Though Alltel's Samsung Hue II is an update to the original Samsung Hue, the two phones share few characteristics beyond their flip designs. While the first Hue had a vertical external display with red bands on either side, the Hue II features a standard external display with dedicated music controls. The design change made no difference to us, but we liked the higher resolution camera and the improved navigation controls. Call quality was decent, though that may change following Alltel's merger with Verizon Wireless. The Hue II is just $19.99 with a service plan and a $50 mail-in rebate, but it will cost you as much as $239 if you pay full price.
The Hue II has a fairly standard flip phone design. It's not quite as boxy as the original Hue, but it's a bit bigger and heavier at 3.8 inches tall by 1.9 inches wide by 0.7 inch deep and weighing 3.4 ounces. Even with the added girth, it slips comfortably into a pocket and has a solid feeling in the hand. Yet, we couldn't help but notice that the hinge feels rather loose. The blue faceplate and battery cover are removable, though the replaceable gray plates that come in the box are pretty boring.
The external display is rather small--just 1 inch diagonally--but it manages to cram in all the information you'll need, including the date, time, battery life, signal strength, and numeric caller ID. The 65,000-color (96x96 pixels) display also supports photo caller ID and it works as a viewfinder for the camera lens, which is located just above.
Below the Hue II's display are dedicated controls for the integrated music player. Pressing the play/pause button will start the player automatically and you can use the skip/rewind controls and the external display to move through your playlist without opening the phone. The left spine holds the volume rocker and proprietary headset charger port. A 3.5mm headset jack (nice!), a camera shutter, and the microSD card slot sit on the right spine. You'll find a large speaker on the back of the phone.
The Hue II has a large, 2.2-inch internal display that supports 262,000 colors (220x176 pixels). The screen is both bright and colorful and it offers sharp graphics and animations. You can choose between list- and icon-based menu designs, both of which are easy to use. You can also alter the backlight time, the dialing font size, and the contrast of the front display.
Fortunately, the Hue II's navigation array and keypad are improved from its predecessor. While the first Hue had flat, slippery controls, the Hue II's buttons have a sturdier feel. They're also flat with the surface of the phone, but the spacious design limits misdials. The backlighting is a tad dim, but it's not a big deal. The array consists of a square toggle with a central OK button, two soft keys, dedicated speakerphone, music player buttons, the Talk and End/power buttons, and a back key.
The phone book holds 500 contacts, with room in each entry for five phone numbers and two e-mail addresses. You can save callers to groups and you can pair them with a photo and one of 14 polyphonic ringtones. Other essentials on the Hue II include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a calendar, a memo pad, an alarm clock, a world clock, a calculator, a stopwatch, a currency and unit converter, and a tip calculator.
The Hue II offers a few extra features beyond the basics. Inside you'll find Bluetooth, voice commands, instant messaging, Web-based POP3 e-mail, and GPS with support for turn-by-turn directions from Alltel Navigation and Telenav. Support for XM radio is included as well, but you'll need to download the app to the phone.
The MP3 player is fairly basic; features are limited to playlists and repeat and shuffle modes. Yet, it supports album art, an equalizer-style graphic, and it can even display lyrics for certain songs. Transferring songs to the phone is pretty easy with a microSD card; just keep in mind that you must insert a card to use the player. You also can use Alltel's Music Connect to purchase tunes from eMusic and transfer them from your PC to the Hue II.