After Hours

Two weeks with the Upstage from Samsung -- Double your frustration

I just finished spending the past two weeks using the Upstage from Samsung as my primary phone. Without getting too far ahead of myself, let me just say it was a *really* long two weeks.

Quick overview

The Upstage from Samsung is a dual-screen device that has a phone on one side and a music player on the other. No, really.

side-by-side

According to the Upstage's packaging, you can "bring your world together in a single, ultra-slim device - your favorite music on one side, a cutting-edge phone on the other."

In addition to the music player and the phone, the Upstage has a 1.3 megapixel camera, GPS, EV-DO, Bluetooth, a web browser and access to various streaming media services from Sprint.

The Good

The device itself is well-made and sturdy. It doesn't feel like it would break if you dropped it and there are no sliding or moving parts that could wear out or break off.

It is also very slim and pretty light. As you can see in the photo below, the Upstage is slightly slimmer than a 5G iPod. It fits easily into a shirt pocket and doesn't weigh it down.

compared to iPod

The speaker for playing music on the Upstage is nice and loud. I was able to use it at home and in the car without any problem hearing the music. Of course, you don't get the best sound from the built-in speaker, but it will get the job done.

This is the end of the list of anything that would be considered "good" about the Upstage.

The Bad

There are so many problems with the Upstage from Samsung; however, none of those things are as painful as the hardware and software interface of the device.

In order to use some applications on the Upstage, you are required to switch between the music player side and the phone side. For example, if you are browsing the web on the music player side and you come to a website that requires you to log in, you have to click the "Flip" button on the side of the device, turn the device over, peck in your username on the phone number pad, press the "Flip" button again, turn the device back over, select the password field, press the "Flip" button again... You get the idea. A nightmare.

flip

Even something as simple as playing music is harder than it needs to be. When you turn the phone on, the phone side is active. If you flip the device over and press the big "Play" button on the music player side (something that *everyone* I handed the device to did when I asked them to play some music), nothing happens. No message. No tips. No nothing. Just a big black screen.

In order for you to get to the music player, you have to click the "Flip" button. Unfortunately, your troubles aren't over there. Now, you have to battle the navigation wheel that Samsung put on the music player. It looks sort of like Apple's click wheel on the iPod; however, it doesn't really function that way. In fact, after two weeks of using, I still can't consistently get it to do exactly what I want.

I had several co-workers, who own iPods or other MP3 players, try to use the wheel and some of the comments included "This is horrible!, " "This is messed up!" and "Oh my God, this is so dumb."

It is easier to listen to music on my T-Mobile Dash than it is to listen to it on the Upstage from Samsung. Considering that they dedicated one half of their device to being a music player, this is disappointing.

Drafting text messages on the Upstage is also more difficult than it should. The screen on the phone side is too small. You can only see a couple of lines of text. The music player screen is much more conducive to drafting messages; however, there is no way to input any text on that side of the phone, so you get stuck with a tiny display to create your message. Of course, you can read your text messages on the music player's larger screen, but only after pushing the "Flip" button.

Oh, and what about the experience of making calls? Not great either. It is nearly impossible to get the volume settings right for the phone's earpiece. So calls are either really loud or really soft. Plus, when speaking into the Upstage, I found myself raising my voice because it sounds like you're speaking into a dead phone. I got lots of strange looks from people who were watching me shout, "What?! Can you even hear me? OK, 'cause I can't really hear you. What?!"

Of course, the strange looks could also stem from the fact that the Upstage looks like it's backwards when you're using the phone. With the music side of the phone pointing away from your ear, people think you are holding your phone incorrectly. So the people who see you shouting like a lunatic into your phone think that you're holding the phone the wrong way. Nice!

Bottom Line

The Upstage from Samsung isn't something I could recommend to anyone. Not even to someone that I don't like very much.

And as a gadget lover, I tried to find something to like about it. However, after spending two weeks using this device, I couldn't find anything that really set it apart in a positive way. It is frustrating to use, the dual-screen interface will drive you nuts and you'll look like an idiot when you use it in public.

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