Samsung tries to bridge basic messaging with touchscreens. (November 28th, 2010)
The Samsung Gravity T is a T-Mobile phone vying for recognition is the cluttered space between basic texting phones and full featured smartphones. With a price tag of $75, we're expecting a lot from this phone as it's just shy of the price of Android devices on the same network. We'll decide in our Gravity T review if cheaper service is enough to lure in subscribers.
Product Manufacturer: Samsung
Price: $75 (2 years, T-Mobile)
- Good call quality.
- Above average Google Maps implementation.
- Capable keyboard.
- Solid construction.
- Mediocre touchscreen.
- Poor web use.
- Average camera for the class.
- Headphones limited to micro USB.
- No threaded text messaging.
- Gesture unlocking not effective.
Design, call quality and battery life
The Gravity T features a side-slider design and a very solid construction. We have tested many phones that feel wobbly when sliding open, and the Gravity T is thankfully not one of them. When slid open, the QWERTY keyboard immediately lights up and users are greeted with 41 rounded keys, five of which are used menu navigation. The rounded keys take some adjusting to, but in general the keyboard on this phone is easy to use with a minimum of unintended presses. When the keyboard is closed, the phone has only talk, end, menu, camera shutter, and lock buttons; all are convenient, but not spectacular. The Gravity T has no audio jack for headphones and instead relies on micro USB-based headphones.
The screen on the Gravity T is relatively large for the category but still very standard, at 2.8 inches across and 240x320 when it's held upright. Given the phone's low resolution, we weren't surprised that the touchscreen experience on this device left much to be desired. It just isn't as vivid or as responsive as on most smartphones, so any advantage is relative to basic phones.
Battery life on the Gravity T reaches about six hours of talk time, which is good but not exceptional. Call quality and volume on the Gravity T, however, are quite good -- both on speakerphone and off. As such, it might be the ideal phone for those still focused on calls.
UI, the camera and apps
The software on the phone is Samsung's proprietary OS with TouchWiz 2.0 layered on top. All of the usual applications are present including a social media aggregator that supports MySpace, Twitter, and Facebook as well as a media player, a web browser, and a simple e-mail app. The home screen of the phone features three panels of widgets on the home screen; this function is similar to Android, although the widgets aren't usually as sophisticated. In general, the look and feel of the Gravity T leans more towards that of simple feature phones than towards the interfaces and user experiences found on full-featured handheld devices, so there's no illusion that it's close to a smartphone like the Vibrant.
For photo and video capture, the Gravity T revolves around a two-megapixel camera. The photo and video quality from the phone is strictly average, but like many other Samsung devices users are given a host of photography settings like white balance that are more commonly found on dedicated cameras than on cellphones.
A few features on the Gravity T do really justify the slightly elevated price tag and bring it out of the league of simply being a typical messaging phone. It has an excellent implementation of GPS and Google Maps for this level of hardware. The GPS system is accurate, and Google Maps is easy to use with the combination of touchscreen and keyboard. It won't replace Google Maps Navigation on Android but will do the trick for basic route finding.
The second standout is visual voicemail, which is more and more common on smartphones but is still somewhat rare here. Unfortunately, Samsung did miss an opportunity to have a third standout feature that would have been especially useful: threaded texting. Given that messaging is a core focus here, it's surprising that it wasn't included.
We did have a handful of active flaws with the Gravity T. Gesture unlocking is supposed to allow users to unlock the phone with a gesture instead of simply pressing and holding the unlock key. The gestures launch specific phone applications such as the web browser or messaging apps. We got this feature to work once or twice, but more often than not the gestures simply didn't unlock the phone at all. It's an instance of attempting to be clever when a straightforward interface would have been better.
And while the Gravity T makes some attempts at claiming smartphone ground, the web browsing experience on the Gravity T is miserable. All of the pages we browsed to loaded extremely slowly and often rendered oddly; this doesn't have a true HTML. Watching videos on the YouTube application was also a disappointing experience, if not surprising given the screen and processor.
More than anything, the Gravity T feels like a me-too touchscreen feature phone. There is nothing overly impressive about the device, but there also isn't anything spectacularly wrong with it that wasn't expected for the category. The Gravity T has solid construction and a simple, capable design, even though the rounded keys may throw some users off at first blush. Internet and multimedia applications are not strong points for this phone, but the visual voicemail, GPS and call quality are high points on a phone with a reasonable price tag. Unfortunately for the Gravity T, similar comments can be made of phones in this category with lower price tags and a few more bells and whistles.