Samsung is sticking to its slider guns with the Soul U900, which incorporates modern technology into a classic design. Frills aside, we wanted to make sure that the Soul wasn't a hollow, gimmick-led phone with no oomph.
When we first saw the Samsung Soul at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, we didn't understand the fuss. Taking it out of the box months later, we've changed our minds -- not only does it feel weighty enough but on second glance, it's also rather attractive.
The Soul sits just right in our hand. A part metal casing gives it a solid look and feel. Everything is well laid out from the keypad to the screen. Some people might find it too chunky, but we think Samsung's hit the nail on the head, size-wise.
We weren't impressed by LG's attempt at using dual screens on the KF600but the Soul pulls it off. The navigation touchscreen at the bottom is very responsive and provides an adequate amount of vibrating feedback.
Fortunately, all the heavily-used keys such as cancel and soft keys are mechanical. You can avoid the irritation of deleting a whole text message -- as you could on the Samsung E900 -- when you mistakenly brushed the touch-sensitive cancel key.
It looks like Samsung acknowledges its past mistakes and has cleverly engineered the Soul. The 5-megapixel camera, for example, is protected behind the slide mechanism, which is a small detail that adds to the overall user experience.
The aim of having a navigation touchscreen seemed redundant at first, but starts to make sense when you use the Soul. When you access an app such as the camera, it offers a series of camera keys making it easier to change all the settings.
LG tried to achieve a similar thing on the KF600 but the often unresponsive touchpad left us tingling with frustration. Samsung's Soul reacts well to touch and you can even adjust the sensitivity of the touchpad to be higher or lower.
Fortunately, the touchpad isn't the only thing on offer. HSPDA (3.5G) allows for high-speed browsing, which is made better when you download one of our favourite programs -- Opera Mini -- to view full Web pages similarly to on a desktop.
If it's pictures you're after, then the 5-megapixel camera takes decent snaps in daylight. We don't think it's as good as the Sony Ericsson K850i's 5-megapixel camera, however. The lack of a xenon flash means pictures in low light come out as clearly as a glass of Thames water.
Using the music player is straightforward and it supports a variety of formats including MP3 and AAC, but the lack of a 3.5mm headphone jack or adaptor means that you have to use the provided headphones. This is about as useful as trying to change a tyre with a screwdriver.
Battery life lasted for over two days with moderate use. It started to drop when we used more of its features, particularly while browsing the Web over HSDPA and listening to music for a prolonged period.
We noticed in noisy environments that the ear-speaker wasn't as loud as we needed it to be. If possible, test it out in a shop to see if it's loud enough to your liking.
The Samsung Soul is fairly straightforward, but that's what impresses us. It's by no means a do-all phone: there's no GPS and no Wi-Fi, for starters. It just works well and provides an enjoyable user experience. If the Soul doesn't excite you, then you could always try the LG Secret KF750. It comes with similar features, but has a few tricks up its sleeve. Alternatively, you could look at the Nokia 6500 Slide, a classic slider phone and good if you're used to the Nokia interface.
Edited by Shannon Doubleday