The Samsung Juke for Verizon is a cool little phone that makes calls, plays music, and tucks away almost unnoticed in a pocket or purse. Featuring two gigabytes of built-in storage, a front-mounted scroll wheel for navigating through your music library and contacts list, and a unique switchblade design, Juke is small, slick, and easy to use.
Samsung and Verizon left a lot out of Juke in order to make it tiny and inexpensive. There's no 3G data, no access to Verizon's VCast multimedia offerings, and a very small - if bright and sharp - display. You're not going to want this phone if you text, email, or surf the Web a lot on the go, and Juke's VGA camera and low-res screen won't do much for the technophiles out there, either. But if you're looking for a cool little handset for calling, listening to music, and the occasional GPS usage, Juke is a neat piece of gear that works really well. If you like its look, that is.
Juke is a uniquely designed handset. It's long, narrow, and a bit on the thick side, and somehow reminds me of an oversized, squared-off tube of lipstick. Samsung sent me the Blue version of the phone, which features a shiny silver click wheel as well as a silver keypad.
While Juke measures a pretty thick 21mm from top to bottom, with a length and width of just 97 x 30 mm, this is a long and narrow phone. As such its display is a mere 1.45" across. The front panel of the phone is taken up by the display and the metal scroll wheel, which I found responsive and easy to use. Flicking or twisting the panel swivels the phone open with a satisfying snap - it takes a fair bit of force to get the motion underway, but the mechanism works quite well.
Inside there's a standard dialing layout with a twelve button keypad and navigational array consisting of two soft keys, Send and End/Power keys, a Clear button and a dedicated key for the camera. The scroll wheel doubles as a D-Pad for navigational purposes, as well. While the keypad is a bit crowded, the buttons themselves are big and I found them surprisingly easy to use.
Flipping Juke over reveals a back panel speaker mounted along side the camera lens in a black plastic mount. When the phone is in the open position, a self portrait mirror mounted on the back of the top panel is revealed. There's also a volume rocker switch on one side of the phone and a hold switch, charger/accessory port, and a plastic-capped 2.5mm headphone jack on the other side.
All in all I really liked Juke's design, with a few notable exceptions. First off, the phone is pretty thick, and while it's overall diminutive dimensions and fashionable design help offset its thickness, its still, well, thick. More importantly, direction in which the top panel swivels is a bit counter-intuitive, and whenever I flipped the thing open or shut I had to immediately turn the whole device upside down in order to read the display - someone in Samsung or Verizon's UI department should have figured out how to program Juke's screen rotation to avoid this issue.
Also, while Juke does come with a wired stereo headset, it uses a 2.5mm headphone jack which just seems silly to me. If you're going to bother putting a headphone jack on a music phone at all, why not just make it the universal 3.5mm size that will work with the headphones people already own?
Juke is being marketed as a music phone and it does feature a very intuitive, easy to use music player. However, it doesn't work with Verizon's VCast Music store (or the company's other VCast services). While I can understand that Verizon wanted to leave 3G off the Juke in order to reduce its size and cost while maximize battery life, I can't understand them launching a new music phone that doesn't let customers purchase and download tracks over the air. Silly.
That being said, once you've connected Juke to a computer and loaded its 2GB of onboard memory with your favorite tunes, it works much like an iPod. Pressing and holding the button in the center of the scroll wheel launches the music player, which displays menus and track information horizontally. I found it very easy to scroll through albums and artists, skip from track to track, and fast forward or rewind within a song. And, actually, it's a bit more versatile than an iPod in terms of file format compatibility, supporting WMA and WMA Pro in addition to MP3 and AAC audio tracks.
Juke comes with Verizon's Music Manager software, and also is compatible with Windows Media Player. I'm a Mac user myself, and I was able to connect the phone to my computer via USB, where it showed up as an external storage device (like a flash drive). I was then able to drag and drop music files right onto the phone - so long as I put them in the right place, the music player recognized them when I disconnected Juke from the Mac.
Beyond the music player, however, Juke's feature set is pretty basic. Integrated GPS does let you use Verizon's VZ Navigator and other LBS services with Juke (for a fee), though the phone's small screen doesn't make it the ideal portable GPS device. There's also a 500-entry phonebook with support for photo and ringtone caller ID, a calendar with alarm clock, and the other usual personal information tools. VCast multimedia is not supported on Juke.
Juke's VGA camera is pretty underwhelming, but also not entirely out of place on a phone that's so small and generally so limited in terms of other features. The camera can capture still photos in three resolutions up to 640 x 480, and features night-shot, a self-timer, and a few image and quality settings. Image quality on photos snapped with Juke actually wasn't too bad considering the low-end specs and lack of a flash. Photos came out pretty clear with decent detail and color relative to the fact that this is in no way a "serious camera phone." Photos taken in low-light were generally not so viewable, and the device does not support video capture.
