After a long absence from the GSM world, push-to-talk technology (PTT) is gradually creeping into new territory with the recent rollout of Cingular's new PTT service. Now, Cingular customers can chat away without using calling minutes and having to lug around a clunky Nextel phone. Take the Samsung SGH-D357: As one of Cingular's two PTT phones (the other being the ), the SGH-D357 offers an unassuming, compact design. Beyond the PTT functionality, there are few features worth mentioning--you get Bluetooth and not a camera, but sometimes a phone that just makes calls is all you need. The Samsung SGH-D357 is fairly priced at $119, though you should be able to find it for less with service. From the outset, the Samsung SGH-D357 has a typical Samsung look. Small (3.4 by 1.8 by 0.96 inches), lightweight (3.5 ounces), and clad in a basic silver and black color scheme, the SGH-D357 has the rounded edges, the stubby antenna, and the smooth finish that we've come to expect from the company's phones. That's not to say it's unattractive--indeed, we like the sturdy hinge--it's just that it won't win any mobile beauty contest. Front and center is the monochrome external display, which shows the date, the time, battery life, signal strength, and caller ID (where available). Although we can accept the lack of a color resolution, we found the 0.8-inch-diagonal display too small for the phone's size, and its lack of backlighting puzzled us. You can change the contrast, but it still may be too dim for some users. Above the display is a service light that blinks for incoming calls. You can't change the blue color, but you can turn it off if you wish.
Inside the Samsung SGH-D357 is a 1.75-inch-diagonal internal display. Supporting 65,000 colors, the 128x160-pixel screen is fine for most purposes, but it has a slightly washed-out appearance, despite having adjustments for the brightness and the contrast. You can alter the backlighting time, however, and though you can't change the font size, you can fiddle with the font color. Also, it should be noted that the display is hard to see in direct light.
Below the Samsung SGH-D357's display are the tactile and user-friendly navigation controls. In typical Samsung fashion, there's a square four-way toggle surrounded by two soft keys, a Clear button, and the Talk and End/power keys. Inside the toggle is an OK button, which also acts as a Web-browser shortcut when in standby mode, and the toggle itself can be programmed to give one-touch access to four user-defined functions. Like the navigation controls, the keypad buttons are large, well spaced, and easy to use. The buttons are set flush with the surface of the phone, but it's easy to dial by feel, and they're brightly backlit. On the SGH-D357's right spine are the PTT key, a button for activating voice commands, and the speakerphone, while a volume rocker and a headset jack sit on the left spine.The Samsung SGH-D357 comes with a 1,000-name phone book, with room in each entry for five phone numbers, an e-mail address, and notes. You can assign contacts to caller groups, or you can pair them with one of 15 polyphonic ring tones. The phone also supports photo caller ID, but since there's no camera, you'll have to find images elsewhere. What's more, images do not show up on the external display. If you need more space, the SIM card holds an additional 250 contacts. Other features include a vibrate mode, voice dialing and commands, a calendar, a calculator, a 2-minute voice recorder, a unit converter, a timer, a stopwatch, and a world clock. For written communication, you can choose from e-mail, instant messaging (AOL, Yahoo, and ICQ), and text messaging. The SGH-D357 is also equipped for multimedia messaging, but again, keep in mind that there's no camera. Useful businesscentric features include Bluetooth, a speakerphone (for activation only after you make a call), and of course, Cingular's new PTT network. For a complete description of the network, please see our review of the .
You can personalize the Samsung SGH-D357 with a variety of wallpaper, color skins, and tones. If you want more options, you can download them via the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. You get one Java (J2ME) game (Bobby Carrot) and demo versions of Tetris, BlockBreaker, and Jamdat Bowling. Of course, if you want more, you can always buy the full title. The phone's total memory for downloads is 4MB.We tested the triband (GSM 850/1800.1900; EDGE) Samsung SGH-D357 in San Francisco using Cingular's service. Audio quality was clear, with little static and interference. Callers could tell we were using a cell phone, but they didn't report any significant problems. Call volume was another story, however. Although it was adequate for most conversations, we had a hard time hearing our friends in noisier environments, such as when we were walking along a busy street. It was also difficult to hear a call inside a crowded room, so users with hearing impairments should test this phone first.
Speakerphone calls were largely the same; there were clear signals but not enough volume. We successfully paired the Samsung SGH-D357 with the, and again, calls were clear, but volume was low. Push-to-talk calls were static heavy at times but sufficiently loud.
The Samsung SGH-D357 has a rated talk time of 5 hours and a promised standby time of 8.3 days. In our tests, we met the rated talk time but got a disappointing 5 days of standby time. According to FCC radiation tests, the SGH-D357 has a digital SAR rating of 1.37 watts per kilogram.