Review: Samsung Saga, LG Incite & HTC Fuze
Windows Mobile finds an ideal hardware counterpart with the Samsung Saga, a smartphone that offers a surprisingly responsive circular touch pad for controlling an on-screen cursor. We're no fans of stylus input, so the touch pad is a perfect way to make Windows Mobile accessible. The Saga is a large (2.44 x 4.88 x 0.53 inches) but not heavy (4.59 ounces.) phone, with a 2.5-inch, 320 x 320 pixel screen and a full QWERTY keyboard. It's built for the globe-trotter, with CDMA 800/1900MHz and 1xEVDO Rev. A performance in the U.S., and 850/1900Hz GSM for international roaming. The Saga ships with a SIM card installed, but you can't use GSM service while you're in the U.S. It runs on Windows Mobile 6.1, and includes Bluetooth (with stereo headset and printing profiles, among others), Wi-Fi, and GPS.
We were happy to see that the touch pad makes one-handed operation easy, whether you're opening applications or typing out e-mail. The home screen offers a tabbed interface that lets you quickly change connection options, open favorite applications, dial a contact, or change your phone settings.
Bundled applications include mobile editions of Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, both Opera and Internet Explorer browsers, the Windows Media Player Mobile, and Adobe Reader.
We liked the results from the included 2.0 megapixel camera, which produced crisp and colorful images. The camera even includes a night mode setting. You can subscribe to VZ Navigator if you want to put that GPS capability to good use, but it will cost you $9.99 per month or $2.99 per day.
The Saga is available only from Verizon and it cost $199 with a two-year commitment. That puts it level with the BlackBerry Storm. While it doesn't have the slick touch interface of that phone, it's a great choice for business travelers.LG Incite
The LG Incite, LG's first smartphone for the U.S. market, has to tackle the same task that the Samsung Saga does: how to turn Windows Mobile 6.1 into a touch-friendly interface, when the operating system was meant for a stylus. While there is much to admire about the solid, highly reflective Incite, it never finds a way to deal with its own OS, and offers a frustrating experience.
The Incite measures 4.2 x 2.17 x 0.55 inches and weighs 4.23 ounces. It feels hefty yet compact in the hand, similar to the Shadow offered from T-Mobile. While the surface is practically a mirror when the phone is off, it's marvelously resistant to fingerprints.
Meant to take a place in the current generation of sleek smartphones, the Incite's front is dominated by a 3-inch, 240 x 400 pixel display, and it offers few physical controls. The front holds only call start and stop buttons. The left side holds a charging port and a volume rocker button, while the right side holds buttons for the camera and locking the screen, as well as a microSD slot and a thumb wheel.
The Incite wasn't designed with an internal slot for holding a stylus, although it does come with one in the box. The stylus has its own tiny case and attaches to the phone with a lanyard.
It's hard to tell if this was an afterthought of if a stylus slot just didn't fit the design. We think most people will skip the hanging attachment and will instead use a finger or the thumb wheel to select items on-screen.
When you select something, you'll feel a small vibration, just a pulse, to let you know you've done it. But scrolling through pages with the thumb wheel is tedious and trying to tap items on-screen is frustrating. The Saga's touchpad is a much more successful solution for choosing items in Windows Mobile.
The Incite includes a 3 megapixel camera and Wi-Fi and HSDPA connectivity. It's available only from AT&T for $199 with two-year commitment and mail-in rebate.HTC Fuze
The HTC Fuze is the AT&T version of Sprint's HTC Touch Pro. While it runs off of Windows Mobile 6.1, like the two other models here, it tackles the limitations of the OS in a different way. Rather than find a way around stylus input, the Fuze simply includes a stylus. However, it also has HTC's touch-friendly TouchFlo front end. You can tap a finger for basic on-screen selections, but you'll need to turn to the stylus to get real work done.
This smartphone offers a full QWERTY keyboard, which slides out to the left. Use it and the screen automatically goes into landscape mode. The keys may be small, but the keyboard is well organized. We like the ability to access many common functions from the keyboard, such as paging up or down, and turning on Wi-Fi.
The Fuze is fairly thick (4.02 x 2.01 x 0.71-inches) and weighty (5.82 ounces) for a small phone. The display measures 2.8-inches and 480 by 640 pixels.
Its controls are standard, except that there's a push-to-talk button on the left side. Also, there's no headphone jack, which cuts down the Fuze's usefulness as a multimedia phone. An adapter is included in the box, but it's a hassle to have to carry that, as well.
A 3G world phone, the Fuze includes HSDPA connectivity, as well as WiFi. A microSD card hides beneath the battery cover, and can accept up to 16GB cards. Fuze software includes Microsoft Office Mobile, Adobe Reader, Sprite Backup, and more.It's sold exclusively by AT&T, and lists for $299, with a two-year commitment and after rebate.