Speaking of which, the media player hasn't grown more sophisticated since the last Gravity model. It's easy enough to organize tracks, and create and edit playlists. In theory, you can send MP3s via text message, e-mail, Exchange e-mail, or Bluetooth, though in some instances your file may prove too large. Once a song is in your gallery, you can set it as a ringtone, as an alarm tone, as a message tone, as a calendar reminder, or you can associate it with a contact. The player lists the track's basic details and media information of a song during playback. MP3, AAC, and AAC+ file formats will all play.
In addition to authoring text and multimedia messages, the Gravity 3 proves its chops as a messaging phone by incorporating IM through Yahoo, Windows Live, and AOL's services, audio postcards (framed photos accompanied by an optional voice message), and e-mail. You can set up Web mail from providers like Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, and Comcast, and you can also calibrate an additional Exchange account. We have a hard time envisioning business professionals purchasing any feature phone over a smartphone, but we won't turn up our noses at the offer of Exchange support with SSL encryption.
Toggling through our various messaging in-box folders on the Gravity 3 is a win, but the e-mail experience itself feels rough. All the necessary elements are there, like viewing message alerts when you unlock your phone, opening embedded URLs in the browser, downloading messages with attachments, and adding things like appointments, tasks, and bookmarks into the e-mail message. However, Samsung and T-Mobile could have gone with a more spruced-up interface, more flexibility in setting preferences, and an adjustable typeface size that optimizes message-reading from the phone's constricted screen size.
You'll get decent enough photos with the 2-megapixel camera, which captures shots in four resolutions (1,600x1,200, 1,280x960, 640x480, and 320x240). There's a night mode, five white-balance presets, three metering modes (Matrix, Center-weighted, and Spot), and five color effects. The self-timer has three countdown intervals and three shutter chimes, plus a silent mode. In addition to Single and Continuous photo-taking modes is Panorama, which automatically stitches together photos as you pan from left to right; Smile shot, which takes your photo as soon as it detects a smile; and Mosaic, which fills in each of four quadrants with a different image.
As we mentioned, photo quality is fair on the Gravity 3, but not stellar. The advantage of sharp edges is balanced by the negative of slightly dampened colors and a tinge of blurring. Beyond camera mode, the phone's built-in camcorder records clips in a 176x144-pixel resolution (QCIF), in either normal length or truncated for MMS. A video setting lets you record without audio. The other camcorder settings are similar to those of the still camera. After filling up the phone's 70MB of onboard memory, you can spill over to a 16GB external microSD.
If you don't care for the Gravity 3's default look, you can personalize it by switching out the wallpaper, screensavers, and alert tones. Gamers will find a handful of demos like Guitar Hero Mobile and The Sims 3 in the Media library, but you'll need to buy them from the T-Mobile Web store to keep playing past the demo.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1,800/1,900; UMTS/HSDPA) Samsung Gravity 3 in San Francisco using the T-Mobile network. Call quality was good overall, with natural-sounding voice timbres and volumes. We noticed some distortions on our end, however, and on one occasion, some mysterious background beeping that was thankfully short-lived.
On their end, callers were satisfied with the call quality, noting just a bit of fuzziness at times. Calls over speakerphone were loud and mostly clear, with some buzz on our end. For their part, callers were impressed by the volume. Though a certain amount of echo is always expected with a speakerphone, it did not disrupt the call.
The Gravity 3's 3G speeds and signal remained strong while we tested it downtown and in several neighborhoods. We were able to stream YouTube videos without much buffering, but the stream, though steady, suffered from choppiness and small amounts of pixelation.
The Samsung Gravity 3 has a rated battery life of 6 hours talk time and 16.7 days standby time. Our tests revealed a talk time of 6 hours and 3 minutes. According to FCC tests, the Gravity 3 has a SAR of 0.527 watt per kilogram.