Reviewed May 12, 2008 by Lisa Gade, Editor
Ever since the iPhone, major manufacturers have been all over the touch screen. While none have really come close to the iPhone's touch experience (Apple in fact uses different display hardware technology), we've seen haptics, or vibration feedback, on several phones and that's something the iPhone doesn't offer. Like the iPhone, LG Voyager and LG Vu, this really is a touch screen: you must use a finger and not a stylus or other inorganic object (a pear will work but not a drinking straw). The Samsung Glyde features a touch screen with haptic feedback. Its design is actually similar to the LG Voyager also on Verizon, but the Glyde is imminently more pocketable than the sizeable Voyager. In the end, think of the Glyde as the Voyager's competitor rather than the iPhone's.
The Glyde has a slide-down QWERTY keyboard and the 4.13 ounce phone is quite small, though a bit thick. It's smaller than the LG EnV2 which is impressive given that the enV2 is considerably smaller than the enV. The phone has EVDO with support for V Cast video and other Get it Now services, but unlike the Voyager it doesn't have Verizon Mobile TV. It sells for $50 less than the Voyager on average, at $249 ($199 from Verizon online after rebates). It has a 2 megapixel camera, a microSD card slot and aGPS. The Glyde SCH-u940 is the CDMA cousin to the GSM Samsung F700 launched overseas at the end of 2007.
The 2.8" widescreen display is sharp, bright and clear with an impressive 240 x 440 pixel resolution. Like many touch screens (the iPhone is an exception), the display is hard to see outdoors. It operates in portrait orientation and switches to landscape when the keyboard is slid out. The touch screen vibrates when you press an icon or menu item. Unfortunately, it's also possible to press on the black space between icons or other voids and have the phone vibrate. Often it will pick one of the closest icons and launch the associated program (it might not be the one you intended) but there are times when it will vibrate but do nothing. When you do tap an icon, it highlights with a blue background and tapped menu items likewise turn blue. It sometimes takes a few taps to get the phone to respond properly. This in turn makes the UI seem laggy, as if the phone itself might need more processing power to keep up with the touch display. Perhaps a future firmware update will improve things, but we're not sure. In addition, the phone sometimes lost screen calibration, which resulted in the wrong item being pressed. Letting the phone go to sleep, then unlocking the display set things right again.
Ah, you're wondering if we adjusted touch sensitivity settings under the Settings and Tools? Yep, we tried all settings from low to medium high to high. The screen requires a very firm press or tap (sometimes it's more of a finger slap). This is a very different experience not only from the iPhone and LG Vu but from Palm OS Treo phones and Windows Mobile PDA phones which are quite responsive to touch. Note that this is general feedback haptics where the entire display surface vibrates and not local haptics where only the area pressed vibrates like the impressive Motorola ROKR E8.
The phone measures just 4.09 x 1.97 x 0.7 inches and is easily pocketable. The large touch screen dominates the front, with room for just one button (a home button, like the iPhone) and the earpiece speaker. There are no call send and end buttons. If you wish to exit an application, hit the home button instead to return to the standby screen. When making a call, a call send button appears on-screen before you've connected and a call end button appears once in a call.
The phone is relatively thick since it must accommodate the sliding keyboard but the net result is that it feels good in hand rather than too thin and angular. The casing is dark blue plastic and the phone looks simple, clean though not terribly expensive. The back houses the camera lens, LED flash under a grille and a self-portrait mirror. The 2.5mm headset jack is up top, and the charging port is under a door on the phone's left side. Only the right side has controls: volume up/down, the dual-purpose power and keyguard button and the camera button (short press launches the camera and a long press launches the camcorder). Oddly, the camera button only launches the camera when the phone is in the home screen.
The microSD card slot is located under the battery door though it's not necessary to remove the battery to swap a card. The entire rear cover of the phone slides off (with a little finesse) to reveal the battery and the card slot that's SDHC compatible with cards up to 8 gigs capacity.
The LG EnV2 and the Samsung Glyde.
To access the keyboard, slide the display upward while holding the phone in landscape mode. The three row keyboard is tiny (the price you pay for a small phone), but we found it usable-- broad-fingered fellas might find it a challenge though. You'll need to press the Fn key to enter numbers, punctuation and symbols and to use the embedded arrow keys. The keyboard is backlit in bright and clear white with symbols and numbers in yellow. The spacebar is offset to the right which takes some getting used to.
The display automatically switches to landscape when the keyboard is out.
