Reviewed October 29, 2008 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
While Verizon has an ample selection of feature phones, it has not offered a slim silver slider phone like the LG Shine (the Decoy is a bit too thick and too plasticky to compete) until now. A glance at the features on the new Samsung Sway might make you think this is just another phone in the large Verizon feature phone catalog, but the stylish silver finish and the slim body just might make it stand out for those who wish to have an LG Shine but prefer Verizon. The Samsung Sway (u650) comes with built-in Bluetooth and A2DP support, 2 megapixel camera, built-in aGPS with VZ Navigator and an SDHC microSD card slot.
The Samsung Sway is a digital CDMA dual band phone that’s offered by Verizon exclusively in the US. Unfortunately for data hungry users, the Sway doesn’t have EV-DO, just 1x.
Style Is the Ticket
While phones like the LG Venus, LG Decoy and Motorola Z6c offer similar or better features as the Samsung Sway on Verizon, none has the slim and shiny form factor that has made the LG Shine one of the most popular feature phones on AT&T. The Samsung Sway fills that void with shiny silver armor and a 0.47-inch thin body. Though shiny, the Samsung Sway is surprisingly un-slippery; and the stylishly ribbed back also helps create a better grip for the sliding action. The 2.2” display is super bright and the menu control buttons and the d-pad are large and easy to use. The number keys under the slider are large and wide but flat, like the ones on the Moto RAZR. Since the speakerphone, voice command and silent mode launch keys are shared with number keys, the Samsung Sway has only the volume keys and the dedicated camera launch button on its sides, along with the charge/accessory port and the microSD card slot. The 2 megapixel camera is hidden under the slider with a self-portrait mirror and a rear-firing speakerphone.
The Samsung Sway is a strong voice phone with good audio quality and a very loud speakerphone. The 1X reception isn’t the strongest but the phone has never dropped a call. You get the standard treatment for call management: features like Caller ID, call forwarding and call waiting, and the phone book can store 1,000 entries. There are one, two and three-key speed dials and Nuance’s excellent voice command software (v2.1) that offers accurate voice dialing without training and voice commands to launch messaging, the music player and to check the phone’s various status. The Samsung Sway has Bluetooth and it supports both mono and stereo Bluetooth headsets and car kits. We tested the Jabra BT530 with the phone and they worked well together. Voice quality was good on both incoming and outgoing ends, and we could hold conversations even in a moderately noisy airport. The range between the Jabra and the Sway reached about 10-15 feet. The Samsung also supports Verizon’s new City ID, a service that lets you enter phone numbers and shows you which city and State each number is in. The service will add $1.99 to your month bill should you sign up.
The Samsung Sway supports SMS and MMS messaging as well as web-based email and IM. The phone comes with the Netfront browser that displays full HTML pages in a single column with images intact. Most WAP pages load reasonably fast but large web pages take a while to load since there’s no EV-DO. Off-line tools include Calendar, Notepad, Stop Watch, World Clock, Alarm and Calculator.
GPS and VZ Navigator
The Samsung Sway has built-in aGPS that works well with Verizon’s VZ Navigator. The phone gets a GPS fix even indoors and positioning is reasonably accurate (sometimes dead on, other times accurate within 100-200 yards). The phone doesn’t come with navigation software pre-installed, but you can download the VZ Navigator in the Media Center/Browse & Download folder. It runs VZ Navigator v4.1.2, which includes navigation, map and real time traffic services as well as local search. Navigation with turn-by-turn directions and voice guidance performed well in our tests. Maps offers 2D and 3D views, and you can check real time traffic which is mostly on target though it missed some road work, and it also can check weather for given locations. Other handy features include searching for local movie times, events and sending location messages to your friends. Maps download reasonably fast over 1X but location searches can be painfully slow at times without EV-DO. The VZ Navigator services cost $9.99/mon. or $2.99/day.
The Samsung Sway could have been a good music phone since it has very good audio and an SDHC microSD card slot. But since it doesn’t have EV-DO, a must-have for V CAST Music download over the air, the Samsung doesn’t have V CAST Music store access. Instead you can side load the songs from a PC (though no USB cable is included with the phone) or load your songs on microSD cards using a card reader. The phone does support V CAST Music with Rhapsody, which requires a subscription (again, via side-loading). The Samsung Sway has a music player that can play music in MP3, AAC/AAC+, EAAC+, WMA and M4A formats. Music sounds quite good via the phone’s loud speakerphone but best through a Bluetooth stereo headset. We tested music playback with the Samsung SBH-500 and found the audio quality excellent. The Samsung Sway doesn’t come with a wired headset, but it does come with a headset adapter for Samsung’s blade connector headset (odd that it’s not a 3.5mm adapter). While you can’t download music, you can however download ringtones over the air.
