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Touch technology or not, voice calling is obviously a top priority in any mobile, and the Samsung Blade has no worries on that score.

Getting to the contacts lists is easy, as mentioned above, with a home screen button option, speed dialling and photo contacts options embedded in the software. Up to 2,000 contacts can be stored in the phonebook.

Dialling a number is a breeze too, with the large virtual keyboard very manageable for finger prodding. It makes for a comfortable calling experience, and the screen automatically locks when calling so there are no accidental virtual button presses when the phone's snug up to your face.

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In-call options – such as using the loudspeaker, mute or bringing up the keypad – can be activated by holding down the lock button on the side.

Call quality was first rate during our extensive testing; we got clear, loud audio reception and the microphone relayed crisp balanced sound. There were no issues with network reception either.

Messaging

Naturally, users will expect an acceptable texting experience too. As we've previously mentioned, the keyboard layout changes when text messaging or emailing is used.

The relatively short screen length means that option buttons (clear, space, T9 and symbols) appear ranged down the right side of the 3, 6, 9 and # keys, rather than being slotted underneath the bottom row of keys, as most of Samsung's other recent touchscreen phones (including the Jet, Tocco Ultra and Tocco Lite) do.

This slightly reduces the finger width for each key – not an issue with the wide-ish display – but also introduces a bit more scope for mispressing by errant thumbs. We usually found that the keyboard was serviceable, the screen quick and responsive.

But the option placement is less than ideal – as we've mentioned with other similar layouts on phones, including earlier Samsung and some LG touchscreen models.

We found the space bar placing – next to the 6 key – jarred with us at first and felt odd when we were texting quickly; we reckon this may take some getting used to for conventional phone users moving to touch.

Also, we found that sometimes thumbs could accidentally brush the option buttons while hovering over the right-side numbers, which can be irritating if you suddenly discover T9 has been switched off, or you've added an unwanted space.

Generally, texting is OK once you get used to the key layout, however, and there isn't the frustration of some touch phones we've operated in the past.

No QWERTY

Unlike most recent touchscreen phones, including the Tocco Lite and Jet, there isn't a QWERTY keyboard option on the Samsung Blade, nor are there any handwriting options – odd when the phone has a handwriting recognition controlled Smart Unlock function.

The lack of a QWERTY keyboard could again be down to the short screen dimensions, which could have made it cramped. Still, it's an unusual omission for a phone of this class, and it could make it less easy to use for those who may want to write longer messages or emails, or prefer using a QWERTY keyboard for typing out long URLs when browsing.

email

The onboard email software provides a wizard for helping you to initially set up the phone to use your regular web mail or other POP3 or IMAP4 email accounts. Settings for aol.co.uk, Google Mail, and aol.com are pre-loaded on the Blade, though you can add other accounts.

However, you may need to get some account details other than password and email address, such as the incoming and outgoing POP3/SMTP server address, as unlike some mobiles from manufacturers such as Sony Ericsson and Nokia, the Blade doesn't automatically download or install these settings for you.