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Reviewed November 30, 2007 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
For those who think regular feature phones are too big, Verizon and Samsung have an answer for you: The Juke (u470) by Samsung. Not much bigger than a stick of gum, the 2.82 ounce Juke’s merits lie in good call quality and a great music experience. The sleek and unusual looks don’t hurt either. But is it too anemic to house the necessary features a mobile user might need? The answer is “ no” if you mainly want to phone calls and listen to music. But to be clear, this is a fashion model like Nokia’s lipstick phone and not a feature-packed device. There’s no memory expansion slot, just a VGA camera and no EVDO high speed for Verizon’s V Cast service.
Though small, the Juke comes with most common call management tools including Voice Command, a contacts database and a built-in speakerphone. It has a roomy 2GB of internal memory for music storage and comes with a USB cable for syncing tunes and a wired stereo headset. In addition, you will also get A2DP support for listening to music via a stereo Bluetooth headset, VZ Navigator and GPS for location-based services and a VGA camera.
The Juke is a digital dual band CDMA phone that’s offered by Verizon Wireless in the US. It has 1x/RTT but no EV-DO data. It currently sells for $129.99 with a 2-year contract though you can get it even cheaper if you order it online, and it comes in three colors.
Design and Ergonomics
The attraction of the Juke is its novel, small form and the switchblade-like swivel design. Measuring in at 3.82 x 1.18 x 0.83 inches, the Juke is the smallest phone currently offered by a US carrier. Even the GSM import Nokia 7280 lipstick phone was longer and thicker than the Juke. The Juke might attract not only those baggy-pants hipsters seen in Verizon’s Juke commercial, but also fashion-conscious club-goers who might want a cool, small phone without lots of features (think Carry Bradshaw in Sex and the City with her tiny purse). The three available colors (Navy, Red and Teal) are attractive and suitable for both genders.
The mirror-like front cover and the shiny number keypad are attractive. The 1.45” (diag.) screen sits on the front panel and the “spin” navigation wheel lives below the display. The screen is small, but the 128 x 220 resolution doesn’t look bad on it at all; and the 262K-color support makes images and wallpapers look good. It does take some getting used to if you are used to larger phone screens, and you will see why this phone is not marketed to older users with more tired eyes. The spin-wheel navigation works in two ways: first like the LG Chocolate for menu navigation, where you spin it to move up and down the menu/tracks/messages/etc., or just click it like a regular d-pad. So there is no learning curve. The only thing that’s strange with the controls is when you play music: you have to open the phone to launch the music player but you must close the phone to listen to the music.
The swivel feels well built and the spring has just the right amount of tension for the phone to stay in close or open positions. The keypad feels easy to press and you will find special keys for launching the camera, voice command (hold number 0), speakerphone (hold * key) and call Send and End buttons. Control buttons are minimal on the sides of the phone: volume up and down keys, lock key, charging port and a 2.5mm headset jack. The battery lives on the back of the phone and is integrated with the battery door while the camera lens sits above the battery. Though the Juke has a very different design from other phones, we found it quite comfy to use for phone calls. Large-fisted folks might get a cramped hand, however.
Phone Features and Reception
The Juke by Samsung is a digital dual band phone that operates on 800/1900 MHz. It doesn’t have support for Verizon’s EV-DO fast data service or V Cast video and music. It does have the slower1xRTT for downloading applications over the air and surfing. The cell antenna is on the bottom of the phone, which is marked on the back so that you know not to cover that area with your hand when in a call. The reception is average: in areas with strong signal strength, the Juke gets full bars; in weak coverage areas, it gets 1-2 bars. The Juke didn’t drop any calls even in spotty coverage areas. The voice quality isn’t crystal clear but good enough to have a clear conversation. It has a bit of “hissing” white noise in a call and drops a syllable or two only once in a while. It’s great to see that the Juke comes with VoiceSignal’s excellent Voice Command software as you can make phone calls, bring up messaging window and check phone status all by giving voice commands. Voices dialing using the software works like a charm, and you don’t need to pre-record voice tags for the voice commands to work. In addition, the Juke supports call waiting, rejecting calls, call forwarding, three way calling, mute/unmute and 1, 2, and 3-touch speed dialing.
