Verizon Wireless is rounding out its music-phone portfolio with the pint-sized, entry-level Juke by Samsung. Although it's intended for teenagers with small allowances, adults will appreciate the music quality and generous 2GB of internal memory. Just beware of the new swivel design: It's eye-catching but awkward to use.
Not to deter male readers, but the Juke's narrow, chunky build and shiny paint job (available in red, teal, or navy) reminds us of a tube of lipstick. The 2.8-ounce phone features a lid with a tiny 1.5-inch LCD that opens by swiveling 180 degrees around a metal scroll wheel to reveal a tactile silver keypad below. There's a microphone on the front at the base, a VGA camera on the back, and volume controls on the left side. (iPod users take note: You can't use the scroll wheel to adjust the volume.)
Inside is the same old Verizon Wireless interface--not pretty but easy to use. Almost all input comes from two soft keys and the scroll wheel, which, if you've ever used an iPod, will make you feel right at home. Unfortunately, the lid's thickness means that you have to lift your thumb every time you move between the scroll wheel and the other keys. Also, the display doesn't reorient when the phone is closed. You have to physically rotate or swivel the phone to read the time right-side up. This isn't the iPhone, after all.
As a phone, the Juke was mediocre. In calls to other Verizon Wireless phones, our friends said we sounded loud but a bit distorted. It didn't fare any better when we called friends with other carriers. The quality improved somewhat when we called landlines, but we still noticed some fuzziness.
Because it's intended as an entry-level music phone, the Juke is light on multimedia features. Verizon Wireless' V CAST Music Manager comes preloaded on the phone, but V CAST Music doesn't, so you can't download songs over the air. Copying music from your PC via the USB cable takes about seven seconds per song. You can use the phone with Macs, but it recognizes the Juke only as an external drive. For a fuller user experience, upgrade to either the LG Chocolate or the LG Venus. The Juke does support Chaperone, a service that allows parents to monitor their children's phone usage and screen the music they add.
Music quality is good but lacks the strong bass of the Sony Ericsson W580i
. The volume on our headset was low; even in a quiet room we had to push the volume up to its median setting. The phone works with stereo Bluetooth headsets, but the included in-ear buds are comfortable and deliver decent sound, even though the adapter dangles awkwardly just below the neck. Oddly, you can only launch the music player when the phone is open, but you need to close it to browse your library. The music automatically pauses for incoming calls, but the player also froze occasionally, requiring us to plug the phone into a computer to regain control.
The phone's VGA camera takes decent pictures, and we like that you can use the scroll wheel to adjust the brightness, although we would have liked to see zoom, too. Unfortunately, the phone's design makes adjusting the settings with the scroll wheel without obscuring the lens on the back of the phone tricky.
With its bright colors, featherweight design, and unique swivel lid, the Samsung Juke makes for excellent stocking-stuffer eye candy. The music quality and internal memory are impressive, too, especially considering how little the phone costs. But the swivel can be awkward to use, and-despite the fact that it's marketed as an entry-level phone--we can't help but wonder at the Juke's spartan feature package. The Sony Ericsson W580i, which costs $20 less, offers games, Web browsing, and included fitness applications--not to mention a richer sound.