If you want a simple cell phone that will get an "Oooh!" out of your friends, the Samsung SCH-N330 for Verizon may be just what you're looking for. With a full-color display that pops up like a tiny jack-in-the-box, this candy bar-model design has a definite cool factor that distinguishes it from more basic handsets. In terms of features, the N330 eschews often-unnecessary bells and whistles, such as a camera that can complicate a phone's ease of use while adding to its price. But it gets high grades for performing a mobile's primary purpose: communicating. Available from Verizon for $70 with a two-year contract or $119 with a one-year deal, it's also a bargain. With its saddle shoe-like white-and-powder-blue color scheme and its resemblance to a shaver, the unpretentious Samsung SCH-N330 can best be described as cute, with a form factor likely to appeal to women. Measuring 3.8 by 1.9 by 0.9 inches and weighing just 3.9 ounces, the N330 will protrude only slightly from a tight jeans pocket and is slim enough to tuck into a clutch purse. Its design is casual enough for everyday use but has enough elegant touches, such as glossy silver keys, to be comfortably carried in more formal social settings.
At first glance, you'll notice that half of the 1.6-inch-diagonal, 65,000-color display screen is obscured, with just enough space to display the time if the clock wallpaper is chosen. But simply press the twin white keys on the left and right spines simultaneously, and the spring-loaded screen pops up to its full size. While clean and colorful, the display is not nearly as bright as the one on the similarly designedfrom Sprint, which uses a sliding keypad to cover its LCD screen. The screen is suitable, though, for viewing the user-friendly menus.
Releasing the slide activates a cool blue backlight behind the keys. When down, the slide acts as a key guard, preventing you from making calls. In fact, the slide has to be up even to power on the phone. Calls, however, can be answered with the slide closed. But because the Talk key is locked, you must use the left soft key to open the connection. It's a minor point but worth noting. You can also set the N300 to automatically answer calls when the slide is released and to end them when it is closed; however, the slide doesn't lock in the up position, so you'll have to keep a finger against it to prevent it from slipping down (thus, losing your call). It's best to program the phone so that you can answer and talk with the display in either position. Though the mobile seems solidly constructed, we were concerned with the long-term durability of the slide mechanism. That said, we played with the slide almost continually (it became sort of a nervous habit), and it worked every time. Samsung assured us it tested the spring exhaustively to make sure it would stand up to rough real-world handling.
Under the screen-release key on the left side is the speakerphone button (operable only after a call is active) and the up/down volume-toggle keys. Besides the 2.5mm headphone jack, there's nothing on the right side except the other screen-release button. The small five-way navigation toggle has direct-access keys to the Web browser, the message center, and the Get It Now shopping area. Additionally, while the up direction is preprogrammed to access the voice-memo function, it can be reprogrammed to access any menu item desired. The soft keys above the Send and End keys access the main menu and the phone book. The distaff appeal of the N330 is a good thing because the small but well-spaced curved dial-pad keys seem designed with smaller fingertips in mind. With not a lot of real estate on the keys, the backlit numbers and especially the letters on each key are not easy to read. Yet the keys are raised above the surface of the phone, making it easy to dial by feel.