Juke's display is tiny but bright and easy to read, so relative to the overall goal of making a small handset with a trick design and good music player, I think Samsung did a good job here. Just 1.45" across, the display's resolution is only 128 x 220 pixels, but it does support 262,000 colors. As such, fonts, menus and images all rendered quite well on the LCD screen. Customization options include adjustable font sizes and styles and display themes as well as backlight timer and brightness settings. You can also set the background image on Juke's home screen, assign photo IDs to callers, and purchase additional background images through Verizon's Get it Now service.
The menu implementation on Juke quite attractive. Verizon still doesn't make the best UI in the business - their categorization and labeling choices sometimes leave me scratching my head - but they are getting ever so slightly better with time. Juke's menus are clean and easy to read, and the animated screens are bountiful and pleasant.
I tested the dual-band CDMA Juke on Verizon Wireless' network in the San Francisco Bay Area. My results during calls were mixed - when I had a good signal, voices came through loud and clear on my end and callers reported my sounding similarly good to them. But several times during testing calls that seemed to go through resulted in 30 seconds or so of "Can You Hear Me Now?" style frustration before I hung up and tried again. For whatever reason, every so often my Juke just didn't work quite right for me.
Juke features a 2.5mm headphone jack and comes packaged with wired stereo earphones with an inline microphone. The earphones worked well for calls and sounded on par with your standard pack-in earbuds for music listening. Using a 2.5mm to 3.5mm adapter, I was able to connect some higher quality stereo earphones to the device, and the results were quite good. Juke is more than capable of taking the place of your cell phone and iPod shuffle or other portable music player for basic calling and listening - as such it's a drag that Juke isn't compatible with standard headphones right out of the box.
Bluetooth audio devices are also supported, including stereo over Bluetooth. I had no trouble pairing a Bluetooth earpiece with the phone, and voice quality with the earpiece was good. Stereo music over Bluetooth also sounded quite good. The built-in speaker is acceptable for hands-free calling in quiet environments, and passable at best for "less than serious" music listening.
Juke supports SMS and MMS messaging, but it's tiny display and somewhat small keypad make it a poor choice for heavy-duty texters. That being said, Samsung's T9 predictive text implementation is solid and the optional Get it Now mobile IM application supports AIM, Yahoo! and Windows Live Messenger. Email is not supported on Juke.
Internet on Juke is limited to Verizon's Get it Now options for purchasing ringtones and wallpapers, and the optional Mobile IM client. Juke does not support mobile Web browsing and is not compatible with Verizon's VCast mobile entertainment services or the VCast Music Store.
While I can understand leaving streaming video and even Web browsing off of a phone so obviously limited by its size and form factor, I really wish Verizon had found a way to include music store access on Juke. That would have meant 3G support as well, of course, but it would have made Juke a full-fledged music phone. Instead, we get a device marketed as a music phone that isn't compatible with its carrier's premier music offering: over the air downloads. Strange move from VZW.
A dual-band CDMA phone, the SCH-u470 "Juke" supports the 800/1900 bands as well as 1xRTT data transfer; the faster EV-DO protocol is not supported. The phone is locked to the Verizon Wireless network. Bluetooth is supported on the Juke, including Vcard transfer for syncing of contacts with Windows computers. Juke features 2GB of internal memory but there is no support for expandable memory via flash cards.
It's nice to see companies pushing the design envelope at both the low and high ends of the mobile phone spectrum. While expensive smartphones and feature phones are gaining full frontal touchscreens and easier-to-use user interfaces, some lower end models are also getting design overhauls, often based around a single advanced feature. T-Mobile's Blast (also a Samsung phone), for instance, is a mid-range slider built for messaging with a SureType keypad and a customized Email client. Sprint also recently introduced an inexpensive handset made for messaging with the LG Rumor.
Verizon Wireless already offers the Samsung u740 for messaging addicts who don't want a full-on smartphone, and now they've added to the low/mid-range with the Juke. A cost-conscious, high-style musicphone, Juke offers an excellent music player with an iPod-like scroll wheel and 2GB of storage in a unique, swivel form factor.
While Juke doesn't offer the full slate of mobile Web and multimedia options that many other VZW handsets do, it's a compelling option if you really just want to listen to music and make phone calls. Juke would be better if you could access VZW's VCast Music Store with it, but it's still pretty easy to sideload a bunch of songs from your PC/Mac to Juke, stick it in your pocket, and head out for the day. For just about the price of a comparably sized portable music player, you also get a cell phone that can handle SMS/MMS messages and GPS-based navigation services. If you can live with a small handful of design quirks - and assuming the calling issues I encountered have been ironed out - Juke's not a bad deal at all for a pretty cool little musicphone.