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Sleek, But Don't Touch: Samsung's Glyde Disappoints

Snazzy design and a great keyboard can'tovercomeascrolling touchscreen that's unresponsive. Wait forabetterchallenge to the iPhone

Editor's Rating: star rating

The Good: Sleek slider design; fullkeyboardformessaging; touchscreen scrolls with a finger stroke

The Bad: Possibly theleastcooperativetouchscreen around; freezes up like anunderperformingPC

The Bottom Line: There are betteroptionsoutthere, with and without a touchscreen

ReaderReviews

Touchscreen cell phones are everywhere these days.Yetpreciousfew offer the finger-swipe scrolling and dragging oftheiPhone'sdisplay. Most of these phones merely let you poke aniconratherthan scoot around the screen with a flick or drag ofafinger.

There are some notable exceptions. One is the Storm(BusinessWeek,10/8/08), fromBlackBerry maker ResearchIn Motion.

Another is the Samsung Glyde,availablethroughVerizon Wireless for about $80, when purchasedonline withatwo-year contract. The Glyde is a sleek, compactdevicewithseveral high-end capabilities, including afull-typewriterkeyboardthat slides out from behind the screen. Youcan also swipeyourfinger along the display to move the image up anddown, sidetoside, or even diagonally. No, you can't flick it withthesamedexterity as you can an iPhone screen, butevenlimitedswipe-ability makes the Glyde's touchscreen a wholelotmoreuseful—at least in theory. As full-featured and handsomeasthedevice is, I found working with its screen too taxing tomaketheGlyde a phone I'd strongly recommend.

Native Format Viewing

The Glyde's screen is incredibly fickle. All toooftenduringtesting, I found myself poking on an icon three orfourtimes, ifnot more, just to get my command to register—thisdespitethe factthat I felt a small vibrational feedback inmyfingertip,presumably confirming that my pokes had hit theirmark.Even afterI adjusted the screen settings for maximumtouchsensitivity, I hadto stub my finger with maddening regularitytoget my commands toregister.

To its credit, the Glyde lets users connect with theInternetandview Web pages in their native format, rather thaninthe"optimized" mobile versions that Verizon andothercellularproviders feature on most mobile phones. Of coursethemobileversions of many Web sites are well-designed fortheconstraints ofa tiny cell-phone screen, with multipleverticalcolumns of contentreconfigured into a single column that'seasierto navigate. Butway too many sites simply aren't formattedfor thismobilerendering, making them difficult or impossible touse. That'swherethe ability to view a regular HTML Web page is veryuseful, ifnotpreferable. The full page won't fit the screen, buttheGlyde'stouch capability lets you drag the image from side toside.Thoughyou can't sweep it back and forth with the same ease asonaniPhone—nor can you zoom in and out on the image—the Glydeoffersarefreshing burst of freedom for Web browsing on a cellphone.

Too bad the device has few other redeeming qualities. TheGlydeismarred by deficient processing power, glitchy software,oracombination of both. Too often, the reaction time afterIpressedbuttons and icons was sluggish; the screenoccasionallyfroze forseconds or longer. Once, when I was using thenormallysleek VZNavigator application to steer me from New York toagathering inConnecticut, the application seized upaltogether,forcing me topull over and pull out the battery toreboot thedevice. My guessis that an alert for an incoming messagefrom themobile e-mailapplication had overwhelmed the phone'sprocessors.Anotherquibble: Battery life varied from decent todisappointing.

Too Many Frustrations

The assorted shortcomings conspire to taint anotherwiseappealingdesign. Weighing a mere 4.1 ounces, the Glyde isjust 4.1in. long, 2in. wide, and 0.7 in. thick. Despite theslenderproportions, thefull keyboard that slides out from behindthescreen is far morespacious than those found on QWERTY devicessuchas RIM's(RIMM)BlackBerry,Motorola's(MOT) Q line,Samsung's BlackJack, andPalm's(PALM) Treo and Centro.Otherhigher-endfeatures include compatibility with VerizonWireless'speediernetwork for mobile Web access, a 2-megapixelcamera withflash andzoom, and a slot for MicroSD memory cards,with up to 8GBof capacityto store music and photos.

None of these attributes fully compensates fortheGlyde'sfrustrating touchscreen and other glitches. So if you'reaVerizonWireless customer who desires a full keyboard fortextingande-mail, you might forgo the touchscreen and buyanotherQWERTYhandset, such as LG's enV2 or Palm's Centro. Or ifyou'reintent ona touchscreen and a keyboard, LG's Voyager may be abetteroption.BusinessWeek Tech & YoucolumnistStephenWildstrom is bullish on the Storm. That said,theGlydedemonstrates that the iPhone won't have thetouchscreenmarketcornered forever.

Meyerson is DeputyTechnology EditorforBusinessWeek.com.

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