Samsung's Galaxy S series has won the manufacturer a lot of attention over the past few months, but Sammy hasn't ignored the basic phone market. Just take its new SPH-M360 for Sprint. Armed with satisfying call quality, a bright display, and a straightforward design, the M360 does exactly what a cell phone should do. We wouldn't count on its camera, but it manages to pack in a couple of extra features, including voice dialing, accessibility options, and a loud speakerphone. And even better, it's free if you buy it online and sign a new service contract (the regular price is $209).
Samsung's M360 comes about a year after its M330 and more than two years after the M320. Like those earlier handsets, the design of M360 doesn't go out of its way to impress with a loud color or flashing lights. It comes back to the flip phone fold--the M330 was a slider model--but its clean lines and royal blue color have a minimalist appeal. At 3.9 inches long by 1.9 inches wide by 0.7 inch deep, the handset is larger than many basic phones, but it still fits easily into a pocket. And at 3.6 ounces, it won't weigh you down.
The external display measures 0.92 inch on all sides and packs in all the information you'll need, including the date, time, battery life, and signal strength. It has a 65,000-color, 128x128-pixel resolution, so it doubles as a viewfinder for the camera lens. You can change the clock style and the contrast. On the right side you'll find a 3.5-millimeter headset jack, a camera shutter, and the Micro-USB charger port. The volume rocker sits by itself on the left spine; it's easy to find when you're on a call.
The internal display measures 2.25 inches and supports 260,000 colors (320x240 pixels). Though it would pale in comparison to your average smartphone screen, it's more than suitable on a handset like the M360. We enjoyed the bright resolution and vibrant colors, even if it's a bit difficult to see in direct light. You can change the backlight time and brightness, and you can personalize the display with wallpaper and a screensaver.
We particularly liked the spacious and comfortable navigation array. The diamond toggle and central OK button are raised above the surface of the phone, making it easy to navigate by feel. Surrounding it are two soft keys, a back button, and the Talk and End/power keys. The big keypad buttons are raised slightly, but we didn't have any issues dialing or texting. What's more, the keys are brightly backlit, and the numbers should be large enough for most users.
The M360 has a 600-contact phone book with room in each entry for six phone numbers, an e-mail address, an instant message handle, a URL, a street address, a birthday, a job title and company name, and notes. You can assign contacts to groups and pair them with a photo and one of 20 polyphonic ringtones.
You can send and receive text and multimedia messages. The M360 also offers a fair number of texting options, like autocomplete and a personalized dictionary. Other essential features include an alarm clock, a calendar, a task list, a countdown timer, a calculator, a world clock, an airplane mode, a memo pad, and a voice recorder.
As mentioned, the M360 comes with a few options that are quite welcome on such a budget device. You'll find Bluetooth, speaker-independent voice dialing, parental controls, GPS support for Sprint Family Locater, and Sprint MobileSync. The handset also has a Voice Guide feature that will read out menu functions as you navigate over them.