The Samsung SCH-U420, otherwise called the Nimbus, is one of the hottest new phones to come to Alltel Wireless, a large regional mobile-phone company that mainly focuses on the southeastern and southwestern parts of the country, but has low-cost roaming agreements with Verizon and Sprint for nationwide service. The SCH-U420 is the latest in a line of sleek Samsung sliders, much like the previous Samsung SGH-D807 from Cingular and the Samsung SGH-T809 from T-Mobile. It's also the first Alltel phone to feature Axcess technology, a new service from the carrier that lets you surf the Net and download XM radio content, ring tones, games, and more. You can get not one but two of them for $49.99 with a two-year plan.
There's no question that the SCH-U420 is centered on design. While not anything new, its slim slider form factor is still unquestionably attractive. The phone measures a compact 3.7 by 1.8 by 0.6 inches and weighs only 3.2 ounces, resulting in a tremendously light feel in the hand. The phone slides open upward with a slight push on the bottom end, and slides closed with a little more force from the top. Opening the phone one-handed feels pretty natural, but we found closing the phone to be more of a two-hand operation.
Definitely one of the most eye-catching aspects of the SCH-U420 is its luscious 1.8-inch 262,000-color screen. The colorful menu icons appeared to pop from the display, and we liked how the fonts were easy on the eyes. You can change the backlighting time of the display and the keypad, but there's no contrast or brightness setting. The font settings for the dialing text are changeable, either in terms of size or style, but the same settings don't apply for other texts.
The navigation keypad underneath the screen consists of two soft keys, a rectangular four-way toggle with a middle OK button, and the Send, Clear, and End/Power keys along the bottom. The toggle also acts as shortcuts to a contacts list, the Axcess Shop, the wireless Web browser, and the ringer-type menu where you can select a ring tone. Slide the phone up to reveal the dial pad, which wasn't the best we've seen. Besides being slippery, the keys were flat with the surface of the phone. While they were easy to press and dial, we still thought they were a bit too smooth for our tastes. The left spine of the SCH-U420 is home to a thin volume rocker, while the right spine houses a dedicated speakerphone key and a dedicated camera key, both of which are similarly skinny. The camera lens is located on the back of the phone at the very top, which is only revealed when the phone is opened. Next to the camera lens is a self-portrait mirror and an LED flash.