Though the 3-megapixel camera lacks a self-portrait mirror and flash, we were quite impressed with the photo quality. Our shots had a slight milky effect, but colors were relatively bright and there was little image noise. You can takes pictures in four resolutions, from 2,048x1,536 pixels down to 400x240 pixels, and choose from four quality settings. Other editing options include four color effects, three white balance settings, an adjustable brightness, six "scene" settings (night, landscape, action, and so on), and a self-timer. And like the Samsung touch-screen phones before it, the Highlight features three shooting modes (continuous, panorama, and mosaic) and a "smile shot" options that promises to detect when a subject is smiling.
The camcorder shoots clips with sound in two resolutions (320x240 pixels and 176x144 pixels). Camcorder editing features are fewer than on the still camera, though you get a few options like brightness and a self-timer. Clips meant for multimedia messages are capped at about 1 minute, but you can shoot for much longer in the standard mode. For both the still camera and camcorder, the interface is informative and easy to use.
When finished with your shots and clips, you can save them to the phone, send them to a friend in a multimedia message, or transfer them off the phone using Bluetooth, a USB cable, or the memory card. You also can upload them to an online T-Mobile album and view your work in a slideshow. The Highnote even offers the capability to send an audio postcard. Internal memory is capped at 60MB, which is rather low, but the microSD-card slot will accommodate cards up to 16GB.
The music player has a simple, but straightforward interface. Features are limited to playlists, shuffle and repeat modes, and six equalizer settings, but the biggest worry is that T-Mobile still lacks a proper music downloading system. On the other hand, you can load music onto the phone using a memory card. We tried it and encountered no problems. You can send the player to the background while using other functions and select an airplane mode for listening to your tunes while aloft.
The Highlight's full HTML browser is comparable with other Samsung touch-screen phones, which is to say it's a mixed bag. On the upside, the display is responsive and we could scroll around pages in fluid motions. Also it's relatively easy to enter URLs using the virtual keyboard, and save bookmarks, copy images, or copy a URL to a text message. On the downside, we continue to hate the magnifying glass zooming method and the display is just a bit too small for comfortable viewing. Also, it's important to note that the Highlight will default to a WAP version of a Web site when one is available (which is usually the case). There should be an easier way to switch to the full HTML version.
You can personalize the Highlight with a selection of wallpaper and greetings. More customization options and additional ringtones are available for purchase from T-Mobile. The Highlight comes with demo versions of Midnight Pool 2 and Brain Challenge; you'll have to buy the full versions for extended play.
We tested the quad-band, dual-mode (GSM 850/900/1,800/1,900; UMTS 1,700/2,100) Samsung Highnote in San Francisco using T-Mobile service. Call quality was respectable on several points. The signal remained strong and we encountered no static or interference from other devices. What's more, the audio was clear and voices sounded natural. On the downside, the volume was rather low. We had no trouble hearing under most circumstances, but it was difficult to follow conversations when we were speaking in a noisy place.
Callers said we sounded fine. Most could tell that we were using a cell phone, but a few of our friends had no idea we weren't on a landline. The complaints we heard were few, but they ranged from some wind noise to a slight audio hiss. We also heard traces of the hiss on our end, but it was barely noticeable. Automated calling systems could understand us most of the time.
Speakerphone calls were decent, but not spectacular. Though we appreciate that it takes just once click to activate the speakerphone after you've made a call, the audible hiss we noticed during regular voice calls was more apparent here. The volume on our end was slightly louder, but callers had more trouble hearing us than on normal calls. Also, we had to speak louder if we wanted automated calling systems to understand us.
Even if the Web browser isn't perfect, T-Mobile's 3G network delivers fast data speeds. Mobile sites for CNET, United Airlines, and the Los Angeles Times loaded in about 15 seconds.
Music quality was fine, but don't expect miracles. As with most music phones, our tunes lacked depth when played through the external speaker. Also, the volume isn't very loud. Headphones will provide the best experience.
The Highlight has a rated battery life of 6.5 hours talk time and 18.5 days standby time. It has a tested talk time of 4 hours and 58 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the Highlight has a digital SAR of 1.31 watts per kilogram.