While the major wireless carriers pack their lineups with the latest high-end cell phones, smaller operators such as MetroPCS take a more practical approach. Rather than offering complicated smartphones with pricey features, MetroPCS sticks with low-end camera phones and basic handsets that just make calls. The Samsung Spex, aka the SCH-R210, is of the latter group. Exceedingly simple in form and function, the Spex does exactly what a cell phone should do. You get a Web browser and Bluetooth, but in the end, the Spex is all about communication. You can get it for just $99, but we'd prefer the Kyocera K312P. MetroPCS does not require service contracts.
The Spex's design takes us back a few years. It's not a flip phone or a new-fangled slider model; instead, it's a minimalist candy bar handset with clean lines and a standard silver color. It's also compact (4.07 inches by 1.77 inches by 0.58 inch) and lightweight (3.4 ounces) so you shouldn't have any problems carting it around. The 65,000-color display is rather small and low-resolution (1.5 inches; 128x128 pixels). On any other phone we'd complain but on a handset this simple and this cheap we really don't mind. The menus are accessible and you can alter the contrast, the backlighting time, and the dialing font size.
Below the display is the easy-to-use navigation array. There's a four-way toggle with a central OK button, two soft keys, Talk and End/power buttons and a clear control. The soft keys are a tad small but the other controls are spacious and tactile. A raised silver ring surrounds the toggle, which gives it nice definition. They keypad buttons are flush but they're relatively large and a bright backlight lights them. Dialing by feel was difficult but that was the extent of our problems.