Phone Features and Data
The Samsung Glyde is a dual band digital-only Verizon phone with 1xRTT and EVDO for data. It has all common cell phone features including speakerphone, photo caller ID, call waiting support, conference calling and voice dialing. The phone has speaker independent voice command support (no need to record voice tags) and it handles not only voice calling but starting and addressing a text/picture message, checking voice mail and more. The touch screen turns off when you're in a call-- there's no proximity sensor like the iPhone but it knows that a call is connected and locks the screen. Should you need to use the screen, simply press the unlock button that appears on-screen when in a call.
Incoming call quality was average and outgoing call quality was below average with voice sounding somewhat muffled and low in volume. The speakerphone however is very good with strong volume and little distortion. Calling over Bluetooth headsets was acceptable but voice quality wasn't among the best with a variety of headsets. Reception is middle of the road to a bit below, and isn't as strong as the EnV2 or the Motorola V9m. In our office we usually get 2 bars of EV and the Glyde got one, and as a result V Cast downloads were slower than average.
V Cast video playback was good once the clip downloaded. We saw relatively good audio sync by V Cast standards (generally .5 to 1 second off) and the screen looks sharp and bright for video playback. The phone's music player sounded very good through the built-in speaker and likewise through A2DP Bluetooth stereo headsets and headphones like the Samsung SBH500. The phone uses Samsung's blade connector so you won't be able to use 3.5mm or 2.5mm stereo headphones without an adapter. The music player supports MP3, WMA and unprotected AAC/AAC+ files, but doesn't support background playback.
The Glyde supports all the usual Get it Now applications and downloads including music downloads, games and add-on applications. The Get it Now apps all support the touch screen so you can let your fingers do the walking through music purchases, video downloads and more. None of the games we downloaded support the touch screen, and there's no d-pad which can make gaming less than ergonomic. We tested The Simpsons game which looked great and filled the entire high res display and Castlevania which ran smoothly and also looked great.
The Glyde comes with a built-in IM application that handles AIM, Windows Live Messenger and Yahoo instant messaging, and Mobile Email for POP3 and IMAP email accounts ($5 or free if you have a Nationwide Premium Plan).
The Samsung Glyde features Verizon's VZ Navigator 4 service that works in conjunction with the built-in aGPS. This is the new version of Navigator that adds traffic information, local movie and event info, gas finder, weather and 3D map views. VZ Navigator costs $9.99/month billed directly to your cell phone bill and is powered by TeleNav. If you're in need of mapping and directions, VZ Nav is well worth the fee as it offers good route planning, clear voice prompts for turn-by-turn directions and fast map data downloads over EVDO. The Glyde worked well with the service, getting a fix quickly and offering accurate location information. The loud and clear speakerphone is audible in-car (unless you drive a Lamborghini perhaps), and the screen is viewable as long as you keep it out of direct sunlight.
The 2 megapixel camera with autofocus lens sounds exciting on paper-- autofocus usually means sharper, clearer photos. Alas, the Samsung Glyde's photos instead are murky, lacking detail and generally feel ever so slightly out of focus. The exposure is somewhat dark, adding to that sense of murk, though indoor photos are exposed somewhat better than outdoor shots (that's rare).
The camera can take photos at a maximum 1600 x 1200 resolution and video up to QVGA 320 x 240 of any length as well as short duration MMS video at lower resolution. The phone uses the entire display as the viewfinder and like most everything else on the phone, has touch controls. There's an on-screen shutter button but we recommend using the dedicated camera button on the phone's side to avoid camera shake.
Samsung makes excellent phones with a wide variety of features and capabilities. Unfortunately, the Samsung Glyde needs a little work before we can recommend it heartily. The small size combined with a haptic touch screen and QWERTY keyboard is great, and the screen is easy to read despite the high resolution squeezed into a 2.8" panel. But the touch factor itself is the problem, and it doesn't work as well as we'd like-- there's too much lag, missed touches and occasional odd behavior that we haven't experienced with the Voyager, LG Venus, LG Vu, iPhone or PDA phones. Maybe a firmware update will fix these issues, but the first release version found us looking for ways to use the keyboard instead of the screen at times. Our other nits are with call quality, which isn't that great on the outgoing end, and the camera which takes mediocre photos despite the autofocus lens. On the bright side, the GPS and VZ Navigator 4 work very well and the new features in Navigator are quite welcome. The music player and speaker are very good and battery life is better than average for a well-featured EVDO phone.
Pro: Very small and light. Good battery life and very good speakerphone/loudspeaker. Hardware keyboard, though small, is convenient for IM and email. Good HTML web browser. IM and email support are perfect companions to the hardware keyboard.
Con: Touch screen is unpleasant to use and often doesn't respond. No call send and end buttons. No d-pad or traditional softkeys should you wish to navigate programs like those in Get it Now using hardware controls rather than the touch screen. Likewise games are awkward without the d-pad. Mediocre outgoing call quality.