What's good: Keypad and design improvements over the original Alias; E-Ink technology reduces clutter on the keypad; call quality
What's bad: Ever-so-slight lag while typing quickly; potential reception issues in rural areas; extra applications add up quickly
Though many have moved into the world of smartphone devices, lured by full-HTML web browsers and push e-mail, the market for regular, QWERTY-based phones still exists. The Samsung Alias 2 U750 provides an incredibly refreshing design over its predecessor, and offers interior improvements to boot. Supporting corporate e-mail thanks to RemoSync, and introducing "E-Ink" technology for a better typing experience, the device is well configured all around and offers the ability to appeal to several different demographics.
Upon first glance, one can tell that the Alias 2 offers design enhancements over the original Alias. The jagged corners of the original have been replaced by smooth edges, and the two-toned grey and black color scheme, combined with the raised 'Samsung' and 'Verizon' logos on the front, gives the device a professional look. Coming in at 4.01" x 2.04" x 0.67" with a weight of 4.34 ounces, the device is slightly larger and heavier than its predecessor, but we think its put to good use.
When powering it on, one can see the generously sized, 240x320 internal display and somewhat long shape; much like the BlackBerry Pearl Flip in terms of length. Personally, we liked it, as it placed the microphone in a more natural place, however it's guaranteed to be a love or hate design, so check it out in the store before purchase. On the left side, a 2.5mm headset jack, charging port, volume rocker, and voice dialing button can be found; whereas the right side contains the microSD card slot (with support for up to 16 GB cards), the hold button, and the power button. For music, reverse, play/pause, and forward buttons can be found on the front of the phone, directly under the external display. We wish that it offered a 3.5mm headset jack, however we'll admit that it is a step up from the usual proprietary connector.
The most notable new feature in the device is the "E-Ink" technology that the keypad utilizes. When opened vertically, the keypad offers a D-Pad, numeric keys, and several shortcuts; when flipped the other direction, the same options are available, albeit on different keys. Keys that are not in use are completely white. In addition, the keypad will auto-customize to the menu that the user is viewing. For example, when we went to send a text message, the QWERTY keyboard would display, but when we canceled out, the numeric pad would return. This proved to be exceptionally useful, and seemed to eliminate the clutter from the original Alias' keypad where almost every key served more than one function. The keys are also larger than the original Alias', opening the possibility for someone with large fingers to carry the device.
Many customization options can be found in the Alias 2, from the various ringtones to four different themes. The device also offers an array of media options. As with any of Verizon's EVDO handsets, the phone ships with the full V Cast suite of services, offering music support through Rhapsody, and streaming video. For travelers, the device offers airplane mode, so you can listen to your music while in-flight. A two megapixel camera can be found on the Alias 2, and while it is a slight improvement over the original Alias, we were still disappointed in the lack of a flash and a portrait mirror. Picture quality was decent given the appropriate amount of light.
Typing was, for the most part, pleasant. The larger keys make it much easier to type without misspelling, and the lack of clutter on the keys (thanks to the E-Ink technology) helps the user get to their needed key faster. There was an ever-so-slight lag while typing messages, but we didn't experience it unless we typed incredibly quickly.
This isn't so much a problem with the device as it is with Verizon's pricing, but a primary frustration came from the added charges that were incurred when various applications were downloaded. Everything seemed to be an added cost. For RemoSync, a $9.99 per month charge; for Mobile E-Mail, $5 (included with Nationwide Premium or Connect plan); and for VZ Navigator, $9.99 per month (included with Nationwide Premium or Connect plan). When we sat down and computed the charges, we were amazed at how quickly everything added up. Therefore, if you are planning to use the Alias 2 for e-mail or web purposes, we would recommend considering a BlackBerry or another PDA device; when it's all said and done, the difference in monthly bill amounts may be closer than you think.
Reception with the Alias 2 was great for us, but we would recommend caution based on information obtained from other users. Personally, we had no issues. Callers could hear us perfectly in several environments, and in turn, we could hear them well. In most settings, many of our callers didn't even realize we were using a cell phone. Though the phone typically listed a lower number of "bars" than the other Verizon phones we had, calls were always clear and showed no sign of distortion. In one instance, another Verizon test device had three bars while the Alias 2 had zero; both calls were crystal clear. Other users on various forums have reported some reception problems in known trouble spots, so we would recommend taking advantage of the 30-day trial if you live in a rural area.
We were very pleased with the Samsung Alias 2, and certainly consider it to be a worthy upgrade from the original. The E-Ink technology drastically improves the typing experience on the device thanks to the lack of clutter, and the increased key size makes it much easier to type messages. Though it may have slight reception issues in rural areas, the phone is a worthy alternative to the other text-centric devices in Verizon Wireless' lineup such as the LG enV2 and the Voyager.