Just released in black, the Samsung SCH-u740 is the first CDMA dual-hinge phone in the United States. How does it stack up to the “regular” phones? Read more to find out…
Finally, dual-hinge phones land in the United States. The dual-hinge concept is rather simple; enable a phone to flip open normally, as well as flip open sideways. The landscape of the keypad can then be used both as a dialing pad, as well as a full keyboard.
And how exactly is the keyboard? Simply, excellent. The keyboard works great, and is certainly a new and refreshing change from the standard number layout. It’s great for typing, and doesn’t inhibit the flip-form factor that users expect from a phone. The only downside is when using the phone normally, as dialing numbers can be a bit cumbersome. The number keys are the same size, and there are few indicators to the touch senses that you’re on the right keys. They are painted a different color to distinguish them… but you’ll be looking down often. Typing the P key is also a bit difficult, mostly due to it being so close to the right-end of the phone, and the base of the microphone (which is elevated above the keyboard itself).
The SCH-u740 uses the same connector as the BlackJack, and Samsung M610 on Sprint. However, it breaks from the newest connector deployed on the just-released M300 and M510. This means getting accessories from after market deals or Wal-Mart in a pinch may be more difficult as the phone ages, so keep that in mind when deciding if you need a car charger or not.
First Impressions, Basic Phone Functionality
Menu navigation was sluggish using the default Flash-based theme (My Desk), as well as using the other theme (Amoeba). This is mostly due to the friction present in these themes… they lag when navigating menu options. When quickly trying to scroll though the phone’s menus, you can quickly get lost.
This problem goes away when switching the phone over to the typical Verizon theme. It is unfortunate that Verizon still will not replace the VZW/BREW-based UI with Qualcomm’s successor to it, uiOne. That would resolve the Flash lag, as well as give the option for users to buy new Themes for the phone.
However, since newer VZW UI phones actually have Flash themes, there really isn’t an excuse for this new a phone to continue to have such a level of friction and lag in its user interface.
Voice quality of the phone is fine, typical of a Samsung device. Reception was also adequate, the phone never lost signal in areas that other Verizon phones held onto one.
Advanced Phone Functionality
It is unfortunate to note that once again, Verizon continues their campaign of hindering devices. Bluetooth is locked down to prevent sending your own content to your own device.
Also a major problem is with Get it Now, Mobile Web, and V CAST content (Music and Video). The device refuses to operate except in “rotated mode” when attempting to use these features. This means you cannot use any of the above applications except with the phone rotated into Keyboard mode. While that seems minor, it becomes a rather large nuisance. You cannot put the phone in a typical car holder and use it with VZ Navigator. You cannot walk down the street and surf the web like with a normal phone. You always have to have the phone facing the QWERTY keys in order to use these applications.
Probably the worst hindrance of all is the note-taking functionality. Stored away in Tools is a utility that lets you type notes. This is a great option for those that want to use this to jot down notes… or so one would think. The absolute absurdity of the notepad’s functionality is as follows: One can only store 130 character notes onto the device and not on the memory card. That means you can’t even type a note that is as long as a text message that you want to send someone. Of course, rather than being able to store the note on your microSD card, Verizon instead makes you send the message as a SMS text… paying Verizon’s text rates as well.
The audacity of not even enabling people to transmit notes that they write to their computer is simply not acceptable. Verizon has hindered Bluetooth to prevent sending the text to a PC, and they have gutted the ability to store it off-device (other than a SMS text message). That’s simply not acceptable in our book for a phone with a full QWERTY keyboard. Verizon’s official response? If you want to save what you write to your memory card, you should buy a Smart Device, effectively turning any savvy phone user off to the phone that wants to take notes.
Bluetooth. It’s a bit hit and miss, pairing worked fine, but the phone is still hindered with the inability to receive user-generated content. Verizon has said that they will be following up with newer models that simply block ringtones, but that still is a major knock against the u740, which has Bluetooth fully-hindered against OBEX file transfers. Headset quality was adequate, but sub-par (added static, tendency to drop off connections closer than other phones). Also, there was a bit of delay in calling up voice dialing.
But the worst complaint was that the phone would not work with voice calling while in a Get it Now application. This makes using the phone with VZ Navigator, useless. You can’t make calls while running VZ Navigator, except for dialing numbers by hand. Not safe, and not what you would expect from a high-end phone.
The camera on the SCH-u740 performed quite well. The phone has a 1.3 megapixel CMOS camera, with flash. The phone took very good pictures except in low-lighting (typical for a CMOS lens camera phone). Here are a couple of photos from a recently defunct CompUSA store, taken with the SCH-u740.
Click to enlarge…
However, another common complaint with Samsung phones, is that the flash cannot be used as a flashlight. The flash will only activate while taking a photo, meaning if you want an LED flashlight in your phone, the u740 is not going to deliver.
The SCH-u740 is a contradictory device. On the one hand, it has excellent, refined hardware that makes it easier to get more done with your phone. The integration of a keyboard and the ability to take full advantage of the dual-hinge is simply unprecedented in a United States phone.
However, Verizon ruined this device. What would otherwise be an excellent phone is marred by a sluggish, hindered experience. While some hindrances from Verizon were to be expected (Bluetooth, web browser, etc)… many others were not. The fact that you can’t even save notes to the memory card was the final unacceptable point of contention in giving the phone such a low score.
While one can hope that Verizon will issue a firmware update, remedy these problems… don’t count on it, and unfortunately, don’t expect to rely on the SCH-u740.
Pros: Excellent dual-hinge design, well-crafted keyboard.
Cons: Extremely hindered software, sluggish performance.
Final Score: 2/5