Mobile : Expert Review: Gravity T™ Cell Phone

THE GOOD: The Samsung Gravity T is good-looking touch-screen messaging phone with nice interface elements like TouchWiz widgets, a Command bar of shortcuts, an etiquette pause, and more. It has a decent set of multimedia features, 3G, and great call quality.

THE BAD: The Samsung Gravity T's keyboard is a bit flatter than we would like.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The Samsung Gravity T is overall a great messaging phone option for those who want a full touch-screen experience combined with a simple yet functional multimedia feature set.

The Samsung Gravity brand has changed quite a bit since its debut in 2008 as a simple messaging phone for T-Mobile. As further incarnations came along, the Gravity handset improved–the Gravity 2 added 3G and GPS, while the Gravity 3 has a slightly more ergonomic design. The Gravity T, or the Gravity Touch, is the latest rebirth of the Gravity line, and as its name suggests, it now has a touch screen. This allows it a few nice touches like a customizable home screen along with gesture-based shortcuts. Aside from that, it has many of the same features as its other Gravity cousins–a 2.0-megapixel camera, GPS, a music player, and more. The Samsung Gravity T is available for $74.99 with a new two-year service agreement from T-Mobile.

The Samsung Gravity T has a similar design to other Samsung touch-screen messenger phones, like the Samsung Messager Touch for example. Measuring 4.29 inches long by 2.23 inches wide by 0.59 inch thick, the Gravity T has a wide oval form factor, with a slightly curved back for a more comfortable feel in the hand. This does mean it rocks ever so slightly when it's resting on a flat surface, but we didn't find that to be a problem. At 4.23 ounces, the Gravity T is also not too heavy, and would fit easily in a large pocket or purse.

The Samsung Gravity T has a 2.8-inch resistive touch screen.

The Gravity T has a 2.8-inch resistive touch screen, which we found quite pleasing to the eye. It has 262,000 colors and a 240 x 320 pixel resolution, and the phone takes advantage of that with colorful and detailed menu icons. You can adjust the font type, the brightness, the backlight time, and the greeting message on the home screen.

We found the display to be as responsive as a resistive display gets–it still requires a bit more pressure than capacitive screens, but the transitions and screen reactions were quick enough for our liking. To improve the accuracy of your taps, you can go through the calibration wizard. There's a vibration feedback setting as well in case you want the phone to buzz to let you know you've activated something with your finger taps. You can adjust the vibration intensity if you like.

Like a lot of other Samsung touch screen phones, the Gravity T has three customizable home screens in addition to the TouchWiz interface, which lets you drag and drop different widgets and shortcuts to those home screens. At the bottom row of each home screen are shortcuts to the phone dialer, the contacts list, the messaging in-box, and the Web browser. There's also a "Command bar," which is a list of up to five customizable shortcuts that are only accessible when the phone is open.

The Gravity T also has a unique "smart unlock" system, which consists of gesture-based shortcuts that are accessible while the phone is still locked. For example, you can draw a "C" on the screen, and that'll open up the Contacts list without having to unlock the phone first. The default shortcuts include "M" for a new message, "B" for the browser, "V" for voice mail, and a simple square for just the home screen, but you can change these controls in the settings if you like.

Another nice design feature is an "etiquette pause" that makes use of the phone's motion sensor. If you have an incoming call that you wish to silence quickly, simply turn the phone over to quiet it down. We can see this as a potentially useful feature in meetings, for example.

The phone dialer is pretty typical of most touch-screen phones. We like the large keypad as well as the generous number input area. The quick shortcuts to the Recent calls history, the messaging in-box, and the Contacts list are handy, too. As for text entry, you can do so via the T9 alphanumeric keypad, but we would rather slide the phone open to use the physical keyboard. Underneath the display are three physical keys, which are the Send key, the Menu key, and the End/Power key.

The Samsung Gravity T has a slide-out QWERTY keyboard.

As we mentioned earlier, the Gravity T comes with a full slide-out QWERTY keyboard. The keyboard feels quite roomy, and the number and arrow keys are highlighted in red. The keys have a cushy rubbery feel to them, so they were easy enough to press and type. However, we did wish they were a bit more raised above the surface for even quicker texting. We also thought the keys could be a little bigger.

The volume rocker is on the left spine, whereas the charger jack, screen lock key, and camera key are on the right. The camera lens is on the back, while the microSD card slot is located behind the battery cover.

