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printed November 28, 2014
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Review: Samsung Juke

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Is It Your Type? Body Three S's  

There's no nice way to say it. The Juke is a goofy little phone. It is long and narrow but thick, and resembles MP3 players from five years ago more so than modern cell phones. But it makes its point clearly. This is a phone for active users who want an MP3 player first, and a phone second.

It gives off the impression of being one tough mother when you hold it in your hand. It is solid and made of plastics that exude strength. When closed, it is easy to wrap your fingers all the way around it and make a fist. You can't say that about many phones on the market today. It will stick out at the top and bottom of your fist, though, and is a bit thick around the waist. It is well balanced in your hand when closed and open, and because it is so narrow, it fits snugly into your palm.

Most surfaces of the phone are smooth and feel comfortable. The front face is glossy and smudge-prone, while the sides and back have a semi-sparkly silver finish and also tend to show off finger grime.

You can only interact with a few buttons and controls on the phone when it is closed. On the front, there is a spin wheel to help you navigate menus and make selections. The spinning action of the wheel is not very satisfactory. It is very loose and when you spin the wheel, it looks unbalanced and not perfectly fitted to the frame in which it sits. It also doesn't not interact with the menu as you would expect. There is no clicking, it simply spins. It often feels like you need to spin it more than 40 percent of the way around before it will illicit a reaction from the phone. This leads you to overshoot your menu selection often. In the center of the wheel is a standard selector button. This button had good travel and feedback. It also works as a D-pad, but not with every application.

On the sides you'll find a few other buttons. With the phone open, the volume toggle is on the left side of the phone. It is easily found and used with your fingers. The action on the button was acceptable, but not great. On the right side of the phone is a lock key. This switch was a little difficult to operate, as there was some resistance on the test model we had. Next to it are two covers - one for the data port, which is Samsung's proprietary port, and one for the headphones. One of the Juke's major gaffes is that the headphone jack is only 2.5mm, rather than the standard 3.5mm headphone jack. This is a cardinal sin for a music phone. Both cover hatches were easy to open and use.

Now for the fun part: opening the phone. The Juke is a switchblade phone, so you have to flick it open sideways. Because of the way the screen and spin wheel are oriented, your natural inclination is to hold the phone with the screen above the spin wheel. You can't open the phone when it is held like this in your right hand. It smacks into your palm. You have to turn it upside down in your hand in order for the switchblade action to work properly. This is completely counterintuitive, but all switchblades with buttons on the front face suffer from this same problem. When the phone rings, the caller ID information is displayed as you would expect it to be. If you pick up the phone so that it can be opened, the called ID information is upside down.

Once you have the phone oriented in your hand correctly, just a little bit pf pressure on the right side will cause the phone to swing open sideways to the left. Because it swings to the left, holding and opening it in your left hand is very difficult. This phone was meant to be held in the users' right hand. Most of the time, the top half of the phone swings open all the way without issue. In fact, with some practice, you can actually add some panache and look hip...in a cheesy kind of way. But every so often, it gets stuck just short of all the way open, and you have to reach up with your hand and push it the rest of the way. For the most part, the hinge on our test phone seemed solid, and it had very little play once the phone was open.

Because the phone is so narrow, the numeric keypad and other controls are squished into a smaller spot than on most phones. The keypad is the same height as most other phones, but perhaps only two-thirds as wide. Paired with the overall narrow shape of the phone, this leads to major hand cramps when used for typing out text messages or entering other content/data. My thumb was constantly sore while testing this phone. It has to be held in the hand in a very particular way, and is simply uncomfortable to type with. The keys themselves are an attractive, shiny silver and each button had good travel and feedback.

Just under the hinge and below the spin wheel is the navigation cluster. This is where the send/end keys, function keys and clear/camera keys are. They are set apart from the numeric keypad with a rubber-like bar, so the navigation cluster is easy to differentiate from the rest of the keys. Most of these work well, but the function keys are so far removed from where the screen is, that your tendency is to use the spin wheel to access the two function menus rather than reach down and use the function keys themselves.

 

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