Samsung's SGH-U300 (or the "Ultra Edition 9.6", depending on which side of the product box you happen to be reading) is a slim and very attractive looking clamshell phone. At only 100 x 51 x 9.6 mm, it's actually dangerously thin. We could see the U300 being banned from prisons, for a start; a little bit of work with a nail file and this thin phone could become a rather effective shiv.
The outside of the U300 houses a simple blue OLED display; flip it open and there's a much more appealing 2.2" QVGA TFT display that sits above the keypad, which at first glance appears to be touch sensitive. It's not -- a quick bit of testing with a stylus shows that it's just a very flat pressure sensitive panel with virtually zero travel. The left hand side of the U300 houses a very slim volume control as well as the combined headphone and USB socket. Like most Samsung phones, this is a proprietary jack that leads out to a standard USB plug.
The U300 is a Tri-Band GSM phone with EDGE capabilities -- so no 3G, no HSDPA, and essentially, no functional web browsing. Yes, the ability is there -- but does anyone want to crawl around the web at GSM speeds any more?
It supports Bluetooth 2.0 and comes with a rather spiffy 3.2 megapixel camera. This is easily the standout part of the U300; it takes very good photos and even has limited editing functionality built into the camera. On the entertainment side, it has integrated Bang & Olufsen low power speakers, which is impressive for a phone that's this wafer thin. You're rather limited in how much music you can load onto the U300, however, as although it supports synchronisation via Windows Media Player, it has only 70MB of onboard memory and no expansion slot. A quick mea culpa here; we originally reported the U300 as having a MicroSD card slot -- and we were wrong. 70MB is what you've got -- and it's all you're ever going to have.
Samsung rates the U300 as good for up to six hours talk time and 300 hours standby, which is pretty normal by GSM phone standards. In our testing, with light usage, it lasted just over twelve days, which means Samsung's pretty much on the money with its estimates. It's impressive for a phone this slim to pack that much battery life, but there is a catch. Perhaps to appeal to the iPod crowd (but more likely due to physical design considerations), the U300 comes with a sealed battery. The only slot on the back that you open up is used for inserting a SIM card. As such, when the battery dies, you'll have to return it to Samsung for repair -- or more likely by that stage, chuck it and get a new phone. Not the greenest of applications, all things considered.
There are more serious problems with the U300 than the battery, however. The chief thing that drove us up the wall with the U300 was the not-quite-a-touch-panel keypad, which ranks amongst the most frustrating things we've ever used -- and we're including Windows ME and the Nokia N-Gage in that list, for what it's worth. The keypad is exceptionally unresponsive to the point of being almost useless unless you directly, and very slowly enter each keystroke once at a time with a very directly pointed finger. That approach only works with the number keys, by the way. Even after a couple of weeks of using the U300, we were still struggling to get the directional pad to behave for us at all.
Ultimately, the U300 is a cutting edge, modern design wrapped around technology that's either increasingly creaky or just plain doesn't work properly. It looks great, but doesn't work well, so it's arguably the perfect phone for poseurs who want to look cool, but not actually do anything useful with their phone.