Data download via 1X/RTT naturally feels slow compared to EV-DO download speed, but not as unbearable as we had expected. We downloaded VZ Navigator and maps along with a few other games, and the download speed was tolerable. Thank goodness these apps are optimized for over the air download. The Juke supports text messaging, multimedia messaging and limited Mobile IM. SMS is speedy but pictures take a bit longer to send compared to EVDO phones. If you have friends also on Verizon, you can use the Mobile IM client on the Juke to IM on AOL, Windows Live Messenger and Yahoo! Messenger. IM speed is acceptable.
Verizon's trio of fashionable Fall phones: the Juke, Venus and Voyager.
Like most feature phones, the Juke comes with a Contacts database that can hold 500 contacts. You can store an email address, unique ringtone and caller ID along with group assignment in each entry. Other PIM (personal information management) tools include Calendar, Calculator, Alarm, Clock, World Clock and Notepad.
Music, Gaming and VZ Navigator
The Juke phone is positioned as a music phone, as all phones now seem to have to do more than just make phone calls. As a music phone, the Juke excels in playing not only the usual MP3 and WMA files that most Verizon music phones support, but also AAC and AAC+ files. If you have ripped your CDs once for iTunes already, you don’t have to rip them again in Windows Media Player just to play on the Juke. The Juke dedicates 2 gigs (1.87GB on our review unit) internal memory to store music, a good move since the Juke’s small body can’t house a storage card slot. If you carry more than 1.87 gigs of music, then this isn’t your music phone. But for most people, that’s plenty of tunes to keep you entertained. The good news is you can sync your music from PC to your phone, the bad news is you can’t buy music tracks from Verizon’s V CAST music catalog. Copying music tracks from a PC and a Mac is very easy as the phone shows up as a drive on your desktop when you connect it via USB and you can just drag and drop the music files to the Music folder. Music playback is slightly peculiar as you must open the phone to launch the music player but must close it to play tracks. Using the spin-wheel is quite easy. The music player supports playlist, sort by album, artist and genre, and offers several play modes (shuffle, repeat and more), skins, equalizers and more. The sound through the phone’s speaker is not very loud and is a bit tinny and thin, as you might expect from a small speaker. The sound quality through the included wired stereo headset is much better in comparison: volume is quite high and sound is fuller. But nothing sounds better than playing music through over-the-ear Bluetooth stereo headsets such as the Plantronics Pulsar 590. Tracks sounded excellent in our Bluetooth stereo headset tests: not only was the sound full with good stereo separation and plenty of volume, but you could hear instruments and voice very clearly. The AV controls via Bluetooth worked like a charm when using the Plantronics headset to control music playback on the phone.
While you won’t have the pleasure of watching V CAST videos or downloading V CAST music on the Juke, you can buy and download games over the air. From Dinner Dash to Orcs and Elves, from NBA 08 to Castlevania, you can choose games from a rich library that includes all major genres and hot titles. You can either pay $3.99/month to subscribe to a game or $7.99 to buy it. Most of the games support the spinning jog wheel and number keypad controls; and since the screen is physically smaller though the resolution is relative high for the screen, the games look visually small but sharp. Performance on all games we tested (we tested quite a few) was very responsive. Other content you can also download includes ringers and wallpapers.
Given the Juke’s small size and reduced feature set we were surprised that it has a GPS onboard that works with Verizon’s VZ Navigator. If you haven’t used VZ Navigator, it’s a map and navigation application that provides turn-by-turn directions, maps and voice guidance. VZ Navigator was fast (despite having to download map data over 1xRTT) and the turn-by-turn driving directions were very accurate. The voice guidance was spot on as well. VZ Navigator costs $9.99/month, but it is a good value if you often drive in unfamiliar places. The location-based services also allow you to send invitation messages to other Verizon users with locations (like restaurants, clubs, etc.) along with directions.
Even though it wasn’t long ago that mobile phones came with VGA cameras, nowadays they seem archaic. As you’d expect, the VGA camera on the Juke isn’t anything spectacular. It’s not bad for taking some snapshots for MMS, but not great for publishing, printing or viewing on bigger screens. Outdoor shots have decent color balance, though some shots have a very noticeable blue cast. You can see a good amount of noise in both outdoor and indoor shots, though as expected indoor shots have noticeably higher noise levels. One feature that hints this is a club/bar/party phone is the night shot feature, which is quite effective for shots in dark environments. You can take photos in three quality settings and three resolutions (VGA, QVGA and picture ID), and have options to adjust white balance and color effects. There is no camcorder onboard which means you can’t record video clips.
