Despite the recent trend toward touch screen phones such as the NEC N908 and the Apple iPhone, phones with actual buttons are not going away any time soon--tactile feedback is still king in the cell phone world. Handsets with a built-in QWERTY keyboard are especially desirable for many a texting fanatic, and the brand-new Samsung SCH-u740 for Verizon Wireless is one such example. Similar to Cingular's Samsung SGH-d307, the u740 features a cool, dual-flip design that lets you switch between portrait and landscape view for easy messaging. The SCH-u740 is a huge improvement over its predecessor in almost every way -- not only does it have much better navigation controls, the SCH-u740 also comes packed with a megapixel camera, a music player, and access to the full stable of Verizon Wireless multimedia services including V Cast Music and Video. A decent alternative to the LG enV (VX9900), the SCH-u740 is a solid multimedia offering for Verizon customers. It's currently available for $149.99 with a two-year service agreement.
Unlike the SGH-d307, the SCH-u740 is quite a handsome phone. Its wide yet slim body is a subtle metallic-champagne color, and simple black accents give it a sophisticated and stylish look. Though it's not nearly as skinny as the Motorola Razr (which is 0.5-inch thick) at 3.84x2.04x0.58 inches, the u740 is still thin enough to slip into your pants pocket with ease. It also has a nice heft when held in the hand, thanks to its 3.6-ounce weight, and it cradles nicely next to the ear when opened.
Located on the SCH-u740's front flap is a small yet bright 1.1-inch external display that shows the date, the time, signal and battery strength, and photo caller ID. We were impressed with its 65,000-color display, especially because we could use it as a camera viewfinder for self-portraits. When the music player is active, you can use the external screen to view the album art as well as the current track playing. In a nice touch, you can change the wallpaper or clock format of the external display if you wish. Above the screen and the Samsung logo is the camera lens, while touch-sensitive music player controls are underneath the display. Slightly reminiscent of the controls on the LG VX8600, the music player controls can only be used when the music player is on. We aren't fans of the touch-sensitive music controls, which required unlocking every time we want to change the track. It's possible to leave them unlocked, but this might lead to accidental track changes with a quick swipe of your finger.
The rest of the phone's exterior is pretty basic: The left spine is home to a Hold button to lock or unlock the aforementioned music player controls, a volume rocker, and the charger/accessory jack; the speakerphone key and a microSD card slot are on the right spine. We were disappointed that there wasn't a dedicated camera button on the phone's exterior, which meant we could only activate the camera with the phone open.
As we mentioned earlier, the u740 features the same dual-flip design as the SGH-d307. This innovative design lets you open the phone vertically like a traditional clamshell, or you could open the phone horizontally and rotate it so the orientation of the display changes to landscape mode. The hinge felt quite sturdy when opening and closing the phone in both directions. Speaking of the display, we were delighted to see a lovely 2.2-inch, 262,000-color LCD inside. Images were saturated with color, and navigating the phone's colorful and photorealistic menu was a delight. You can adjust the screen's contrast and backlight time, plus the style and the size of the phone's dialing fonts.
Thankfully, Samsung appears to have learned its mistake from the d307's quirky navigation controls. While the d307's navigation controls did double duty with the QWERTY keyboard, the u740's navigation controls are decidedly separate from the rest of the keypad. There are two soft keys underneath the display when viewed in portrait mode, and a third soft key on the lower-left corner is for use when viewing in landscape mode. The familiar circular navigation controls with a middle OK key is also present, and they double as shortcuts to four user-defined functions. Below the soft keys and the navigation controls are the Send and End/Power key, the camera/camcorder key, the Clear key, and the voice command key.