The Glyde is Samsung's first haptic touchscreen phone to hit the U.S. market, just ahead of the Samsung Instinct, and it's expected on Sprint later this summer. At $249, it's priced $50 below the LG Voyager and is chock-full of multimedia and messaging capabilities. However, you'll miss out on V CAST Mobile TV and the directional pad the Voyager offers. Text-heavy users will appreciate the responsive keyboard, but most will be put off by its slow and sometimes unresponsive UI.
The midnight blue Samsung Glyde is reminiscent of the LG Voyager for its touchscreen capability and its full QWERTY keyboard. But the Voyager, while also on Verizon's network, is more expensive and has a second display with a full on-screen QWERTY keypad. The Glyde doesn't have a second display or a horizontal clamshell design. Instead, the full QWERTY keypad slides out from underneath it, horizontally. The motion is super smooth and sturdy.
The handset measures a pocket-size 4.1 x 2.0 x 0.7 inches and weighs in at 4.1 ounces, which makes it lighter and marginally smaller than the 4.6 x 2.1 x 0.7-inch, 4.7-ounce Voyager, although just as thick. We're impressed by its dimensions, considering it has a higher-resolution display, (440 x 240 as opposed to the Voyager's 400 x 240), while maintaining a similarly bright and colorful 2.8-inch display.
On the front of the device is a central Home button, but we really wish the Glyde also had Send and End call buttons. Along the device's silver accents on the upper left is a charging slot, a 2.5mm headphone jack on the top right, and a lock/unlock button, along with volume controls and a camera button running down the right side. The 2-megapixel camera is on the back of the device with a small mirror for self-portraits.
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You can add your own microSD Card (up to 8GB) to the Glyde, and the slot is right under the back cover, though thankfully, not under the battery. We wish Samsung had found a place for this slot on the outside of the phone, though.
Glyde Touchscreen Navigation
The Glyde has a unique user interface, with a host of preloaded interactive background images, including a Rubik's Cube, but this feature is just for fun. A pulsating blue box in the middle of the background, when touched, launches the Shortcuts menu. You'll also find plenty of other quick-launch buttons on the home screen, including: Dial Pad, Menu, Contacts, and Messaging, which run along the left side of the screen when the keyboard is extended. Along the bottom are more icons that light up or dim depending on whether you have an alarm set, a calendar appointment, a missed call, or a new message. Here's where the UI gets a little confusing though: Simply put, the Glyde has too many menus.
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The first menu is the awkward blue box shortcut menu on the home screen. If you touch that, you can access VZ Navigator, text messages, music, pictures, the browser, calendar, Bluetooth settings, and more. You can reach the Main Menu both inside the blue-box shortcut menu and on the home screen. This other menu has more shortcuts: Get It Now, Messaging, Contacts, Recent Calls, Settings and Tools, My Music, Browser, and VZ Navigator. Sometimes deciding which menu to use can be confusing, since the two menus have some overlapping options, which got confusing; some options in one aren't in the other, such as Mobile E-mail. Worse, Mobile E-Mail isn't under the Messaging option, which is reserved for voicemail, SMS, MMS, and Mobile IM access. On our tests, we found ourselves navigating backward a number of times looking for the right option to select.
Inside the Shortcut menu, you can select the Set option to remove or organize the applications. However, you won't be able to drag them around like you can on the iPhone. Instead, you can select one and then choose which icon in the menu it should replace.
Aside from navigating menus, the UI itself is generally quite easy to use, and if you've used a haptic-feedback phone before you'll catch on quickly. However, we found that we had to sometimes click an option twice before the phone registered the input; sometimes it happened even when we felt the haptic feedback and the menu selection lit up. We also saw a noticeable amount of lag when selecting on-screen options, likely due to the soft-blue glow effect that surrounds an icon each time you select one. The sluggish UI became frustrating during our testing: We'd select a menu item and the phone would recognize our selection later, after we already touched the screen again to make new selections.
Worse, we encountered one instance where the home screen wouldn't register our finger presses at all, and the phone looked frozen. But when we slid the keyboard out, the touchscreen worked in the Menu interface. When we closed the keyboard, the home screen was still frozen. A reboot fixed the problem.
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While the interface needs some work, the Glyde's keyboard is solid. It's easy to use, and the keys had good punch and bounce. On the other hand, we also found the number keys and top level of the keyboard just a tad too close to the top part of the phone; our thumbs were constantly hitting the top display. It's minor but worth noting.
White letters accent the black keyboard, and each key has a white backlight. You can toggle the Function key on and off to select yellow designated numbers and symbols scattered on the keyboard. You'll need to remember to click the Function key a second time to turn it off, as it's not like the Alt key on a BlackBerry, which requires you to hold it down for it to be active.
E-mail and Instant Messaging
The Glyde comes packaged with AIM, Windows Live Messenger, and Yahoo in its Mobile IM application. Google Chat and ICQ aren't included, and we weren't able to add them. There's also built-in e-mail support for AOL, AIM Mail, Verizon.net, Windows Live Mail, Yahoo Mail, and Other. We loved the Other feature, which you can use to set up your own IMAP or POP3 e-mail account. We were able to set up our work e-mail (which uses Gmail and IMAP) in just five minutes, and the whole process is very intuitive if you know your account settings. E-mail isn't pushed to the Glyde, however, so you'll need to open the application to find out if new mail has arrived or not.