The Samsung Sway is a very decent gaming phone with good audio, a large d-pad and bright screen. We tested several 2D and 3D games and found the experience enjoyable. The games ran smoothly and controls were very responsive. Downloading games took some patience over 1x, but was tolerable.
Like the LG Shine, the Samsung Sway has a 2 megapixel camera with fixed focus lens. The camera phone has a self-portrait mirror but no flash. You can launch the camera using the dedicated camera key on the right side of the phone with a short press to take photos and a long press to take videos. The Samsung Sway takes very good pictures by 2 megapixel camera phone standards. Photos look sharp, have a good amount of detail and rich colors. There is a slight cool tint in indoor shots but exposure is mostly on target. The camera software offers many options including color effects, white balance, ISO, metering and image quality settings. The camera phone also has multi-shot mode and nightshot mode which is quite effective in dark environments. You can shoot still images in any of 5 resolutions. Videos look sharp on the phone’s screen and decent on a computer screen. The phone allows you to shoot video in 30-second length for MMS and 10-minute length for saving.
Battery Life The Samsung Sway comes with a Li-Ion 800mAh battery. The claimed usage time is 4.5 hours, which isn’t long for a phone without power-hungry EV-DO. Neither Bluetooth nor playing music drains battery life at an accelerated rate, but talking and playing games do use up their share of battery life. The standby time is very good in comparison, lasting us at least 12-13 days in standby mode. If you need longer battery life, Verizon sells an extended battery that’s 1300mAh in capacity and carries 6.5 hours of usage time and over 20 days of standby.
Can a pretty face sell a phone? If the LG Shine is any indication, the answer is yes. The Samsung Sway speaks thin and stylish to fashion-conscious cell phone users. And behind that pretty face it has a strong GPS and VZ Navigator performance, good audio Bluetooth stereo and a good camera-- enough substance to fill the role of a mid-tier feature phone. The EV-DO omission prevents the phone from being a multimedia powerhouse. Verizon reserves those features for even higher-end phones like the LG Dare at a higher price. The Samsung Sway aims to hit the sweet spot where fashion meets affordability and no heavy multimedia is required.
Pro: Very stylish design and slim body. Bright and colorful screen and good audio quality. Phone has a healthy amount of internal memory and the microSD card slot is easy to access. GPS performance is very good. Gaming is enjoyable.
Con: Doesn’t have strong reception even in 1X. No wired headset or USB cable included. Side-loading music might turn away V CAST Music fans who are used to buying music over the air.
Price: $69.99 with 2-year contract after mail-in rebate.
Display: 2.2” QVGA 262K color TFT screen. Resolution: 240 x 320 pixels.
Battery: Lithium Ion rechargeable battery, 800 mAh, user replaceable. Claimed usage time: up to 4.5 hours. Claimed standby time: up to 13 days. Extended battery available for purchase, 1300mAh.
Performance: 64MB RAM, 128MB Flash memory on the phone. Phone book can store 1000 entries.
Size: 4.15 x 1.96 x 0.47 inches. Weight: 3.56 oz.
Phone: CDMA 1x 800/1900MHz digital only. No EV-DO support.
Camera: 2 megapixel with self-portrait mirror. Supports multi-shot and Nightshot modes. Still image resolutions: 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960, 640 x 480 and 320 x 240 and 160 x 120 pixels. Can record video with audio. Video lengths: 30 seconds or 10 minutes.
Audio: Supports 72-Note Polyphonic ringtones. MP3 player onboard to play music in MIDI, AAC, AAC+, Enhanced AAC+, WMA, M4A formats. Samsung proprietary audio jack. Supports vibration alert.
Networking: Bluetooth v2.0 and supports mono & stereo headset, handsfree, serial port, object push (vCard and vCalendar only), basic print, basic imaging and phone book access profile. USB 2.0.
Software: Customizable User Interface in English and Spanish. Netfront browser and Web-based email and IM on board. PIM tools include Contacts, Calendar, Notepad, Stop Watch, World Clock, Alarm and Calculator.