Mobile : Expert Review: u430 Cell Phone

THE GOOD: The Samsung SCH-U430 is a compact phone with simple controls. It offers Bluetooth and decent call quality.

THE BAD: The Samsung SCH-U430's plastic skin feels somewhat flimsy and its photo quality is poor.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The Samsung SCH-U430 isn't terribly exciting and its camera is disappointing, but it's a decent phone for making calls.

If you're looking for a basic flip phone with a VGA camera, you can always count on Samsung to deliver. Indeed, the company pumps them out by the dozen and the Samsung SCH-U430 is the latest of the batch. Sporting a simple, compact design and minimal features, the SCH-U430 offers Verizon Wireless, an update to last year's Samsung SCH-U410. Though there's not a lot to distinguish it from the cell phone crowd, it's still a decent phone for making calls. The SCH-U430 is an affordable $79 if you pay full price, but you can get it for free with a two-year service contract. To find accessories for this phone, see our cell phone ringtones and accessories guide.

The SCH-U430 has a generic flip-phone design and comes in basic black. There's nothing particularly striking about its design, but it's not unattractive either. At 3.67 inches tall by 1.85 inches wide by 0.78 inch deep, and weighing 3.21 ounces, the SCH-U430 is compact and portable. The plastic skin feels a tad cheap but the hinge is sturdy, and the phone has a solid feel in the hand.

The 1-inch exterior display supports 65,000 colors (96×96 pixels) and shows all the information you'll need. You can see the date, time, battery life, signal strength, and photo caller ID. It also works as a view finder for the camera lens, which sits just above the screen. The SCH-U430 doesn't offer a flash. Below the display is a thin speaker.

The remaining exterior controls include a 2.5mm headset jack and a headset jack/charger port on the right spine. The charger port is proprietary, and so we hope that Samsung soon joins other manufacturers in moving toward a common micro USB charger. Between them is a dual control that starts the camera and activates the speakerphone before making a call (nice). On the left spine you'll find a volume rocker.

The internal display measures 2 inches and supports 65,000 colors (160×128 pixels). Normally, we'd prefer a higher-resolution display, but it's fine on this caliber of phone. The screen is bright and colors and graphics looked relatively good, but the display is difficult to see in direct light. We're very pleased that Verizon is tweaking its menu interface to make it more intelligible. You can change the clock format, the brightness, and the dialing font's size and style.

The navigation controls and keypad have an ergonomic, easy-to-use design. The four-way toggle and central OK button are tactile and slightly raised above the surface of the phone. You'll also find two soft keys, a clear button, and the Talk and End/power controls. The backlit keypad buttons are equally spacious and attractive, even if the plastic material feels the slightest bit flimsy. We had no problems with misdials and the numbers on the keys are large.

The SCH-U430's phone book holds 500 contacts, with room in each entry for five phone numbers, two e-mail addresses, and notes. The SCH-U430 also stores three "in case of emergency" numbers. You can save callers to groups and pair them with a photo or one of 14 polyphonic ringtones. Basic features include voice dialing, text and multimedia messaging, a calendar, a calculator, a stopwatch, a world clock, a notepad, and an alarm clock. You'll also find Bluetooth, instant messaging, voice dialing, a voice memo, Web-based POP3 e-mail, and support for Verizon's VZ Navigator.

The SCH-U430 doesn't have a flash.

The SCH-U430's VGA camera takes pictures in three resolutions, from 640×480 down to 160×120. Editing options include a night mode, five color effects, brightness and white-balance settings, three quality choices, a 10x digital zoom, and three shutter sounds, plus a silent option. The SPH-U430 doesn't record video. The SPH-U430 has a respectable 16MB of shared memory for storing your work. Photo quality was poor, even for a VGA camera. Our shots were blurry and rather dim.

Don't count on the SCH-U430's camera.

We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900) Samsung SCH-U430 in San Francisco using Verizon Wireless service. Call quality was quite good, with a clear signal and excellent voice quality. Call volume was softer then we'd like; it was fine most for most environments, but if we were in a noisy place it was difficult to hear. As such, if you have a hearing impairment you should test the phone first before buying.

On their end, callers said we sounded fine, though they also had trouble hearing us at times. It wasn't a huge issue, but it's still worth noting. Speakerphone calls were decent, but not that great. We had to speak close to the phone in order to be heard.

The SCH-U430 has a rated battery life of 5 hours talk time and 14 days standby time. According to our tests, the SCH-U430 has a talk time of 6 hours and 13 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the Samsung SCH-U430 has a digital SAR of 1.07 watts per kilogram.

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