If you haven't noticed, touch-screen phones are in, and it seems that every carrier and manufacturer is rushing to jump on the bandwagon. AT&T has its Apple iPhone, Verizon Wireless has its LG Dare, Sprint Nextel has its Samsung Instinct, and now T-Mobile is getting in on the fun with the new Samsung Behold. Also called the SGH-T919, the Behold is similar to the unlocked Samsung Omnia in design and features. It also has an expansive touch-screen design while offering a music player, a 5-megapixel camera, and (most notably) support for T-Mobile's growing 3G network. The result is an attractive, powerful phone with an easy-to-use TouchWiz interface. On the downside, it lacks Wi-Fi and the Web browser is a bit erratic, but the Behold is a compelling addition to the T-Mobile lineup. It will cost you more than few pennies if you pay full price ($399), but a new contract and a rebate will knock it down to a reasonable $149.
The Samsung Behold's candy bar design resembles previous touch-screen phones like the Omnia and the Dare. Below the prominent touch screen are the few physical controls; the camera lens sits on the phone's rear face. It's not terribly unique, but it is slick and eye-catching. You can get it in two colors (espresso or rose), but the features are the same on both models.
At 4.12 inches tall by 2.1 inches wide by 0.5 inch deep, the Behold is almost the same size as the Dare, but is a bit smaller than the Omnia. And at 4 ounces, it falls just between the two in weight. We liked the comfortable, sturdy feel in the hand and the way it slips easily into a bag and a larger pocket when you're on the go.
The 3-inch display doesn't offer the biggest touch screen around, but we're glad that Samsung took full advantage of the Behold's real estate. With support for 262,000 colors (240x400 pixels), it is bright and beautiful, with vibrant colors and sharp graphics. You can change the brightness, the backlighting time, and the font type. You also can change the intensity of the vibrating feedback.
The touch interface is responsive and intuitive; in many ways the internal menus are not unlike the Instinct. We had no issues with misdials or pressing the wrong button, but if you have problems, you can adjust the calibration. Thumbing through long lists presented few problems as well. As on the iPhone, the Behold has a sensor that dims its display automatically when you raise the phone to your ear during a conversation. The Behold also has an accelerometer that will change the display's orientation as you rotate the phone.
On the bottom of the display you'll notice four icons for the phone dialer, the phone book, the Web browser, and the main menu. The phone dialer features large, alphanumeric buttons with readable numbers and text. You'll also find shortcuts for voicemail, the call log, the messaging menu, and the phone book. An onscreen "back" button will let you correct mistakes when dialing.
Like the Omnia, the Behold features Samsung's new TouchWiz user interface, which allows for an extra level of personalization on your Home screen. On the left side of the display there is a bar with a series of "widgets" for applications like the clock, music player, photo gallery, calendar Bluetooth, Web browser, and notepad. By tapping the widgets, you get one-touch access to the corresponding feature. That's handy by itself, but the TouchWiz goes a step further. If you slide certain widgets from the bar to the home screen, you can get a miniature view of that feature. So for example, if you slide the music player widget over, a tiny version of the player will appear right on the home screen. You then can play tunes without opening the main menu. To end the application, simply slide the widget back onto the bar. You also can close the bar, by touching the small arrow icon in its middle.
The TouchWiz has its good points--indeed, we loved having so many options at our fingertips--but we wish it had a deeper level of customization. Like on the Omnia, you're limited to the preloaded widgets; that's a big downfall, in our opinion. The list of available widgets is pretty extensive, and we like that a Web browser widget is available, but you can't add any new applications beyond the default set. You can deactivate the widgets you don't need, and you can change their order in the shortcut bar, but that's where the personalization ends.
The main menu has a standard icon-based design. It's easy to use and intuitive and thankfully devoid of distracting Flash animation. The secondary menus have a simple list design; you don't have to fish around too much to find your needed feature. We also like the handy pull-down menu that's available in some secondary menus.
The landscape QWERTY keyboard takes full advantage of the Behold's display. It may be a bit small for some users, but most people shouldn't have a problem. You also can type messages with the alphanumeric keypad (we're not sure why you would want to) and you can change back and forth using an onscreen button or by rotating the phone. The dedicated punctuation keys are handy, as is the dedicated button for deactivating the T9 predictive text. There are separate keyboards for symbols, numbers, and more punctuation. We didn't make many mistakes when texting once we got used to it. Our only real complaint is that the allotted space for typing your message is rather small, which results in a lot of scrolling for the verbose.
Below the display are the only physical controls: Talk and End/power buttons and a back key. The icon on the Back key is tiny so we kept forgetting what it did at first. The calling controls are a tad small, too, but they're pleasantly tactile. On the left spine you'll find a volume rocker and a combination headset jack/charger port. Of course, that means that the headset jack is proprietary and you only can use one peripheral at a time. A handset locking key and a camera shutter are on the right spine. As mentioned previously, the Behold's camera lens sits on the rear face next to a self-portrait mirror and the flash. Unfortunately, you must remove the battery and the battery cover to access the memory card slot.
The phone has a huge, 2,000-contact phone book with room in each entry for four phone numbers, four instant-messaging handles, a Web site, a birthday, an anniversary, a street address, and notes (the SIM card holds an additional 250 names). You can save callers to groups and you can pair them with a photo and one of 18 72-chord, polyphonic ringtones.
Other essentials include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a calendar, a calculator, a notepad, a task list, an alarm clock, a world clock, a timer, a stopwatch, a currency and unit converter, and a speakerphone. A big miss, however, is Wi-Fi. That should be standard on phones with a full Web browser.
The Behold isn't a smartphone, but it offers a respectable set of higher-end options. You'll find speaker-independent voice dialing and commands, USB mass storage, PC syncing, Web-based POP3 e-mail, instant messaging, a voice memo recorder, GPS support with Telenav Navigator, and full Bluetooth with a stereo profile.