Samsung SCH-u750 Alias 2 is an innovative clamshell cell phone from Verizon with an e-ink keypad that changes according to the current state of the phone. The phone also features EV-DO support for Verizon’s high-speed 3G network and a host of multimedia features. We put the Alias 2 through its paces to see how well it replaces the original Alias.
Samsung SCH-u750 Alias 2 from Verizon is a dual-mode clamshell cell phone, built of sturdy plastic with a professional-looking grey and silver exterior. The phone feels solid in your hand, though unfortunately the hinge has quite a bit of give, and does not inspire much confidence in its ability to last through excessive use. The Alias 2 is quite a large handset, measuring a full 102mm x 51mm x 18mm (4in x 2in x 0.7in), but weighs only 122g (4.3 ounces). The phone can be opened top to bottom in portrait mode, like a normal clamshell phone, or side to side in landscape mode, more like a miniature laptop.
On the outer panel of the Samsung SCH-u750 Alias 2, there is a 2 megapixel camera for taking snapshots or video clips. Below this is the external display, a small square 1.3-inch unit with 128 x 128 pixel resolution. Immediately below this display are three touch-sensitive music playback buttons that are also used to navigate through the crude menu that’s available on the external display.
On the left hinge of the phone you’ll find a 2.5mm audio port that is protected by an attached door to keep debris out. Further down along the left edge of the phone you’ll find the proprietary Samsung power port, also protected by a door, as well as the volume rocker and a dedicated voice control button. A covered microSD card slot is on the right edge, as is a Hold button for the music player and a dedicated power button below. Noticeably missing is a dedicated camera button.
When you open the phone in portrait mode, the first thing you’ll notice is the massive internal 2.6-inch QVGA display, which is extremely bright and easily readable both indoors and outdoors. There are stereo speakers located above and below the display, as well.
The Samsung SCH-u750 Alias 2′s e-ink keypad is located on the bottom portion of the phone, and looks like a bunch of square white keys, with three skinny, elongated keys along the right edge. Thanks to the e-ink inside, these keys change labels based on the orientation and current state of the phone.
When in portrait mode, you have two dedicated softkeys, left and right, positioned above the d-pad like directional keys. To the left of the d-pad are three dedicated buttons for the camera, voice control, and speakerphone toggle. Below the d-pad you’ll find send, clear/back, and end buttons, as well.
When you open the phone in landscape mode, the organization of the keypad changes so that the d-pad is in the bottom right corner, and the numeric keypad is positioned to the far left, with a number of shortcuts around it. In landscape mode, when you activate any field where you have to enter text, such as in a new message, the keys again change, this time to a QWERTY keyboard, so that you can quickly and conveniently enter in your text.
The keys themselves are large and well-spaced, with a confident tactile response when you press them. They are slightly convex, giving a faint ‘bubble’ feel that is a pleasure to use. When in landscape mode, the three elongated buttons along the top are slightly awkward to use, as they’re slightly underneath the bottom of the display, unfortunately. Lighting is even and bright, thanks to the e-ink technology.
Beneath the ribbed back cover you’ll find a small 880mAh battery, though battery life is certainly not an issue with this phone.
Samsung SCH-u750 Alias 2 connects to Verizon’s network thanks to dual-band CDMA (800/1900MHz) support and EV-DO connectivity for high-speed data. The phone’s reception is strong, and it was able to show nearly full service in areas that are known to be slightly weak. Call quality is also excellent, as I was able to hear my callers clearly, and likewise they reported crystal clear audio. The built-in speakerphone uses the internal speakers, which is fine if you have the phone open, but results in muffled audio if you use the speakerphone with the phone closed.
The Samsung SCH-u750 Alias 2 from Verizon does not come with any synchronization software in the sales package, and there was not a USB data cable included, either. However, RemoSync is available, allowing the Alias 2 to connect to a corporate Microsoft Exchange server, for over-the-air synchronization of email, contacts, and calendar entries. The Samsung SCH-u750 Alias 2 allows for plenty of information to be stored with each contact card. You can save multiple phone numbers and email addresses, as well as a thumbnail image and a specific ringtone for each contact. In addition, you can enter a contact’s IM screenname (only for AIM, Yahoo!, and Windows Live), as well as a physical street address and a free form note area, if you wish.
