It's been a while since we've seen a new, exciting cell phone for T-Mobile, so when Samsung announced its new SGH-T729 we took notice. Also called the Blast (yet another crazy Samsung nickname), the SGH-T729 offers a thin slider design, Bluetooth, a megapixel camera, and a QWERTY keyboard modeled on the SureType technology found on some BlackBerry smart phones. On the whole, the Blast is a solid effort for a messaging phone. We liked the design and the simple interface, but T-Mobile's lack of a 3G network is beginning to put it behind its rival carriers. The Blast is $99 with service.
Though Samsung phone designs have become a bit predictable during the past few months, we were pleased to see that the Blast strikes some new style ground. Yes, it's thin (4.16 by 2.04 by 0.5 inches), but the Blast has other things going for it besides its profile. Despite being rather tall, it weighs just 2.8 ounces and its black-and-red color scheme is undeniably eye-catching. We also liked the design of the navigation controls below the vivid display. Because it's a slider phone the Blast won't cradle your head (like a flip phone), but it feels comfortable in the hand and it slides easily into a pocket.
As previously mentioned, the SGH-T729 has an attractive display that measures two inches and supports 262,000 colors. Like many Samsung displays, it shows colors and graphics well and was an ideal viewfinder for the camera. You can change the brightness and the backlighting time but not the font size. The menu interface is devoid of flashy graphics, so it's easy to use with quick access to your favorite features. We also approved of the tactile navigation array. Though you get quite a few controls--a four-way toggle with an OK button, two soft keys, a Web browser shortcut, the talk and end/power keys, a clear button, and a programmable shortcut control--the array is spacious and each key has its own definition.
As for the keys themselves, we like that they're slightly raised above the surface of the phone, which is an unusual feature on slider handsets. They're also relatively large and are brightly backlit. Misdials were rare and we liked the two-tone red-and-black color scheme.
The camera lens is on the rear side of the front face, so it's only exposed when the slider is up. There's no flash but you do get a self-portrait mirror. The right spine holds a camera shutter and the headset/charger jack while the volume rocker and the MicroSD card slot live on the left spine.
The Samsung Blast offers a respectable feature set with options centered on messaging and e-mail. It's certainly a useful phone for texting fans but multimedia mavens will be disappointed. As T-Mobile is the only major carrier not to offer a 3G network, its phones come up short in the entertainment and high-speed data department. As such, the SGH-T729 may look high-end, but it really can't compare with handsets like Verizon's LG enV or Samsung SCH-U740.
Criticisms aside, the SGH-T729 has all the basic features you'll need. The phone book holds a generous 1,000 contacts with room in each entry for five phone numbers, an e-mail address, and notes (the SIM card holds an additional 250 names). You can save contacts to caller groups, pair them, assign them a photo for caller ID, and match them with one of 16 polyphonic ringtones. Also, you can sync your contacts with T-Mobile's servers at the touch of a button. Other essentials include an alarm clock, a calendar, a task list, a notepad, a calculator, a world clock, a unit converter, a timer, a stopwatch, a tip calculator, and support for T-Mobile's My Faves service.
Fancier offerings on the Blast include Bluetooth, voice dialing and commands, a voice memo recorder, and a speakerphone. As we said earlier, the SGH-T729 is strongly focused on messaging options. You'll find text and multimedia messaging; IMAP4, POP3, and SMTP e-mail; and instant messaging for AOL, ICQ, Windows Live, and Yahoo protocols. What's more, the SGH-T729 is one of the few T-Mobile phones to come integrated with direct access to AOL and Yahoo e-mail. And remember that the SureType keyboard will help you compose your communications somewhat quickly.
We tested the quadband (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; EDGE) Blast world phone in San Francisco using T-Mobile's service. Call quality was generally good. Voices sounded natural and the reception was clear in most environments. Static was apparent once in a while, but it usually occurred only when we were in interior rooms of a building. We also had little problem finding a signal and we rarely lost reception. The volume level was fine when we were in a quiet setting, but it was a little too soft when were speaking in a noisier location (like on a street). Users with hearing impairments may want to try the phone first.
On their end, callers said we sounded fine, although they did say we sounded a tad robotic at times. But it wasn't a huge issue. Voice-automated systems were able to understand us without a problem.
The SGH-T729 has a rated battery life of five hours talk time and 8.3 days standby time. Our tests only revealed a talk time of three hours and 53 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the SGH-T729 has a digital SAR rating of 0.84 watts per kilogram.