The biggest draw of Research in Motion's BlackBerry devices is its push e-mail capabilities. The convenience of having your messages automatically delivered to your device and being able to easily reply with the QWERTY keyboard is addicting, hence earning their nickname, CrackBerry. However, up until now, these handsets have pretty much been restricted to blocky, candy bar form factors. True, the BlackBerry 7100 series and the BlackBerry Pearl certainly did a lot to bring a more attractive and sleek look to BlackBerrys, but what about something for all the flip-phone fanatics out there? Well, let us introduce you to the Samsung SGH-T719. The SGH-T719 for T-Mobile is the first Samsung flip phone to offer support for the BlackBerry Connect e-mail service, letting you enjoy the advantages of the push technology in a sleek clamshell design. Of course, the trade-off of the compact design is that you'll have to endure the frustrations of the SureType keyboard, but it's still a good alternative if you don't want to get a traditional BlackBerry device. The Samsung SGH-T719 is available for $199.99 with service, and BlackBerry Connect plans start at $19.99 per month.
Samsung is known for producing some slim cell phones, and the Samsung SGH-T719 is no exception. The flip phone measures 3.7x2x0.7 inches and weighs a light 3.5 ounces to make for a sleek mobile that easily slips into a pants pocket or purse. While it is thin, the handset is a little on the longer side (7 inches in its open state); not a deal breaker by any means, but just something to be aware of as you're shopping around. Overall, the SGH-T719 is comfortable to hold and use as a phone, but we thought the front cover felt a bit loose as it jiggled a bit from side to side.
On the front flap, you will find 1-inch external screen with a 96x96 pixel resolution, but disappointingly, it's only monochrome, and you can't use it as a camera viewfinder for self-portraits. That said, it shows all the basics, including time, date, network strength, battery life, your BlackBerry Connect status, and caller ID (where available). Plus, the information is visible at all times, even when the backlighting goes off. Above the display, there's a flash for the camera, which can also double as a flashlight if you're in a pinch. The camera lens itself is housed in the hinge of the phone and swivels 180 degrees.
Open up the Samsung SGH-T719, and you're presented with a large internal display and a spacious keyboard. The TFT screen measures a lofty 2.2 inches diagonally and shows off 262,000 colors at a 176x220 pixel resolution. Though the lower resolution doesn't make for the sharpest screen, colors were bright and text was clear on the SGH-T719's display; in addition, it was still readable in direct sunlight. The menus and interface are typical of Samsung phones, which is to say they're intuitive and easy to master.
Below the screen, you have the standard navigation array of two soft keys, the Talk and End buttons, a Clear key, and a four-way toggle with a center OK button. The controls are extralarge and spacious, so most users won't have a problem with pressing the wrong key due to a cramped layout. Making its debut on a non-BlackBerry phone is Research in Motion's SureType keyboard. For the uninitiated, this modified keyboard features a traditional QWERTY layout, but two letters are assigned to one key. As you start to enter the letters of a word, SureType technology will present you with a list of possible letter combinations or words based on context. We've never been huge fans of this method, as you have to scroll to the correct word, then select it, which can be slow and frustrating. That said, in order to take full advantage of the BlackBerry Connect features and to keep the handset small, we can understand why they went with the SureType keyboard. The individual keys were large and well backlit, but a bit slippery for our tastes.