The Samsung Glyde has a lot of potential, with a smooth-sliding full-size QWERTY keyboard and a 2.8-inch touchscreen, as well as extras like assisted GPS, Bluetooth, haptic feedback, and a 2-megapixel camera. It even looks like a smaller version of one of its main competitors, the LG Voyager, though it lacks the former’s mobile TV capability. Unfortunately, the Glyde’s main input method – the touchscreen – doesn’t work well enough for us to recommend the phone. If Samsung fixes this issue via a firmware update, we’d consider changing our tune.
Features and Design
The bar-shaped 4.1-ounce Glyde measures 4 x 2 x .7 inches — thick but still very compact — and has a midnight blue shell trimmed in chrome-colored plastic. A 2.8-inch touchscreen, an analog Home button, and the ear speaker take up the phone’s front face, while the 2-megapixel camera lens and LED flash adorn the back. A pair of speakers and a 2.5-mm headphone jack sit on top, with buttons for power/hold, volume, and camera/camcorder on the right side. The charge/sync port is on the left side, and the phone’s pinhole mic is located on bottom.
The phone’s thickness is attributable to the QWERTY keyboard, which literally glides out to the left from behind the front. We’re impressed with the quality and smoothness of the spring-loaded sliding mechanism, and the 3-row keyboard is excellent in terms of button size and feel. We did find the space bar’s placement (between V and B) a little awkward, and the top row is crowded against the edge of the phone’s top half, but we’re happy the keys are backlit.
The Glyde has a microSD slot that supports the latest range of high-capacity cards, but Samsung oddly chose to keep it hidden underneath the back cover. At least you don’t have to remove the battery to get at it, but cutting away a small part of the cover to expose the slot would have been much smarter.
Inside, the dual-band CDMA (800/1900MHz) Glyde packs stereo Bluetooth and assisted GPS, as well as 3G support and a fairly competent Web browser. It has 45MB of built-in flash memory for messages, applications, ringtones, media, and ringtones, though you can add up to 8GB with a microSD card. The Glyde lacks WiFi, though it has very good on-board email client that supports accounts like AOL Mail, Gmail, Windows Live, and Yahoo Mail.
The Glyde’s capacitive touchscreen responds to your skin’s ability to carry electricity away from the screen’s electrodes, rather than simply being pressure sensitive. This means you can’t use a stylus or fingernail to operate it.
To wake the screen, you press any physical button. To unlock it, touch the lock icon, and to lock it manually, press the tiny power/lock button on the side. Unfortunately, bugs cause it to sense touches in the wrong area of the screen, sense touches correctly but not activate the pressed virtual button, or occasionally wig out entirely in jittery spasms. This was extremely frustrating and made simple activities (like dialing) inconsistent.
When you slide out the keyboard, the screen automatically rotates to landscape mode. It’s possible to use the QWERTY keyboard for functions like scrolling and activating links or buttons, and in some cases it makes operation far easier. But this defeats the whole purpose of having a touchscreen, which ultimately drives up the price of a phone.
In some instances, you can work around the screen’s lack of precision by zooming in via the dedicated volume buttons on the side of the phone and dragging your finger to scroll vertically and horizontally. This slows down the overall experience, though, and we much prefer the convenience of gesture-based zooming like on the iPhone.
When you touch the screen, a motor vibrates briefly (with adjustable strength) to let you know the screen “heard” you. Unfortunately, just because the screen “hears” you doesn’t mean it understands what you’re trying to tell it; we often had to press buttons and links repeatedly to get the desired response, despite the phone having given haptic feedback.
Pressing the physical Home button underneath the LCD brings you to the main screen from anywhere in the phone’s menu system. The main screen has three icons across the top for dialing, menu, and contacts, as well as a shortcut bar at the bottom for settings, with wide-open space in the middle. Pressing the tiny square in the center of the screen brings you to a customizable shortcuts menu for most of the phone’s features.
Overall the menus are clear enough, and the buttons are generally large enough to be pressed easily. We like the interface’s customizability, and the menus are very well laid-out for quick navigation, except for the annoyingly glitchy touchscreen.
Although the phone has no physical End button, you can use the Home button to end calls or get out of any other application that’s running. Unfortunately, when the screen auto-locks as you’re on a call, it doesn’t automatically sense if you move the phone away from your face (a la the iPhone) — you have to wake and unlock the screen.
