Alias 2's Keyboard Changes Before Your Eyes

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Verizon Wireless on Monday launched the next generation of Samsung Mobile's dual-hinged Alias phone, aptly named the Alias 2. What sets the Alias 2 apart from all other phones is what is being marketed as the Magic Key keypad.

The first handset in the U.S. to have such a feature, the keyboard inside this flip phone uses E-Ink technology to change what is displayed on the keys, depending on orientation and which application is being used.

When opened vertically, a directional navigation keypad, as well as a standard telephone keypad, is displayed along with additional hot keys to launch applications such as the camera or voice dialing. When only menu choices are available, the letters beneath the number keys disappear. Likewise, in applications such as text messaging or e-mail, only the letters remain.

The Alias 2 has the same hinge design as its predecessor, which allows it to be opened in either orientation. In the horizontal position, the keyboard is capable of displaying a full QWERTY layout.

Weighing 4.34 ounces, the phone feels solid. The lens of the 2.0 megapixel camera is centered at the top of the front of the case, above a small LCD approximately one inch square. Below the LCD are three touch-sensitive keys to control the rewind, pause/play and fast forward of music when the flip is closed.

During testing, the sound was extremely clear on both sides of the call, with the speaker on the handset noticeably loud. Reviewers also were quickly aware that the Alias 2 was picking up a fairly strong signal where many other Verizon Wireless phones have displayed "No Service" messages. Battery life is rated at up to five hours in use or up to 336 hours standby.

Photos were exceptionally sharp, especially for a 2.0 megapixel camera. The phone also has video recording capabilities, as well as support for multiple profiles of Bluetooth, Mobile Web, V-Cast and Get-It-Now applications.

Additionally, optional VZ Navigator, Chaperone, Visual Voice Mail and RemoSync services are available. RemoSync services allow customers to access e-mails, contacts and calendars from a corporate Exchange server.

Overall, we are surprisingly impressed with the Alias 2. Considering it is not a smartphone, it packs a lot of nice features into a relatively small flip form-factor. The keyboard is extremely comfortable and easy to use, and the E-Ink technology is applied in such a way as to actually be useful and not just a gimmick.

The Alias 2 is currently available and is priced at $79 with a two-year contract, after a $50 rebate.

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