Samsung Zeal - First Look at Verizon's Dual Hinged Phone That Uses E-Ink

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Samsung Zeal Review

The Samsung Zeal is currently available in the U.S. on Verizon for $79.99 with a two year contract, after a $50 mail in rebate. For those familiar with the Samsung Alias 2, released in 2009 from Samsung and Verizon, the Samsung Zeal will seem extremely familiar. In fact, the Samsung Zeal is practically an all black version of the Samsung Alias 2. The Samsung Zeal, like the originally released Alias 2, is a dual hinged phone, able to open up like a clam shell phone or open up sideways. The interesting factor is the fact that the keypad is built around e-ink, which means the keypad changes depending on which way you open the phone. It’s an interesting idea and was a unique feature with the Alias 2, but the Samsung Zeal is just a repeat.

Samsung Zeal Specifications:

  • Dimensions: 4.01 x 2.04 x 0.67 inches (102 x 52 x 17 mm)
  • Weight: 4.34 oz (123 g)
  • Display: 2.6 inch LCD display, 240 x 320 pixels (QVGA)
  • Memory: 80 MB + External microSD slot with room for up to 16 GB microSD
  • Camera: 2 megapixel camera
  • Connectivity: CDMA Band (850/1900 Mhz)
  • Data: 1xEV-DO rev.0
  • Bluetooth: Bluetooth 2.0
  • GPS: GPS with A-GPS
  • Battery: Li-Ion 800 mAh

Design and Display (3 out of 5)

Samsung Zeal Review

The Samsung Zeal has an interesting design. The front features a small display screen that displays the time and date. Below the display are touch sensitive controls for media control, rewind, play/pause and forward. On top of the display is the 2 megapixel camera. Along the left is the 3.5 mm headphone jack, the Samsung proprietary data and power port, the volume rocker and the voice dial button. Opposite you have the microSD slot, a hold button to prevent accidental usage of the touchscreen controls on the front of the phone and the power button.

The Samsung Zeal can open in two directions due to the dual hinge design of the phone. The phone looks like a clam shell phone, opens like one and functions like one. However, you can also flip it sideways, opening the phone to the side, allowing you to flip the phone in landscape mode to focus more on texting. This dual hinge design is unique to the Samsung Zeal and the Samsung Alias 2.

Another unique feature is the keypad. To compensate for the fact that you will be opening the Zeal in different directions, Samsung has used e-ink technology. This means when you open the Samsung Zeal like a clam shell phone, the grid of buttons will turn into your familiar 10 digit layout with directional controls above and dedicated buttons for items such as Bluetooth, voice dial and camera along the sides. Close the phone and open it sideways and the screen will blink briefly before displaying the keypad in landscape mode, with a dedicated button to change the keypad to a QWERTY display or a digit display. Pressing the QWERTY button changes the keyboard to a QWERTY keyboard in an instant. You’ll notice a quick flash of black before the e-ink settles to its new location. An interesting and quirky little feature that will grab the attention of most non-smartphone users.

User Interface (3 out of 5)

Samsung Zeal - Clam Shell Mode

The Samsung Zeal has an interesting user interface. The e-ink keyboard is fairly user intuitive and easy to use. In clam shell mode, the grid like buttons are your regular set of 10 digits, including 0. You also have the directional key pads above to use in your menu screen. The only problem is that you really don’t have a good frame of reference and the keys start to just blend in within the grid of buttons.

Typing on the keyboard in landscape or sideways flip out mode is easy and feels natural, however, at times there was some lag as key presses didn’t register immediately. It’s definitely annoying if you’re trying to text someone on the go and you notice your phone lagging as you type. Switching from QWERTY to symbols in landscape mode is a snap, and somewhat addictive to watch as your e-ink changes. In symbol mode, there are quite a few empty buttons in landscape mode that still create a responsive noise when pressed.

One other area of deficiency is around the dedicated buttons on the keypad. When you’re in the menu and you press the dedicated camera button, for instance, nothing happens. It would have been better if the dedicated buttons became blank when you entered certain menus, but that’s a minor fault. Lastly the call send and call end buttons really blend in with the rest of the other buttons on the keypad. With the lack of color in e-ink, there’s no way to quickly identify those two crucial buttons on the phone.

Features (3 out of 5)

The Samsung Zeal comes equipped with the standard Verizon media player. It’s not the greatest

Samsung Zeal - Landscape Mode

media player in the world but it does its job and it does its job fairly well. The player will stop the music if you have incoming calls and will resume when the call ends. One thing to note is that the music will stop occasionally if you’re trying to multitask on the phone. As a smartphone power user, the fact that multitasking caused a strain was frustrating, but for those who are not smartphone power users, or for those who don’t wish to use smartphones, the Samsung Zeal seemed sufficient enough at the job. The media player can be controlled using the outside control keys on the display which does give the Zeal the feel of being an MP3 player as well.

The 2 megapixel camera on the Samsung Zeal isn’t the greatest camera to grace a phone but for the market Verizon is trying to reach with the Zeal, it does its job. The pictures, of course, aren’t high quality and have the ‘camera phone’ look to them, but it’s to be expected. The camera can also record video but once again, do not expect amazing works of art. Carrying a point and shoot camera is actually suggested.

The Final Verdict (3 out of 5)

Overall, the Samsung Zeal ranks in as an ‘Average’ phone in Verizon’s line up. It is a bit of a let down that the Samsung Zeal is pretty much identical to the Samsung Alias 2, if not the same. Coloring the phone black and releasing it as the new, amazing, dual hinge phone of 2010 is a bit misleading and frankly, a bit of a bad decision on Verizon’s part. The Zeal could have been a new name for a new line up of Samsung phones but instead it goes to what amounts to an Alias 2 clone. Yet, the dual hinge design, the innovative e-ink keyboard and the overall design of the Samsung Zeal cannot be overlooked. For Alias 2 users who have run out on their contract and want a newer version of their phone, they can reach out and grab the Samsung Zeal.