Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more. The Samsung SGH-E105 doesn't try to impress with a flashy appearance. Clad in two-tone silver with a sleek, streamlined shape, the flip phone somewhat resembles the thicker Samsung VGA 1000 for Sprint. But take in the design for a few minutes, and its unassuming look will grow on you. The phone is indeed small, measuring 3.3 by 1.8 by 0.8 inches and weighing 2.9 ounces, and it can fit in any pocket despite its 0.75-inch external antenna. A postage stamp-size external monochrome display shows the date, the time, battery life, signal strength, and caller ID (where available). We found it easy to read in any light and appreciated the tiny LED that can be set to blink for incoming calls; available in seven colors, it can also be turned off. The E105 feels comfortable to hold while you're talking and has a solidly constructed hinge, but we didn't like the plastic material covering most of the mobile.
The phone's uncomplicated design continues on the inside. You're immediately drawn to the crisp, 65,000-color LCD screen. Measuring 2 inches diagonally, it's bright but turns completely dark when the backlighting is off. Moreover, it's a bit hard to view in direct sunlight. The colorful, animated menus (in two styles) are easy to use, and you can scroll through them using the volume rocker on the handset's left side.
The main navigation buttons, consisting of a four-way toggle and two soft keys, are large and tactile, but we had a couple of complaints. Though the toggle can be set to user-defined shortcuts, there's no dedicated OK button in its center, so you must use one of the soft keys. Instead, you'll find a key that gives you access to T-Mobile's T-zones service. Likewise, the blue-backlit keypad buttons were well spaced but set flush with the surface of the phone, so they weren't easy to dial by feel. The Samsung SGH-E105 has a 1,000-contact phone book with space for 250 more entries on the SIM card. You can store three phone numbers and one e-mail address for each contact, and ring tones and pictures can be assigned only to caller groups. The pictures, however, will not show up on the external LCD. Other features include an alarm clock, a calendar, a calculator, voice memos, a to-do list, a WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser, and a currency converter. You also get 25 polyphonic ring tones and a vibrate mode.
Keeping in touch without making a call isn't a problem with the E105, as the handset comes with text, multimedia, and AOL instant messaging. The text-messaging and AOL features were mostly easy to use, but the default entry mode is the oft-frustrating T9 predictive text input. Also, the inclusion of multimedia messaging struck us as a bit odd since the mobile doesn't come with integrated pictures, and there's no camera attachment. Instead, you must first download an image or have it sent to you from another MMS-capable phone via T-Mobile service before you can draft a multimedia message. Alternatively, you can send data using the IR port.
Avid gamers won't be too pleased with the selection of four unremarkable Java-enabled (J2ME) titles: BubbleSmile, Fun2Link, Ultimate Golf Challenge, and MobileChess. However, you can download more options and ring tones from T-Mobile's T-zones. Personalization options are better; you can choose from a selection of wallpapers, greetings, and sounds, with more available for download. We tested the dual-band (GSM 900/1900) Samsung SGH-E105 in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Atlanta. Call quality was good, with clear conversations both on the phone and the included headset. Also, callers said they could tell we were using a cell phone only occasionally. However, the volume wasn't the loudest, so those with hearing impairments should test the phone first.
Battery life, unfortunately, wasn't up to par. Samsung promises 3 hours of talk time and 4.5 days of standby time, but we managed 2.25 hours of talk time and just 3 days of standby time. And though the phone comes with a compact travel charger, the rubber cover shielding the charger port was so loose that we lost it almost immediately.