At first glance, you'll notice that half of the 1.6-inch-diagonal, 65,000-color display screen is obscured, with just enough space to display the time if the clock wallpaper is chosen. But simply press the twin white keys on the left and right spines simultaneously, and the spring-loaded screen pops up to its full size. While clean and colorful, the display is not nearly as bright as the one on the similarly designed LG PM-325 from Sprint, which uses a sliding keypad to cover its LCD screen. The screen is suitable, though, for viewing the user-friendly menus.
Releasing the slide activates a cool blue backlight behind the keys. When down, the slide acts as a key guard, preventing you from making calls. In fact, the slide has to be up even to power on the phone. Calls, however, can be answered with the slide closed. But because the Talk key is locked, you must use the left soft key to open the connection. It's a minor point but worth noting. You can also set the N300 to automatically answer calls when the slide is released and to end them when it is closed; however, the slide doesn't lock in the up position, so you'll have to keep a finger against it to prevent it from slipping down (thus, losing your call). It's best to program the phone so that you can answer and talk with the display in either position. Though the mobile seems solidly constructed, we were concerned with the long-term durability of the slide mechanism. That said, we played with the slide almost continually (it became sort of a nervous habit), and it worked every time. Samsung assured us it tested the spring exhaustively to make sure it would stand up to rough real-world handling.
Under the screen-release key on the left side is the speakerphone button (operable only after a call is active) and the up/down volume-toggle keys. Besides the 2.5mm headphone jack, there's nothing on the right side except the other screen-release button. The small five-way navigation toggle has direct-access keys to the Web browser, the message center, and the Get It Now shopping area. Additionally, while the up direction is preprogrammed to access the voice-memo function, it can be reprogrammed to access any menu item desired. The soft keys above the Send and End keys access the main menu and the phone book. The distaff appeal of the N330 is a good thing because the small but well-spaced curved dial-pad keys seem designed with smaller fingertips in mind. With not a lot of real estate on the keys, the backlit numbers and especially the letters on each key are not easy to read. Yet the keys are raised above the surface of the phone, making it easy to dial by feel.The Samsung SCH-N330 is equipped with a bare minimum of the usual features. The phone book can hold up to 500 phone numbers. Each contact can include five numbers (home, mobile, office, fax, pager) and an e-mail address. The 1 key is marked with period, dash, and apostrophe icons, and there's a .com option that saves multiple key tapping when filling in e-mail addresses. You can assign contacts to a caller group or pair them with a ring tone. You can also assign images for caller ID, but since there's no camera, and no images come preloaded on the phone, you must download them for a fee. You also get a vibrate mode, text (but not multimedia) messaging, voice memos, three-way calling, a calendar, a to-do list, a calculator, a memo pad, a world clock, a countdown timer, and an alarm clock. Two surprises on such a basic handset were a speakerphone and voice commands, which allow you to dial a phone number by speaking the digits or a contact's name.
Among the other features are 1xRTT Web surfing, text messaging, emergency 911, and compatibility with other GPS location-based services. You also get VibeTonz technology that makes the phone buzz during gameplay. No games come preloaded, however, so you'll have to buy them first. There are 15 polyphonic ring tones, and you can download more from Verizon's Get It Now service. Ring volume can be adjusted using the volume keys on the spine. Pressing the pound key immediately sets the phone to silent mode.
Downloading ring tones, games, or small apps from Get It Now was fast and painless. The VibeTonz-enhanced Highway Racer motorcycle roadway game took only a minute to download and be ready for play. But controlling downloaded games with your thumbs is a bit awkward because of the compact navigation array.We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900) Samsung SCH-N330 in Manhattan and while traveling by train and subway in the metro New York City area using Verizon's network. Voice quality was excellent, with plenty of volume even on a noisy train. Callers had no complaints, even though we used our inside voice rather than resorting to embarrassingly loud retorts that would have annoyed other passengers. We experienced only minor voice- and Web-coverage hiccups while riding the rails. There's a sticker on the top rear of the phone informing us that for best reception we ought not to touch the internal antenna area, but we heard no negative effect when our index finger wandered over it. Speakerphone sound quality was reportedly loud and clear at the caller's end, and loud and meaty but intermittently gurgly at our end. Since the speakerphone is not full duplex, you'll have to wait until the person on the other end stops talking before you start.
Battery life was acceptable, though not extraordinary. We managed 4 hours of talk time on a single charge, falling short of the rated time of just less than 5 hours. Our standby time was slightly more than 9 days on a single charge, compared to the promised time of 11 days. The phone requires only an hour connected to the travel charger to complete a full recharge. According to the FCC, the N330 has a digital SAR rating of 1.41 watts per kilogram.