The Samsung Gravity T has an impressive 2,000-entry phone book, with room in each entry for four numbers, an e-mail address, an instant messenger username, a birthday, a street address, and notes. As always, you can add your contacts to groups; pair them with a photo for caller ID, plus any of 20 polyphonic ringtones.

You get the usual basic features like vibrate mode, a speakerphone, text and multimedia messaging, plus PIM organizational tools like the alarm clock, a memo pad, a calculator, a calendar, a unit converter, a stopwatch, a tasks list, a timer, a world clock, and a voice recorder. Instant messaging is also available, as is GPS with TeleNav support, voice recognition, and Bluetooth. For the social network savvy, the Gravity T also comes with a Social Buzz app that offers quick connectivity to certain sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Aside from the usual messaging features, you also get e-mail with Microsoft Exchange support. With your personal e-mail, you're free to use your own POP or IMAP server settings. For Exchange support, just enter in your Exchange server URL and login details, and you're good to go. If you like, the Gravity T also lets you send and receive audio postcards, which are audio messages attached to an image of your choice. The e-mail in-box interface is similar to other Gravity phones.

Since the Gravity T is blessed with a touch screen, it seems fitting that it comes with a full HTML browser to take advantage of the large screen real estate. The Gravity T uses T-Mobile's proprietary web2go browser, so it's rather simplified for a mobile browser. You get the usual location bar and bookmarks, though, which is enough for us. You can also jump to full screen mode, copy URL to a message, and Google search from the homepage. To zoom in and out of Web pages, simply hold down your finger on the screen and move up to zoom in and move down to zoom out. This is far easier to do than using an onscreen magnifying glass.

The Gravity T comes with a fairly rudimentary media player, but it works well enough for simple music playback. The interface is fairly simple to understand; you can organize your playlists on the go, and you can set songs on repeat or shuffle. You load the songs onto the device via microSD card–the phone takes up to 16GB–and you can then use the songs as ringtones or alert sounds.

The Samsung Gravity T has a 2.0-megapixel camera on the back.

We're a little disappointed that the Gravity T is saddled with the same 2.0-megapixel camera as its predecessors, but we do think the photo quality is quite decent. Images look sharp enough and though the colors looked a bit dark, it was still pretty good. You can take pictures in four resolutions and three quality modes. Other settings include brightness, a self-timer, white balance, color effects, exposure metering, a night mode, geotagging, and three shutter sounds plus a silent option. You also get single, continuous, smile shot, mosaic, and panorama shooting modes. Beyond the still camera, you also get a camcorder, which can record clips in 176×144-pixel resolution in either normal length or shortened for MMS.

The Samsung Gravity T has good photo quality.

The Gravity T can be tweaked and customized to fit your personal style. You can do so by changing the wallpaper, screensavers, and sounds. The Gravity T comes with a few apps and game demos like Ms. Pac-Man, Millionaire 2010, Guitar Hero 5 Mobile, Google Maps, Bubble Bash 2, and Bejeweled, but you can always get more from the T-Mobile store.

We tested the Samsung Gravity T in San Francisco using T-Mobile's network. We experienced very good call quality–almost that of landline quality. We heard our callers very clearly, with hardly any distortion or background noise. The voice quality was also crisp and natural; not at all tinny or mechanical.

On the callers' end, they too were impressed with the quality. They reported very little noise or static, though there was the occasional buzz. Voice quality sounded good to them as well. For speakerphone calls, they said we sounded a bit more echo-heavy than usual, but otherwise the volume was good enough for them. On our end, we thought they sounded rather tinny and hollow, but that's to be expected from most cell phone speakers.

Similarly, audio quality for music playback didn't sound so hot via the speakers. The songs sounded rather flat and dull, although the volume was quite good. We would opt for headsets for a better listening experience.

We enjoyed good 3G speeds with the Gravity T. We loaded the CNET front door in very good 20 seconds, and had little buffering time when streaming videos from YouTube. The 3G signal was good too, especially in downtown San Francisco. That said, the video quality is noticeably pixelated and choppy, so it looked obviously down-sampled.

The Samsung Gravity T has a rated battery life of 6 hours talk time and 16 days standby time. It has a tested talk time of 6 hours and 29 minutes. According to the FCC, the Gravity T has a digital SAR of 0.38 watt per kilogram.

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