While the Samsung SGH-t409 may seem like an ordinary phone at first glance, it's actually one of two debut phones to launch with T-Mobile's new HotSpot @Home service that lets you make calls via Wi-Fi. That means the Samsung SGH-t409 has a Wi-Fi receiver built in, and it can automatically switch between GSM cellular airwaves and preconfigured wireless networks. The SGH-t409 is otherwise a pretty normal phone--it has a simple design with midrange features such as a 1.3-megapixel camera, Bluetooth, and more. It's available for $49.99 with a two-year contract.
As we mentioned, the Samsung SGH-t409 has a rather understated design. Measuring 3.5 inches long by 1.9 inches wide by 0.8 inch thick, the SGH-t409 is a little blocky around the edges but has smooth curves on the sides. Its colors are plain yet pretty: silver and periwinkle blue. At 3.1 ounces, the SGH-t409 feels quite lightweight, and is comfortable to hold in the hand as well as when cradled next to the ear.
On the front of the phone is a simple, 1-inch-diagonal monochrome external screen that displays the essentials such as the time, battery life, signal strength, and caller ID. If you want, you can also adjust the contrast of the external display. The display won't support photo caller ID, but it will still work as a pixilated-but-usable camera viewfinder for self-portraits. Above the external screen is the camera lens, but there's no flash. On the sides are the volume rocker and charger/headset jack on the left spine, and a dedicated camera key on the right.
Open the phone and you'll be presented with a 65,000-color 2-inch diagonal internal display. Though we would prefer a 262,000-color screen, the t409's display is just fine for a midrange phone. You can change the brightness, backlighting time, background color, and the dialing font's style, size, and color. The menu interface appeared bright, colorful, and easy to navigate. Because the t409 supports T-Mobile's MyFaves, you'll also be presented with five contact thumbnails to scroll through directly on the main display.
Underneath the internal display is the navigation array that consists of two soft keys, a four-way toggle with central OK button, a Clear key, and the Talk and End/power buttons. The top and bottom toggle keys are also shortcuts for Call records and the Contacts list, when you are using the main screen. A dedicated speakerphone key, sadly, is missing. The keys on the navigation array, in addition to the ones on the alphanumeric keypad, are pretty spacious, and are clearly delineated by slight texture differences that make them easy to dial by feel. There's also a bright blue backlight when the phone is activated.
The Samsung SGH-t409 is a decent midrange phone with a simple set of features that will please most people. It has a 1,000-contact phone book with room in each entry for five phone numbers, an e-mail address, and notes (The SIM card holds as many as 250 additional contacts). Each contact can be saved to groups, paired with any of 15 polyphonic ringtones, plus a photo for caller ID (Although, do remember that the photos won't show up on the external display). You can also select up to five entries to be your MyFaves contacts, which should be the contacts you call most often. Some basic features include a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, text and multimedia messaging, e-mail, an alarm clock, a calendar, a task list, a calculator, a tip calculator, world time, unit conversion, a timer, and a stopwatch. On the higher end, there's Bluetooth, instant messaging (with support for Windows Live, AIM, ICQ, and Yahoo), a wireless Web browser courtesy of T-Mobile's t-Zones Web portal, and the ability to sync your contacts with the T-Mobile Web site so you can recover them in case your phone gets lost or broken.