Speed dial is supported on the Samsung SCH-u750 Alias 2, and you’re able to assign numbers 2-9 to individual contacts. To activate the speed dial, simply press and hold the appropriate number, and the contact will be called. You can also enter the number and then press the send key, which may be more intuitive for some users. Once you open your contact list, you can simply begin typing to search through your contacts, to quickly find a specific person.
Speaker-independent voice dial on the Samsung SCH-u750 Alias 2 is quite robust, allowing you to not only call contacts, but also activate a number of different features on the phone, such as the Internet browser or the music player. You can quickly activate the voice dial by pressing the dedicated button on the left edge of the phone, or by using the voice dial shortcut button on the internal keypad.
Both SMS and MMS are fully supported on the Alias 2, though unfortunately messages are shown individually, rather than in the threaded IM-look that is popular today. Separately, the phone features a built-in instant messaging client, supporting AIM, Yahoo!, and Windows Live. There is no option to add additional services, such as Google’s Gtalk or a Jabber network, unfortunately. The mobile email application on the Samsung SCH-u750 Alias 2 is quite nice, with setup wizards for a number of popular webmail services, as well as the ability to add your own custom POP3/IMAP account, if necessary. The aforementioned RemoSync also allows you to connect to a corporate Microsoft Exchange email account.
Despite its large size, the Samsung SCH-u750 Alias 2 only uses a small 880mAh battery. However, I was truly impressed with the extensive battery life, specifically when on standby. With my Gmail IMAP account setup to check mail continuously, as well as a dozen or so SMS, light web browsing, an hour of phone calls, and 12 photos, I was easily able to last an entire workday with the Alias 2 still showing 2 out of 4 bars of battery at 5pm. I wouldn’t hesitate to take this phone on a weekend trip without a charger, at all.
Samsung SCH-u750 Alias 2 is designed to handle most of your multimedia needs, as evidenced by its support for Verizon V CAST Music and dedicated music playback keys. The phone puts forth a valiant effort, but is left wanting in several key areas.
The music experience starts out rocky with a 2.5mm audio port and no adapter or headphones included in the sales package. This means you’ll need to either hunt down a 2.5mm-to-3.5mm adapter to use your own headphones, or find a special pair to fit this smaller port. The phone does support Bluetooth with A2DP for stereo headphones, and I was able to easily use the Nokia BH-903 for music. Sound quality over Bluetooth was decent, though there was a fair amount of stuttering and static, even in close range, which is disappointing. Luckily, the built-in stereo speakers are able to save the listening experience, specifically with the phone opened in landscape mode.
The music player is able to play back DRM-free MP3 files, as well as music tracks purchased through Verizon V CAST Music. Annoyingly, Verizon still has yet to allow users to purchase and download entire albums, still forcing you to purchase and download each individual track. However, once you load the Alias 2 up with your tunes, you can easily browse your library via genre, album, or artist. You can also create playlists directly on the phone, as well as activate shuffle mode, to play through your music randomly. Unfortunately, you cannot put the music player in the background, to use other features on the phone while listening to music, though you can close the phone, if you wish.
The Samsung Alias 2′s 2 megapixel camera can be activated with the shortcut button located on the inside keypad and can be used either in portrait or landscape mode. There are plenty of settings, allowing you to adjust the color effects, white balance, and ISO level. You can also specify whether your photos should be stored to the phone’s internal memory, or an external memory card, and you can easily move photos between the two. Once you take a photo, you do need to manually choose to either save or erase the photo – there is not automatic setting for this. You can also edit your photos on the phone, with a few fun editing tools such as adding text or clip-art.
Photo quality in good lighting is quite nice, even without autofocus. While there is no flash, the Alias 2 does feature a ‘night mode’, which you must enable for each photo. I noticed that snapping a photo with night mode active takes nearly twice as long, meaning you’ll need a completely static subject. Even with a stationary model, the night mode does not replace a flash.