As it goes with some trilogies, the third installment in Samsung's Gravity series--the Gravity 3 slider for T-Mobile--amps up the production value and visual effects, but adds little to the storyline. That's not to suggest that the Gravity 3 isn't a worthy successor to Samsung's Gravity 2. In fact, the Gravity 3 does keep many elements we liked about last year's model, such as the 3G and GPS capabilities, plus a 2-megapixel camera. In terms of specs, at least, it doesn't stray much from the Gravity 2's formula. The result is a stylish makeover to what has become for Samsung and T-Mobile a blockbuster texting phone, and an alternative to the similarly featured, but touch-screen, Samsung Gravity T. It doesn't hurt that the Gravity 3 sells for an affordable $50 with a two-year service agreement.
The Gravity 3 is a looker. Samsung has splashed the mostly black frame with a glossy, metallic gray bezel and with matte, metallic aqua accents. Almost identical to the Gravity 2 in stature, the 4.6-inch-tall-by-2.11-inch-wide-by-0.6-inch-thick Gravity 3 may look like a doorstop when compared with one of those waifish touch-screen smartphones, but it's actually slim enough to slip into the pocket of most pairs of jeans. A full slide-out QWERTY keyboard accounts for the phone's extra height and heft (4.34 ounces). Keep in mind that for heavy users of instant messaging, e-mail, and text messages, the physical keyboard is a benefit, not a detriment.
On its left spine, you'll find a dedicated camera button and a Micro-USB charging port, whereas the volume rocker sits on the phone's right spine. The 2-megapixel camera lens and external speaker are located on the back. Note that although there is a music player onboard, there's no dedicated headset jack. Samsung still hasn't moved the microSD slot from behind the back cover, an inconvenient location, but at least it's no longer situated behind the SIM card
The Gravity 3's 2.4-inch screen is a hair larger than that of the Gravity 2. It supports 262,000 colors and a QVGA 240x320-pixel resolution. You can adjust both the brightness and the backlight time, along with the phone's font size, color, and typeface, and the display's background color. Settings let you switch out of the default carousel-style menu to a more traditional grid. The Gravity 3 is mostly readable indoors or in shadow, though its display was harder to discern in direct sunlight than other phones we've tested.
The navigation array keeps the same Talk and End, messaging, clear, and soft key buttons as its predecessor. However, a new design makes the array easier to press with the pad of your finger, and the Gravity 3 hosts a rectangular--rather than round--four-directional navigation pad with central OK button. The dialpad keys located below the navigation are also squared off. Their wide shape, domed centers, and rubber finish make the backlit buttons easy to press.
The Gravity 3 lets you map the dedicated messaging button to one of eight functions--three more than did the previous model--including instant messaging, your e-mail in-box, and the third-party social-networking app known as SocialBuzz.
Slide the phone face to the right to reveal the wide keyboard with its electric blue rim and keys. Gone are the small, square buttons of the previous model. The Gravity 3's spacious QWERTY keyboard is sci-fi-evocative, with a bubbly space bar that's reminiscent of a spaceship and oblong keys tilted slightly on their axis. Gravity 3 has moved the handy soft keys on the QWERTY keyboard to either side of the space bar.
The Gravity 3 keeps its navigational arrow keys on the bottom right, its dedicated OK key, Shift/Symbol button, and its .com/www key for quickly entering URLs. The emoticon button quickly perks up text with a standard smiley. The keys are only very slightly raised, and though a little wide for this editor's hands, the buttons depressed easily enough to keep the messages a-flowin'.
Up to 1,000 contacts fit into the Samsung Gravity 3, with room in each entry for four phone numbers, four e-mail addresses, three IM usernames, an address, a birthday, URL, an anniversary date, and notes. In addition, you can associate one of 19 polyphonic ringtones (there's room for 72 total), a calling group, or a picture ID with your contact.
Basics include a calendar, a task scheduler, a clock, a world clock, a to-do list, an alarm, a converter, a calculator, a memo book, a stop watch, and a timer. Tick off the TeleNav A-GPS navigator with turn-by-turn directions, Google Maps, voice dialing, and an RSS reader as more advanced features. There's also stereo Bluetooth, and support for e-mail and IM. Internet access comes courtesy of T-Mobile's web2go browser, which lets you view Web pages in desktop or mobile mode. The browser will also stream YouTube videos over 3G through the Gravity 3's media player.