Not every cell phone on Earth needs to pack in all the bells and whistles found on ultra-high-end models like the iPhone. But for those who still want a fair amount of extras at an affordable price, there are handsets like the Samsung Smooth (aka the SCH-U350). This basic mobile for Verizon Wireless costs as little as $29.99 with a contract and comes with some handy extras, such as Bluetooth and a simple Web browser. It doesn't offer the best call quality, but budget-minded users with a hankering for something simple may be willing to overlook this drawback.
The Samsung Smooth's design is pretty underwhelming, but that may not matter to those who want basic functionality and value pricing. The flip phone does feel smooth in the hand and it features a muted black backside and an ever-so-slightly metallic graphite blue faceplate. A small (1-inch) color screen adorns the outer shell, and there's a camera lens just above that. The display shows wallpaper of your choice and--by default--displays the time and date, battery meter, and service bars. It also supports photo caller ID info and it doubles as a self-portrait viewfinder.
Flipping open the Samsung Smooth reveals a standard alphanumeric keypad with large, easy-to-press buttons. The navigation array includes a five-way toggle with a central OK button, two soft keys, Talk and End/power controls, and a clear/back key . These combined with the straightforward onscreen interface make the Smooth quite simple to operate. Plus, there's a dedicated volume toggle on the left edge that's easy to use during calls, and dedicated camera and speakerphone buttons on the right spine. Here, you'll also find the phone's charging port and a 2.5mm headset jack (but you'll have to provide your own headset).
At 1.9 inches, the Smooth's internal display screen isn't particularly impressive, though it gets the job done. However, it's worth noting that while you can adjust the dial font , there is no option to increase the text of menu options. On the plus side, you can adjust the interface in a number of other ways, such as setting your choice of images as wallpaper, tweaking the menu layout between lists and icons, or changing the theme. You also have complete control of the backlight for both the display and the keypad.
Given the affordable pricing, we're fairly impressed with the variety of features that the Smooth offers. You'll find Bluetooth, voice dialing and commands, a speakerphone, and a personal organizer with options like a calendar and a calculator. Still, there are some caveats. Though the phone offers a basic Web browser, using an alphanumeric keypad and the 1.9-inch screen to navigate even the most concisely designed mobile sites is a bit of a chore. Also, while there is an onboard VGA camera, the photo quality isn't great and the features aren't plentiful. We do, however, appreciate the night mode setting, the self timer, and the opportunity to take vanity shots with the external display.