Samsung's penchant for thin cell phones is showing no signs of abating, but we're beginning to think the company is running out of ideas. Over the past year it has shown a particular fondness for one slim model that we're now seeing in its third incarnation. Offered by Alltel, the Samsung SCH-R510's trim candy-bar profile closely resembles both the Samsung SGH-X820 and the Samsung SGH-T519 Trace save for a color change and some redesigned controls. The feature set also shows some changes--this time we get 3G support--but by and large the SCH-R510, or the Wafer, as Alltel calls it, is nothing really new. Call quality was uneven, but if you're into fashion phones, it's a good buy at a $49 price tag with service.
Samsung must have decided it was onto something when it first introduced the Wafer's design. Though it's not the thinnest cell phone around (that's not an easy record to keep), the Wafer does beat the trendsetting Motorola Razr in that department. At 4.5 inches tall by 2 inches wide by 0.3 inch deep and 2.5 ounces, the Wafer shares the same dimensions as the SGH-T519, which makes it slightly bigger than the SGH-X820. But turn it on its side and you'd barely know the difference, as all three handsets have the same bump at the top of the rear face that holds the camera lens.
The Wafer does break ground with a new color scheme. While the SGH-X820 is basic black and the Trace was simple silver, the Wafer features a deep blue skin. It's such a dark shade it looks almost black, but a discerning eye will see the difference. There are also some changes to the navigation controls and keypad. The Wafer has a more defined four-way toggle with larger soft keys and Talk and End/power buttons. We liked this arrangement better, as the toggle has a more tactile surface. Also, while the toggle itself is slightly recessed, the OK button in its center is raised above the surface of the phone. The other navigation controls are flush with the Wafer's front face and are a tad slick but their large size makes them easy to use. Our only real complaint is the Clear key is a tad small.
The keypad buttons are also a tad different. Though they're also completely flat, they have less definition between the individual buttons than on the SGH-X820 or the Trace. It didn't make a huge difference in usability, as dialing by feel is still difficult. The numbers on the keys may be too small for some users, but the backlighting is bright. Completing the outside of the wafer are a volume rocker and a headset/charger jack on the left spine and a camera shutter on the right spine. Unfortunately, Samsung moved the microSD card slot from its easy-to-use place on the right spine to a more inconvenient location behind the battery.
On the other hand, the wafer's display is unchanged from the previous models. The 1.8-inch (220x176 pixels) screen supports 262,000 colors and is great for browsing through the simple menus and viewing photos and graphics. Colors look sharp and the resolution is bright. You can change the backlighting time and the font size and style.
The SCH-R510 Wafer comes with a 500-contact phone book. Each entry holds four phone numbers, two e-mail addresses, and notes. You can organize callers into groups and pair them with a photo and one of 25 polyphonic ringtones. Essential features include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a memo pad, a world clock, a calculator, a currency and unit converter, a tip calculator, a stopwatch, an alarm clock, and a calendar. Higher-end offerings include voice commands and dialing, a speakerphone, a voice recorder, and Bluetooth. Alltel's innovative Celltop user interface is also on board but you aren't forced to activate it if you prefer not to do so. For an analysis of Celltop, please see our review of Alltel's Samsung SCH-u520.