the dialing font size, backlighting time, and the clock format.
On the whole, the keypad array is spacious, but the toggle is another story. Not only is it cramped, but it's also flush and rather slippery. Indeed, we had some trouble differentiating between the square toggle and the central OK button. Surrounding the toggle are two soft keys, a speakerphone control, Talk and End/power buttons, a music player shortcut, and a clear key. The toggle doubles as a shortcut to four functions and you can set one of the soft keys as a user-defined shortcut.
The keypad buttons give you a lot of room, but they're also flat with the surface of the phone. Yet, we could dial and text quickly with ease. The numbers on the keys are large and the backlighting is bright.
The TwoStep has a 500-contact phone book with room in each entry for four phone numbers and an e-mail address. You can add contacts to groups and you can pair them with one of 13 (72-chord) polyphonic ringtones, or you can choose one of the cheesy preloaded sound effects. Unfortunately, you can't save music tracks as ringtones.
Other essentials include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a calendar, a memo pad, an alarm clock, a world clock, a calculator, a stopwatch, a unit and currency converter, and a tip calculator. You'll also find a speakerphone, speaker-independent voice commands, and stereo Bluetooth.