I am not a big cell phone aficionado. I use my cell phone to make about four total calls a month, each lasting about a minute. The modern "fancy" phones are not my thing. However, the Samsung Juke, which Verizon Wireless let me use for a week or so, has changed my mind about what I could use a cell phone for. This combination phone and MP3 player brings together a perfect array of useful features at a reasonable price — it is a "fancy" cell phone I could actually see myself using.
If you saw the TechRepublic Juke photo gallery you know how small this gadget is and how it flips out sideways like switchblade knife. But that flip action is not the only thing the Juke has going for it. With 2GB of memory, the Juke can hold hundreds of MP3s along with a multitude of typical cell phone applications, including:
- Bluetooth for headphones and speaker connections
- VZ Navigator for GPS navigation and maps
- Weatherbug weather reports
- Moviegoer for movie show times
- Games, mainly of the simple arcade variety
- Text and picture messaging
The Juke also has a VGA camera built in that works pretty well even in low light.
The MP3 player interface is functional and compares favorably to other MP3 players I have seen like the iPod and Zune. The Juke uses the familiar circular thumb pad for navigating through the menus in the interface. You can play music based on a playlist, artist, or CD, and the nice clear screen will show you an image of the album art if you wish.
However, like the iPod, the only way to get music into the Juke is with the proprietary software, namely Verizon V Cast, which is available as a free download. (Correction - Verizon has informed me that you can transfer non-DRM protected MP3s to the Juke without using V Cast.) The V Cast software did a good job of finding the MP3s residing on my test machine at the office (made with the DAK Turntable), but iTune songs with DRM still attached won't transfer to the Juke.
The sound quality of the Juke is excellent and is comparable to the sound quality I get from my iPod Shuffle. With 2GB of total memory, you can load plenty of MP3 files onto the Juke to keep you happy for days at a time. You might not be able to carry your entire music collection with you, but you can carry a pretty good sampling.
There are a few caveats; the Juke uses the extra small, iPhone size, audio connection so my old comfortable headphones won't fit without an adapter. Considering how much I hate to use earbuds, this is a real drawback for me. Adapters are available, but that is a clunky solution - I don't know why Samsung made it this way because there is room for the larger connection.
Another connection oddity is that that Juke can connect to a PC via USB cable, but the connection at the phone end is not standard. That connection doubles as the power connection and the USB data connection, so you can recharge the battery and upload music at the same time like an iPod.
One other caveat, I am not a text-messaging person by any stretch of the imagination, but I can tell you that the keyboard is not really conducive to frequent or lengthy text-based conversations. If texting is your main form of communication or if you need to answer e-mail on the run, the Juke is not what you are looking for.
Like I said, I am not a power cell phone user. In fact, people who talk on their cell phones while driving or shopping at Costco (happened this weekend so it is fresh in my memory) raise my blood pressure. I just can't imagine what in the world they could be talking about. (I'm the strong silent type I guess). But the Samsung Juke has me thinking there is a reason to have a phone with more features then just voice communication. With a built-in MP3 player, GPS, and Bluetooth, the Juke is very feature-rich phone squeezed into a very small package. Unless you require text messaging or need to answer e-mail with your cell phone, the Juke could be all the cell phone gadget you'll ever need. I know it got me thinking about making a cell phone change toward the more "fancy."
The current deal for the Juke from Verizon is $149 with a $50 rebate, plus a two year contract.
Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.