Calls and Reception
In our testing the Glyde got nearly identical 1XRTT and EVDO reception to our Samsung u740, which has served us reasonably well for several months so far. Oddly, twice we got brief “Leaving Service Area” messages while sitting still in our Brooklyn apartment, but we’ll chalk that up to quirkiness.
Call clarity on our end was very good and consistent across different volume levels via the earpiece. We were less impressed with the speakerphone’s sound quality, though the full-duplex chip prevented dropouts when two people talk at the same time. People we called said our voice sounded a bit fuzzy but intelligible.
The integrated 2-megapixel camera has an autofocus lens and a small LED flash, and it can capture video at up to 320 x 240 resolution. The pictures we took didn’t look too bad as long as there was plenty of ambient light present. Outdoors in daylight, our pictures were reasonably sharp with adequate detail and a slight tendency toward softness and overexposure. Indoors, our pictures were often blurry; the autofocus seemed to have trouble locking onto anything, and the flash wasn’t much help.
Aside from being very small, our test videos (aside from tiny) looked like average cell phone video: blurry, pixilated and slightly jumpy. In lots of daylight, the camcorder fared okay, but in most indoor scenes, it captured enough detail to give you the general idea, but not much more.
One thing we really miss in the Glyde is any sort of mobile TV like Verizon’s MediaFLO (supported by the LG Voyager). Instead, the Glyde is limited to your own videos or V Cast streaming video. You can also purchase music over the air from Verizon’s Music Store, or listen to your own files (MPEG-4, H.264, and Real Video). The screen looks pretty good, and downloads are about as quick as they were with the LG Voyager — about a minute for music tracks or a little more than that for (low-res) videos.
Supported music files include MP3, AAC+, eAAC+, and Real Audio. We tried to plug in our own headphones via a RadioShack 2.5-mm adapter, but the pin order in the Glyde’s jack didn’t match the adapter, causing audio to come only out of the right earphone unless we unplugged it half way. Music is clear if not particularly loud from the phone’s built-in speaker, but we’re hoping Samsung comes to its senses with its forthcoming Instinct and includes a proper 3.5-mm jack.
Surfing the Web using Verizon’s proprietary browser was consistently speedy as long as we had a strong EVDO signal. You can choose to view pages as they appear on a desktop browser or in an optimized version that reformats some sites to the Glyde’s screen. The browser is significantly hampered by lack of Flash or Ajax support, but the overall experience was smooth thanks to the excellent QWERTY keyboard. The dedicated email client worked great with our GMail and Yahoo accounts, and the IM client handled our AIM chats very smoothly with a simple interface.
Image Courtesy of Samsung
GPS and Bluetooth
VZ Navigator ($2.99/day or $9.99/month USD) is a capable GPS app, and the phone was able to locate itself quickly enough in New York City, which is usually a challenge due to the tall buildings. You also get loud and clear turn-by-turn directions, live traffic reporting, and a 3D map, as well as local info like movies and weather.
Bluetooth on the Glyde was about the same as with our u740; transmission was consistently clear when the phone had an unobstructed path to our test headsets (a Plantronics Discovery 935 for mono and Jabra BT8030 for stereo). With walls and bodies in the way, range was limited to about 8-12 feet.
The Glyde’s battery life is rated at just 3.5 hours of talk time (10.4 days standby), which is about half an hour less than that of the LG Voyager and less than half that of the iPhone. We found ways to save on battery life with the Glyde, however, like disabling or lowering the haptic feedback and keeping brightness and volume settings low. There’s not WiFi to drain the battery, but if you use EVDO, Bluetooth, and camera features a lot, you may want to pass on the Glyde.
We think the Glyde could be a solid phone if it had a more reliable touchscreen and a better Web browser (really, Verizon, it’s embarrassing); as it is, we give it borderline pass/fail grade. We look forward to Samsung’s Instinct, which will include hot features like Visual Voicemail, and we pray they did a better job with the touchscreen.
• Sliding mechanism and keyboard feel great
• Extras like GPS, camera, Bluetooth
• Decent reception and call quality
• Unreliable touchscreen
• Verizon’s Web browser is very limited