Review: Helio Fin
When you first look at the Fin, it looks like a blue A717. It has the same basic shape - the same familiar shape as almost all Samsung clamshells and sliders, only smooshed so it's thinner and larger. Though it cuts an impressively thin figure, make no mistake, the Fin is a large phone. It about the same size as Motorola's new RAZR 2.
The Fin has a few styling changes from the A717 other than the color. There is a small lip on the flip that makes a nice perch for the tip of your index finger when you're holding the Fin while it's open, and something to rub your finger along when the Fin is closed. Helio always seems to incorporate something into every phone to occupy your hands.
Opening and closing these new large, thin flip phones is not nearly as fun as sliders or more compact clamshells, so this little ledge provides something to keep one of your hands busy. There top half of the flip has a nice beveled edge, and there's another bevel on the keypad where it meets the top half, which makes opening the Fin a bit easier. However, flipping up that huge lid is not exactly effortless.
When you pop the Fin open, you do so with confidence. There's a satisfying thunk after you get the flip about 2/3 of the way open and then it snaps into place. Popping it shut is just as confidence inspiring, and all that surface area makes a big thwack sound as the halves meet.
The Fin feels solid open or closed. It has a high quality fit and finish with no apparent weak spots or squeaks. It also has a quite a heft to it for its size, which emphasizes the feel of quality.
The front, like the other Ultra flips, has a small OLED screen at the top of the phone. On the Fin this screen seems to be covered with a mirror-like coating that makes it look cooler, but also makes it unusable outdoors. Centered above it is a 3 Megapixel camera - an upgrade from the 2 MP shooter on its brethren.
Helio has moved the memory card slot to underneath the battery. Though this means the card is not easily swapped or removed, it did allow Helio to give the Fin a thinner profile.
Although the Fin's edges are beveled, they are not rounded. This combined with the Fin's rather large outline makes it sit rather awkwardly in the hand when it is closed. You can feel all the hard edges against your palm. However it is not uncomfortable when it is open, since it is so thin you wind up holding it on your fingertips.
As on other Ultra series handsets, the Fin has a totally flat keypad. The numbers are not separated from each other with anything but space - there is not even a line to divide one key from another let alone anything tactile. There is a small plastic ridge that separates the D-pad from the rest of the keys, but it is imperceptible. There's really no way to know you're on a key, or what key you're on other than guess based on position of your finger. This works surprisingly well with the numbers, but not so much with the navigation keys.
It's also very difficult to tell that you've hit a key. There's no satisfying click or pop to the keypresses. Combine guessing whether you've pressed a key with guessing what key you're on and you have a texting disaster on your hands. Navigation, however, wasn't quite as bad.