The Juke has built-in Bluetooth v1.2 and supports Headset, Hands–free, A2DP, AVRCP, Serial Port & Object Push (for vCard) Profiles. The Juke worked well with most Bluetooth headsets we tested and paired with them all easily. For the mono Bluetooth headset tests, we used the BlueAnt Z9 and Cardo S-800 Bluetooth headsets. The BlueAnt Z9 had slightly muffled voice on both incoming and outgoing ends but it was clear enough to have a conversation. The volume wasn’t very high, but enough to hear and be heard with road noise in the background. The DSP worked pretty well too. We could still hear cars passing by, but the noise level was reduced drastically by the DSP. When working with the Cardo S-800, the Juke had better voice quality that was clearer and much louder compared to the BlueAnt. We still heard the Juke’s slight “hissing” white noise, but the DSP worked well in reducing road noise and wind noise. Voice dialing via Voice Command worked very well via the Bluetooth headsets. The range wasn’t that good with either mono headset-- we heard crackling and audio distortion beyond 7 feet.
The Juke has the A2DP Bluetooth profile. As mentioned, we tested the Plantronics Pulsar 590 as well as the Motorola S9 stereo headsets. The sound quality was very good through the Plantronics Pulsar 590 with great clarity, loud volume and excellent separation. The Motorola S9 stereo headset, prone to its own white noise problems, worked almost perfectly with the Juke. Music was full and loud with great separation. The AV remote controls worked well also in our tests where we could use the headsets to control the playback, track forward/rewind and change volume. The range also fared better than the mono headset: we could get at least 20 feet between the Juke and the stereo Bluetooth headsets.
The Juke by Samsung comes with a 750 mAh Lithium Ion battery that’s user replaceable. The battery is integrated with the battery door which sits flush with the back of the phone. If you need more juice than the standard battery can provide, you can buy the extended battery which is 1500 mAh for $49.99 from Verizon. The extended battery is thicker and will make the phone look thicker. The claimed talk time is 3.5 hours and claimed standby time is 250 hours. Our tests showed that the talk time was closer to 3 hours and the standby time was about a week.
The Juke is a stand-out phone that doesn’t have many competitors. If “tiny”, “stylish” and “weekend phone” are the endearing features you are searching for in a phone, then consider the Juke as it takes these characteristics to the extreme. Good call quality and a nice set of call management tools will take care of your basic needs for phone calls. Music playback likewise is good and the phone has enough space to store tracks for a weekend getaway. If you can live with no storage card slot, the meager VGA camera and lack of EV-DO, you get a super-stylish music phone with VZ Navigator support that can get you to the new nightclubs and restaurants.
Price: $129.99 with a 2-year contract; $79.99 with a 2-year contract after $50 online discount.
Web sites: www.samsung.com, www.verizonwireless.com
Display: 262 TFT Color. Diag: 1.45”. Resolution: 128 x 220 pixels.
Battery: 750 mAh Lithium Ion battery. Claimed talk time: 3.5 hours. Claimed standby time: 250 hours. Optional extended battery with 1500 mAh sold separately.
Performance: 2GB internal memory for storing music. Over 18MB internal storage for storing contacts and other PIM info and other applications. Internal phone book holds 500 entries.
Size: 3.82 x 1.18 x 0.83 inches. Weight: 2.82 ounces.
Phone: CDMA 800/1900 MHz. 1x/RTT for data.
Camera: CMOS VGA camera with Night Shot. Resolution: 640 x 480, 320 x 240 and 160 x 120. Has settings for white balance, picture quality, shutter sounds and color effects. Can’t record video clips.
Audio: Supports 72-Note Polyphonic ringtones. MP3 player onboard to play MP3, WMA, WMA Pro, AAC and ACC+ files. Supports vibration alerts.
GPS: Supports VZ Navigator.
Networking: Bluetooth v.1.2. Supports Headset, Hands–free, A2DP, AVRCP, Serial Port and Object Push (for vCard) Profiles. USB for syncing music.
Software: Contacts, Calendar, Calculator, Alarm, Clock, World Clock and Notepad included. Music player to play MP3, WMA, AAC and AAC+ files. VZ Navigator, games, extra ringtones and wallpapers sold separately.
In the Box: The Juke phone, standard battery, Wired stereo headset, USB cable, travel charger, printed manual and guides.