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Thursday, September 28, 2023


Get Technical: The lowdown on new phones

Verizon is launching four new phones this season, all drool-worthy for one reason or another.

First up is the Samsung Juke. This phone is really a digital audio player with a cell phone radio tacked on at the last minute. Packing 2GB of onboard storage, it also crams in a microSD slot for extra space to store MP3s, AAC files and WMA files. The phone, which you may have seen swiveling about in recent commercials, is extremely narrow and easy to use for music playback.

Unfortunately, the cramped keypad makes nearly every other function more difficult than it should be. The 1.3 megapixel camera is more than adequate for most things, but don’t expect to be the next Ansel Adams. Call quality is good, if a little tinny sounding – the music sounds like this too, so chalk it up to an underpowered speaker.

That said, don’t forget that it also sports the A2DP Bluetooth protocol, allowing you to use your stereo Bluetooth headphones to control and listen to music. The $99 device requires a two-year agreement and is considered a base model – no V-Cast, which is odd. You’d think a music phone could download songs wirelessly, but the Powers That Be said otherwise.

Next we have the Verizon Venus. This is a dual screen device – the top screen is a display only, but the lower screen is a dynamic touchscreen: the buttons change to match the task at hand. While this is a cool idea, the navigation is clumsy and unintuitive. It features a slide-out keypad for calls and other functions, sports the same music-playing features as the Juke and allows V-Cast downloads for music and video, along with other advanced features.

The touchscreen vibrates in response to your touch, letting you know you actually pressed something. This is useful, since you have no other way of knowing if the button worked – the phone is sluggish and unresponsive to its controls. The 2.0 megapixel camera takes decent pictures and videos, call quality is outstanding and the battery life is respectable at 20 days of standby time. Though its considered mid-range, the phone’s $199.99 price after signing a two-year agreement isn’t half bad.

The third newcomer is the Verizon Voyager. For $299.99 and a two-year contract, you can get this phone whose clamshell design also brings two screens to the party – one huge display on the outside and one slightly smaller on the inside. The external touchscreen also features the vibrating feedback and the same sluggish response times as the Venus. The phone opens up to reveal a full QWERTY keyboard and built-in television tuner.

Unfortunately, the TV tuner won’t be of any use until Verizon can secure Channel 55 in the Houston area; however, it does work in a select few other parts of the country, and Verizon representatives say they are close to closing a deal for good old H-town.

The 2.0 megapixel camera does stills and video well, but the screens aren’t exactly suited to show the photos at any respectable size – the photos’ dimensions are mismatched with the phone’s display resolution, causing a black bar to appear on the sides of the photo. Perhaps a firmware update will remedy this somehow. This phone, their flagship, is meant to compete directly with the iPhone (though they will only say it’s meant to rival "that Other Phone") and may well steal some market share away from Apple.

Finally, Verizon is set to launch its version of the BlackBerry Pearl soon after you finish reading this article. The phone, which rocks Research In Motion’s trademark "push" e-mail, is a more consumer-friendly version of their business-oriented phones.

Verizon is the last major network to launch this model, but it does include some minor hardware upgrades over the other models – a 2.0 megapixel camera and a full-size headphone jack for music. The phone will cost you $199.99 and two years of undying devotion.

All of these phones will be available in time for the holiday rush. The Juke has been on sale since the beginning of the month and the Voyager and Venus both debuted this week, while the Pearl will ship "before the Christmas rush."

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