Mobile : Expert Review: Samsung Gravity™2 Cell Phone

THE GOOD: The Samsung Gravity 2 is thinner than its predecessor, plus it features several upgrades, notably 3G support, a 2.0-megapixel camera, GPS, and a full HTML browser. It has pretty good quality and is quite affordable.

THE BAD: The Samsung Gravity 2 has rather tiny navigation keys, and the streaming video quality could be a bit better.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The Samsung Gravity 2 offers a lot of features for a very low price, making it a great deal for T-Mobile customers.

The Samsung Gravity was one of T-Mobile's first messaging phones, and while we liked it, it did not have a lot of features. It had no 3G, no GPS, and only a 1.3-megapixel camera. However, its sequel, appropriately dubbed the Samsung Gravity 2, fixed all that. The Gravity 2 not only has 3G, GPS, and a 2.0-megapixel camera, it is thinner and sleeker than its predecessor. The Samsung Gravity 2 is available for $30 with a two-year service agreement, which makes it one of the most affordable 3G messaging phones around.

The Samsung Gravity 2 retains the same overall design as the Samsung Gravity. It has a candy bar appearance when viewed on the front and slides to the right to reveal a full QWERTY keyboard. However, it is a bit smaller and thinner at 4.5 inches long by 2.1 inches wide by 0.6 inch thick (Compared to the 4.53 inches by 2.07 inches by 0.7 inch measurements on the Samsung Gravity), the keypad layout is slightly different, and the display is 2.3 inches diagonally instead of 2.1.

The Samsung Gravity 2 looks like a candy bar phone from the front.

Speaking of the display, it has support for 262,000 colors with a rather nice QVGA 240×320-pixel resolution. The screen looks bright and vibrant, which shows off the colorful animated images. You can adjust the menu interface to either a grid style or a circle style. Other display settings include brightness, the backlight time, and the dialing display. For the latter, you can adjust the type, size, and color of the dialing font, plus the color of the background when dialing. You can also adjust the greeting on the home screen.

The navigation array on the Samsung Gravity 2 is markedly different from the first Gravity. Instead of simple rectangular keys, the Gravity 2's array is a mix of tiny buttons and big circular ones. The two soft keys, the dedicated messaging key, and the Clear key are all small, while the Send, the OK, and the End/Power keys are big. While we were OK with the big round buttons, we found the small ones a bit hard to press without using our fingernails.

The aforementioned messaging key can be mapped to one of five functions–a new message, a shortcut to the messaging in-box, a new audio postcard, the e-mail interface, or the instant-messaging menu. There's an outer circle around the OK key, which acts as a navigation toggle. When on the home screen, the up and down directions of the toggle lead to the call history list and the contacts list, respectively. The left and right directions toggle through your five T-Mobile MyFaves contacts.

Under the navigation array is the number keypad, which is well-spaced with keys that are raised above the surface, so it is easy to dial by feel. You can choose to type out text messages with the number keypad as well, but of course it is far easier to type with the slide-out QWERTY keyboard. On the left spine of the Gravity 2 is the volume rocker, while the charger/headset jack and the camera key are on the right. The camera lens and external speaker are on the back. The microSD card slot is inconveniently located behind the battery cover–it's along the right side of the phone, underneath the SIM card.

The Samsung Gravity 2 has a slide-out QWERTY keyboard.

If you turn the phone 90 degrees counterclockwise and slide the phone up, you'll reveal a full QWERTY keyboard. The display orientation automatically switches from portrait to landscape mode once it slides out. Flanking the keyboard are two soft keys to be used when the screen is in landscape mode. There are arrow keys on the bottom right for navigation, plus a dedicated OK key, a Shift/Symbol key, and a .com/www key, which is handy for entering URLs. The keyboard is overall quite roomy, with raised keys that make for quick and responsive texting.

The Samsung Gravity 2 definitely has a few more features than the first Gravity. But first, let's take a look at the basics. The Samsung Gravity 2 has a 1,000-entry phone book, with room in each entry for four numbers, four e-mail addresses, three IM usernames, a URL, a birthday, an anniversary date, a street address, and notes. You can categorize your contacts into groups, and pair them with a photo for caller ID, or one of 21 polyphonic ringtones. Other basics include a speakerphone, a vibrate mode, a calendar, an alarm clock, a tasks list, a memo pad, a calculator, a tip calculator, a world clock, a unit converter, a timer, and a stopwatch.