Like the LG Vu, the Glyde can read out your SMS messages. You'll need to go into the voice-command settings within the Settings menu to turn it on, and then the phone will automatically read out each SMS you open. We tested with "Want to get pizza," and although it was just as robotic as the LG Vu, the voice was understandable. The Glyde doesn't offer visual voicemail.
Glyde Multimedia: Music and Video
The Glyde comes packaged with Verizon's over-the-air services, including VZ Navigator, V CAST Music, and V CAST Video. V CAST Video limits you to clips, and since the phone doesn't support V CAST TV, you won't be able to catch up on your favorite shows while out on the road. We were able to download a song from Gary Allan's Man to Man in 1 minute and 26 seconds using an EV-DO connection, and The Bravery's "An Honest Mistake" in less than a minute, which is on a par with the LG Voyager's over-the-air download time. On the Voyager it took us 1 minute and 20 seconds to download Sean Kingston's "Take You There." If you don't want to download from the Verizon Wireless store, you can also play your own MP3, WMA, and unprotected AAC and AAC+ files.
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Music sounded pretty decent playing out of the Glyde's speakers, although they lacked bass entirely--as expected since they're nearly invisible. When we hooked up our own 2.5mm headset (it doesn't come with its own), the music played out of only the right earbud. We tested this with another headset to confirm the bug. Samsung says this shouldn't be the case, however, and a replacement unit is on its way. We will update this review after we've retested it.
We used stereo Bluetooth to listen to The Bravery's "An Honest Mistake." In the beginning of the song, the sound cut out a few times but then stabilized and played through clearly. You can also use stereo Bluetooth for watching videos. With most devices, we can easily walk 20 to 30 feet away from the phone with our Plantronics Voyager headset, but with the Glyde, we could get only 11 to 13 feet on average before the sound cut out. During the test, the Bluetooth signal has to travel through one wall.
GPS now with Traffic
The Glyde comes packaged with Traffic Enhanced VZ Navigator 4.1.0 software, which launched on May 7th. The software will run you $2.99 per day or $9.99 per month should you decide to use it. The service was pretty accurate, as it placed us within a block of our NYC office. The new version also includes traffic integration to help you avoid highway congestion in 75 cities based on historical traffic information. You can also use VZ Navigator to search for movies, local gas prices, and weather. The latest version, also packaged on the phone, allows you to view a 3D map for easier in-car navigation. On our tests, performance was solid and the audio was sufficiently loud, even in a moving vehicle.
Mediocre Web Browser
Web browsing on the Glyde was decent. Although it supports full HTML Web sites, we still found it limited by Verizon Wireless' poor mobile browser and portal. The portal is identical to the one found on the LG Voyager and has such options as Connect, which grants you easy access to AOL Mail, Facebook, Gmail, Windows Live, and Yahoo Mail. These aren't full applications like the ones loaded on the phone, however; they're Web site versions, which means you need to sign on through the Web portal.
We were able to load the mobile version of CNN.com in a speedy 6 seconds, but full sites such as NYTimes.com took 1 minute and 20 seconds, even though we could navigate around the page and see most of the pictures at the 40-second mark. The Voyager was able to load NYTimes.com in 36 seconds. Using Verizon Wireless' optimized Web feature, we were able to load NYTimes.com in 26 seconds, but you won't have the same full-page experience; the page loads in one vertical column. As expected, Ajax and Flash support is non-existent.
Decent 2-MP Camera
The 2-MP camera can take 1600 x 1200 resolution shots, and while we thought the pictures turned out good enough to send as MMS messages, they were almost too washed out to include in a social networking album. We really appreciated the autofocus feature, though, which helped keep the images sharp. The flash works decently in slightly dim settings but not in darker ones, where it adds a glowing effect instead of brightening the objects.
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Our video was limited to an unacceptable 176 x 144 resolution, which is hardly usable. The recording was blocky, and pedestrians using a crosswalk seemed to jitter across the screen pixel by pixel during video playback. The phone shows an option to use a better 320 x 240-pixel resolution, but it was grayed out, even when we added a 2GB microSD Card. (Update: The phone can record video at a 320 x 240 resolution if set to Save.)
When we talked to a caller on the streets of Manhattan, they said they could hear us fine, but we found ourselves saying "What?" often because the volume didn't get loud enough. Indoors, however, the phone was plenty loud. If you slide out the keyboard during a phone call, the speakerphone will activate. Our caller said we sounded fuzzy, and his voice through the speakers sounded muffled. You can make out the words, but don't count on using the Glyde if any background noise is present.
Samsung rates the Glyde as having 3.5 hours of talk time and 10.4 days of standby time. We were able to use the phone heavily for a 24-hour period, surfing the Web, making calls, and streaming music via Bluetooth. After 24 hours, we still had half a charge left, and we were pleased with the battery life overall.
The Glyde seems like a compelling touchscreen messaging phone with fun messaging capabilities, and we like the keyboard, but it has too many drawbacks to recommend. The interface is bland and needlessly difficult to customize, and the touchscreen doesn't always act on each finger press. We say either spend the $50 to get the V CAST Mobile TV-sporting Voyager or--if you can do without a touchscreen--pick up the $129 LG enV2.