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Samsung Alias 2 SCH-U750 (Verizon Wireless) review: Samsung Alias 2 SCH-U750 (Verizon Wireless)

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The Alias 2 has a 1,000-contact phone book with room in each entry for five phone numbers, two e-mail addresses, a street address, and notes. You also can save a dedicated emergency number. For further personalization, you can save callers to groups, pair them with a photo and assign one of 20 polyphonic ringtones.

Other essentials include a vibrate mode, a calculator, a calendar, an alarm clock, a stopwatch, a world clock, a unit and currency converter, and a tip calculator. Though the Alias 2 isn't a true smartphone, you'll find a few higher-end options, as well. It offers stereo Bluetooth, speaker independent voice dialing and commands, USB mass storage, and a file manager. Wi-Fi, which would be useful on a messaging phone, is not an option.

As you'd expect, the Alias 2 offers a respectable number of messaging options. Besides text and multimedia messaging, there's instant messaging, chat, and e-mail. POP3 e-mail access for accounts like AOL, Yahoo, and Hotmail is limited to a clunky Web-based interface. RemoSync service offers access to push e-mail from corporate accounts as well as calendar, notes, and contacts syncing. We tried syncing our work e-mail and were mostly pleased with the results. The initial sync took a few minutes, but after that the process as pretty smooth. The service will cost you $9.99 per month. We'd much prefer to have such a cost included in an umbrella monthly data plan. The same goes for Verizon's Visual Voicemail, which is $2.99 per month. Add up all those extra costs and you get an expensive monthly plan. At that rate, it's better to get a real smartphone with a comprehensive data plan.

As an EV-DO phone, the Alias 2 supports the full range of Verizon's 3G services, including V Cast streaming video content, and the V Cast Music with Rhapsody. Both the V Cast menu and music store interface are pretty much unchanged from other Verizon phones. Player options include the usual limited shuffle and repeat modes, but V Cast Music also will recommend other songs based on your playlist. The Alias 2 includes an airplane mode for listening to your tunes while aloft.

The Alias 2's camera doesn't have a flash.

The Alias 2 has a 2-megapixel camera. You can take pictures in five resolutions from 1,600x1,200 pixels down to 160x120, and you can choose from three quality settings. Other options are plentiful and include a self-timer, a multishot mode, five color tones, four white-balance effects, an adjustable ISO, spot metering, a brightness control, and three shutter sounds (plus a silent option). There's also a 10x digital zoom, though it's unusable at the highest resolution. The Alias 2 doesn't offer a flash, which we expect on a 2-megapixel phone. Camera quality was quite good, however, with bright colors and little image noise.

The Alias 2 has admirable photo quality.

The camcorder takes clips with sound in two quality settings. You also get about the same number of editing options that are on the still camera. Clips meant for multimedia messages are capped at 30 seconds; otherwise you can shoot according to the available memory. The Alias 2 offers about 100MB of user-accessible internal memory, which is quite respectable. For more storage, the external memory slots will handle microSD cards up to 18GB.

The Alias 2 supports Verizon's VZ Navigator GPS service. You'll have to download it and pay an extra $2.99 per day of use. You can get other application downloads from Verizon using the WAP 2.0 Web browser. The Alias 2 doesn't come with any games, but titles are available for purchase. You can personalize the phone with a variety of wallpaper, clock formats, and banners. More options and additional ringtones are available from Verizon. Unfortunately, you can't use music tracks as ringtones.

We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900) in San Francisco using Verizon Wireless service. As mentioned, the Alias 2 also supports EV-DO, though it is not a Rev. A device. Call quality was quite good on the whole. Conversations were clear, the volume was loud, and the consistently strong signal didn't suffer from interference or static. What's more, we were able to talk in most environments without any problems. On the downside, the sound tended to be somewhat harsh and even robotic at times. It was a minor issue, though, and it didn't distract from our experience.

On their end, callers were mostly positive. In fact, a few couldn't tell that we were using a cell phone. We made calls in noisy environments and in a quiet room. Callers noticed few changes between the two areas. However, some reported that background noise increased when we were outside; it wasn't significant, they said, and it's hardly an unusual occurrence on a cell phone. Automated calling systems could understand us, but it was best if we were in a quiet room. Speakerphone calls were fine for the most part. The sound quality diminished somewhat, but the volume was loud. Also, we could speak a few feet away from the phone and still be heard.

Streaming video quality was fine, though we've seen better on other Verizon phones. Videos downloaded quickly thanks to the strong EV-DO connection and only one clip paused to buffer midway through playing. There was some visible pixelation, but most onscreen action was pretty smooth. Also, the sound was in sync with the action on the display. It's most comfortable to watch the videos in landscape mode, even though the frame takes up only half of the screen.

Its music quality was satisfying. The audio isn't especially rich, and like many music phones there was an audible tinny effect, but it is fine for short stints of listening. Headphones will provide a better experience, though we wouldn't use the Alias 2 as our sole music device. Songs downloaded quickly from V Cast Music, and we added a 3.7MB song in about a minute.

The Alias 2 has a rated battery life of 5 hours talk time and 16 days standby time. We managed to get 5 hours and 54 minutes worth of talk time in our tests. According to the FCC, the Alias 2 has a digital SAR of 0.541 watts per kilogram.

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