More advanced users will like the voice recognition, stereo Bluetooth, the RSS reader, and the addition of A-GPS support with TeleNav turn-by-turn direction software provided by T-Mobile. We were also pleasantly surprised that the Gravity 2 comes with a decent full HTML browser. It supports JavaScript as well as a version of Flash Lite that let us view streaming YouTube videos. The Gravity 2's small screen size wasn't too great for surfing the Web, though; we had to scroll around a lot more, especially in large Web pages. Resizing pages was a pain, too, as you had to use the magnifying glass zoom controls, which require several button presses. On the whole though, we were happy that the Gravity 2 has a HTML browser at all. It definitely takes advantage of the Gravity 2's speedy 3G.

Since the Gravity 2 is a messaging-focused phone, it was only fitting that it comes with several messaging options. Not only can you send the normal text and multimedia messages, you can also send instant messages (from AIM, Yahoo, and Windows Live), audio postcards (which are framed photos with an audio attachment), and e-mail. You can create e-mail accounts from a variety of providers, like AOL, Yahoo, Comcast, and more, but bear in mind that you can't just enter in a POP3 or IMAP server address, so your provider may not be supported.

The Gravity 2 comes with a rather basic music player. The tracks are organized by artists and albums, and you can also create and edit your own playlists. You can tweak the visualizations during music playback, add up to nine sound effects, which include "Wide" and "Surround" sound, and set it so that the music plays in the background when you're in other parts of the phone. Of course you can also set the tracks on repeat or shuffle. You can load your music via a microSD card. The Gravity 2 supports MP3, AAC, and AAC+ file formats.

The Samsung Gravity 2 has a 2.0-megapixel camera on the back, but no flash.

We were also pleased to see that the Gravity 2 comes with a slightly better camera; a 2.0-megapixel instead of the 1.3-megapixel on its predecessor. It can take pictures in four resolutions (1,600×1,200, 1,280×960, 640×480, and 320×240), three quality settings, five white balance presets, and five color effects. Other camera settings include a night mode, a self-timer, three shutter tones plus a silent mode, three metering modes (Matrix, Center-weighted, and Spot), and five shot modes (Single, Continuous, Panorama, Smile shot, and Mosaic). Panorama mode stitches photos automatically as you pan from left to right, and Smile shot automatically takes a photo as soon as the camera detects a smile.

The Samsung Gravity 2 took decent photos.

Photo quality was decent. Images looked sharp without a lot of blur, though the colors did seem a bit muted and overcast. There's also a built-in camcorder on the Gravity 2. You can record clips in just 176×144 resolution, in either normal length or limited for MMS. You can also choose to record with or without audio. Other camcorder settings are similar to those of the still camera.

You can personalize the Samsung Gravity 2 by adding wallpaper, screensavers, and alert tones. It also comes with a few games, like demo versions of The Sims 3 and Tetris. You'll have to purchase the full versions of the games to play further. To buy them as well as additional graphics and sound files, you can go to the T-Mobile store via the Web browser.

We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1,800/1,900; UMTS/HSDPA) Samsung Gravity 2 in San Francisco using T-Mobile's network. We were quite pleased with the call quality overall. On our end, we could hear our callers very clearly with hardly any static or noise. Their voices sounded quite natural as well.

On their end, callers were quite impressed with the call quality. They said our voice sounded clear and natural, though they would've liked a bit more volume at times. In speakerphone mode, we thought our callers sounded slightly tinny, but with plenty of volume. Callers could hear us loud and clear as well, but with a heavy echo effect and a low hum in the background.

We were also impressed with the 3G speeds. We managed to load a full HTML page like the CNET front page in around 15 seconds, for example. We also had no trouble getting a 3G signal in our neighborhood in downtown San Francisco. We also managed to stream video with hardly any buffering time at all. Still, streaming video quality seemed pixelated and choppy.

The audio quality from the speakers was all right, but nothing spectacular. The bass was a bit too light, and the music overall sounded harsh. We would recommend using a headset for better audio quality.

The Samsung Gravity 2 has a rated battery life of 5.5 hours talk time and 12.5 days standby time. It has a tested talk time of 5 hours and 55 minutes. According to FCC tests, the Gravity 2 has a SAR of 0.547 watts per kilogram.

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