The Samsung Katalyst also has a built-in Wi-Fi receiver, which is used with T-Mobile's HotSpot @Home service. For a nominal monthly fee, HotSpot @Home customers can use the Katalyst to connect to any wireless network to make, answer, and receive calls, just like a regular cell phone. Except all calls made within a wireless network will not be deducted from your plan's minutes, so you essentially get unlimited calling. Also, you're almost always guaranteed better signal reception when connected via a wireless network, which is great if you tend to have spotty cell service at home or at work. T-Mobile offers a special HotSpot @Home router that is optimized for voice transmission as well. To find out more about the HotSpot @Home service, you can read our review of the service.
Though it might not look it, the Katalyst also comes with a built-in music player, hidden in the Fun & Apps folder. The music player has a pretty simple interface, with two different visualization settings and the ability to play, pause, rewind, and fast-forward music tracks. It has only 5MB of built-in memory, which is pretty dismal, but it does come with a microSD card slot on the back. Unfortunately you'll have to remove the phone's battery in order to get to it. There are also no external music keys. So though the Katalyst can indeed play music, it's certainly not what we would call a real music phone.
The Katalyst also has a 1.3-megapixel camera, which can take photos at seven different resolutions (1,280x1,024; 1,024x768; 800x600; 640x480; 320x240; 160x120; and 128x96). Camera options are pretty advanced for a simple camera phone, and they include white-balance controls, metering exposure settings, ISO settings, multishot, a night mode, a self-timer, brightness, six color effects, and photo frames. You can also assign keys on the keypad to be shortcuts to different camera settings. Photo quality was pretty mediocre, with blurry and washed out images. The camera also has a camcorder option, which has two recording modes--a short one for multimedia messages, and for as long as available memory. Camcorder settings include two different sizes (176x144, and 128x96), audio toggle, white balance, timer, and color effects.
Personalization options of the Katalyst include a variety of wallpapers, skins, and alert tones that are included on the phone, plus you have the option to buy and download more via T-Mobile's T-Zones browser. The Katalyst comes with a few games, such as Forgotten Warrior, Midnight Casino, and a demo version of Brain Challenge. Again, more games can be purchased from T-Mobile if you wish.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) Samsung Katalyst in San Francisco using the T-Mobile service as well as a variety of wireless networks, thanks to the T-Mobile HotSpot @Home service. Call quality was excellent and far exceeded our expectations. Callers often thought we were calling from a landline, especially when we were using the Wi-Fi to make the call. GSM call quality was pretty decent as well, with loud volume and clear and natural voices. The Samsung Katalyst's signal strength also improved considerably when it's connected to a wireless network. Speakerphone calls weren't as great, with slightly muffled and tinny call quality, but voices still came through just fine. We paired the Katalyst with the Plantronics Voyager 520 Bluetooth headset and made calls with it without a problem.
Music quality on the Katalyst was alright, but nothing too spectacular. It's good enough for a quick listen, but we wouldn't replace an MP3 player with it. The sound from the speakers is loud enough but it did sound a little lightweight and tinny. We definitely recommend using a headset instead for better bass effects.
The Katalyst has a rated battery life of five hours of talk time and a standby time of 10 days. According to FCC radiation tests, the Katalyst has a digital SAR rating of 0.662 watt per kilogram. The Katalyst has a rated battery life of five hours of talk time and a standby time of 10 days. Our tests revealed a talk time of 5 hours and 10 minutes.