capsule review

Samsung Alias 2 Cell Phone (Verizon)

At a Glance
  • Samsung Alias 2

    PCWorld Rating

    Great phone for calling, not for features--unless you're willing to invest quite a bit more than the asking price.

The Samsung Alias 2 ($150 from Verizon, as of 6/25/09) is dual-hinged like its predecessor, the Alias, and it boasts a neat E Ink morphing keyboard that changes according to the phone orientation and menu. Though it isn't a smartphone, it supports RemoSync for corporate e-mail accounts, visual voicemail, and the VZ Navigator GPS system. All three of those features cost you extra, however; at the price point, you'd think they could throw in the visual voicemail and GPS system for free.

Thanks to the dual-hinge flip design of the Alias 2, you can open the phone vertically and horizontally. The handset is bigger than the average flip phone, yet it maintains sleekness, measuring 2.0 by 4.0 by 0.7 inches and weighing a light 4.3 ounces. Despite its size, I found it comfortable to hold up to my ear for long conversations. The front screen is 1.3 inches and 128 by 128 pixels, and located below it are three dedicated music buttons for cycling through songs. The inside screen is a nice, big 2.6 inches and 320 by 240 pixels.

Though Samsung is promoting the Alias 2 as a music phone, its most intriguing feature is no doubt its E Ink keyboard, which constantly morphs to suit your needs. Open your Alias 2 vertically, and a vertical numeric keypad appears. Open the phone horizontally, and the number pad adjusts to become a full QWERTY keyboard. Don't get me wrong: The keyboard is nifty and the E Ink technology works incredibly well (though I could see a brief flicker as the keys reset themselves each time the keyboard switched). But the keys are pretty slippery, which is a nuisance as there are many unused keys in the vertical position (and I found myself pressing the wrong keys often).

Call quality was pretty good overall: Voices sounded crisp, clear, and easy to hear, even in noisy environments. An advantage of the phone's being so large was that the speaker was pretty close to my mouth, so recipients had no problems hearing me, even as I was ducking and whispering to avoid dirty looks from the Caltrain rush-hour crowd. None of my calls dropped, either.

The default home screen has a cutesy but cluttered "My Place" theme. Luckily, you can change the look to any of three simpler, icon-based themes. You can also shuffle the icons around and/or replace them, and you can view them in tabs, as a list, or in a grid.

Web-based e-mail was easy to set up with Verizon's Mobile Email feature. RemoSync, also simple to set up, can grab mail from corporate accounts, but it will cost you $10 per month. Verizon's Mobile Web browser and Video/Music download sites are the same ones you'll find on other Verizon-branded phones; the browser is clunky but functional, and video and music downloads are easy and quick.

The phone doubles as an MP3 player, and the sound quality is good through headphones (though not great through the external speakers). If you use the Rhapsody service, dragging and dropping playlists from your PC is a snap.

The camera is unspectacular at 2 megapixels, which is about average for phones of this caliber. The picture quality is fine, and you get several advanced features, including white balance and digital zoom, which you can use at lower resolutions. The camera also takes video at 15 frames per second, for up to a max of 10 minutes (or 30 seconds for video messages).

Overall, I found the Samsung Alias 2 great for calls--and that's what phones are for, right? But aside from the appealing keyboard (which, I admit, will probably never get old), the phone lacks the extras that might capture a buyer's heart. It comes with no games (though you can download them for a price), and its cooler features (such as visual voicemail and RemoSync) cost extra. Still, it has a lot of potential if you're willing to invest more than just the asking price, and it's a great phone for entertainment and for business alike.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Great phone for calling, not for features--unless you're willing to invest quite a bit more than the asking price.

    Pros

    • E-ink keyboard is uniquel
    • Great call quality

    Cons

    • All extra features cost more
    • Large compared to other phones
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