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Review: Samsung u550

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Not to be mean, but the u550 is nearly indistinguishable from at least three other Samsung clamshells in the Verizon Wireless line-up. Vanilla ice cream has more personality than this phone does. But that doesn't mean it's a bad phone. It's just not going to win any awards for its design. It is a bronze-y, brownish color with silver and black details. It's understated and not flashy. People aren't going to notice it as they would a Samsung Juke as you walk down the street. But that's fine. Not every cell phone needs to be noticed.

It is comfortable to hold in your hand. The plastics are nice and smooth. No textured paint here. The finish is somewhat glossy, which means the u550 attracts fingerprints. The smudge isn't so noticeable on the sides or back of the phone, but in the black area surrounding the exterior display, its hard not not notice. The weight is comfortable and balanced both open and closed. Because it is so smooth, it slides in and out of jeans pockets easily. There is nothing that protrudes from the phone, and it doesn't get caught up in your pocket when you try to retrieve it. The downside here, is that the phone did manage to slip out of leather jacket pocket at one point. Good thing that happened in my own car and not a taxi cab.

Along the left side of the phone are the volume rocker and lock/unlock keys. These buttons are very easy to find with your fingers and have excellent action and feedback. Samsung got the feel of thee buttons just right. The same goes for the camera and speakerphone buttons on the right side of the phone, which mirror the volume rocker in placement near hinge. The one odd thing about these two buttons is that they are also a rocker button. This makes it easy to accidentally activate the wrong one. But the action and feedback are just as good as the volume rocker's.

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The gap between the top and bottom halves of the phone is pretty wide. In fact, if you hold it at eye level, you can see objects through the phone. This is due to a rubber bumper that is perhaps half a millimeter to tall. I'd prefer less of a gap and a tighter seam. But this makes the u550 a snap to open. There's plenty of room for your finger to dig in and pop the top half up.

As with many Samsung keypads we've tested, the u550's is flat, spacious, and offers your thumb plenty of room to move around. The D-pad is squarish in shape and placed fairly close to the hinge. There are four tiny nubs that stick up from the D-pad at the top, bottom, left and right sides. These are really helpful in making sure your finger is in the right spot to navigate. I found them to be a great feature for the D-pad, and navigating without looking at the D-pad is very easy. The center button is made from a different material and has a different texture to it than the navigational button, so it's not a problem to locate it with your thumb. You always know what you're pressing.

The D-pad is surrounded by 7 buttons in a "U" shape that runs from the top left corner down around the bottom and back up to the top right corner. At the top, of course, are the left and right soft keys. They are a bit on the smallish side compared to the rest of the buttons. Given how often you use the soft keys on a phone, we wish these were a little bigger. The send/end keys are very well sized and easy to press, as are the camera and speakerphone keys. The clear key is a little on the thin side, and sometimes I found my thumb mashing the bottom of the D-pad or the 2 key by accident. All of these buttons had good travel and feedback. They were solid, and nice and quiet.

The numeric keys themselves are also nice and large and offer the same amount of travel, feedback and response that the navigation keys to. There are four very slight ridges separating the rows of keys. Thee ridges are just enough to let your thumb know that it has traveled to the next row of keys. The 5 button has to vertical hash marks at the left and right edges. These are also just enough to help guide your thumb across the keypad.

On the bottom of the phone is a hatch covering the power port. It's easy enough to dig your thumb in and open it open. Unfortunately, the microSD slot is located under the battery hatch, which must be removed if you want to insert/remove a memory card. The slot is, thankfully, next to the battery, which means you can hot swap if you want to.

 
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