While AT&T and Sprint have been dominant in the messaging phone space with phones like the Samsung Magnet and the LG Lotus, it isn't the only carrier that has regular phones with QWERTY keyboards. T-Mobile has also stepped in, with the Samsung Gravity late last year, and more recently with the Samsung SGH-T349. However, it doesn't have the traditional full QWERTY keyboard. In fact, it's the first messaging phone we've seen that has a 20-key keyboard similar to the BlackBerry Pearl's SureType keypad. We actually like it quite a bit, though we understand some people might not like the layout. Features are pretty simple, with a 1.3-megapixel camera, a music player, and Bluetooth, but don't expect 3G or GPS. The Samsung SGH-T349 is quite affordable at only $15 with a new two-year service agreement. You also can get it with T-Mobile's prepaid service for $99.99.
The Samsung SGH-T349 has a simple slab candy bar design, with a smooth rectangular shape and rounded corners. Measuring 4.49 inches long by 1.97 inches wide by 0.53 inch thick and weighing 3.2 ounces, the SGH-T349 is slim, lightweight, and feels good in the hand. It's also quite attractive with its pearl gray and lime green color scheme.
Right on the front is the 2.2-inch display with support for 262,000 colors. The display is bright and vibrant, and really shows off the colorful animated icons in the menu interface. You can adjust the wallpaper to display the calendar on the home screen, the font size and color, background color of the dialing display, the backlight time, themes, and the font size and style of the info display. You can also adjust the menu interface to be either a circle view where you rotate through the icons in a circular design, or the traditional grid view.
Underneath the display is the navigation array, which consists of two soft keys, a square four-way toggle with middle OK key, the Send and End/Power keys, and a dedicated messaging key and a Back key flanked on either side of the array. The latter two keys are raised a little higher than the rest of the navigation keys except for the four-way toggle. The dedicated messaging key can be mapped to your favorite messaging tool, be it text messaging, e-mail, instant messaging, an audio postcard, or just straight to your in-box. The four-way toggle doubles as shortcuts to your call history, an audio postcard, your contacts list, and a create-a-new-message field. We found the navigation array easy to use, though we did wish the Send key were a little more raised so that it's easier to answer a call.
We have to admit we quite like the partial QWERTY or 20-key keyboard, though your mileage may vary on this one. The keys are roomy and have a nice give when pushed. Thanks to the XT9 predictive text that autocompletes words, messaging felt speedy, though it's definitely slower than using a full QWERTY keyboard. We found it easier to use than just a simple number keypad though.
On the left of the SGH-T349 are the microSD card slot and the volume rocker, while the camera button and charger jack are on the right side. The camera lens is on the back, without any self-portrait mirror or flash.
Though it looks a little like the RIM BlackBerry Pearl, the Samsung SGH-T349 is no smartphone by any stretch of the imagination. It's a pretty simple phone with fairly basic features. To start with, the SGH-T349 has a 1,000-entry contacts list with room in each entry for five numbers and an e-mail address. Contacts can then be organized into groups, paired with a photo for caller ID, as well as one of 19 polyphonic ringtones. You can also use MP3s or voice recordings as ringtones. You can select five of your contacts as MyFaves favorite contacts.
Other basics include a speakerphone, a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a voice recorder, a calendar, an alarm clock, a to-do list, a note pad, a calculator, a tip calculator, a world time clock, a unit conversion tool, a timer, and a stopwatch. You can also send an "audio postcard," which is an image packaged in a fun frame with an accompanying voice message. More advanced users will like the wireless Web browser, mobile Web e-mail (with support for AIM, AOL, Yahoo, Gmail, Comcast, and more), instant messaging (AIM, Windows Live, and Yahoo), and stereo Bluetooth.