If a U.S. carrier offers a basic camera phone these days, chances are that it's from Samsung. Over the past year, particularly during the autumn of 2007, the manufacturer released a deluge of such models, with more than a few landing at T-Mobile. Now we greet the latest model out of Samsung's reservoir, the SGH-T229. Available with T-Mobile (who else?), the SGH-T229 has a standard feature set and a slightly quirky design. Call quality was decent, but the camera was rather unimpressive. The T229 is $299.99 with service or just $99.99 if you pay full price. While either price is a bargain, we'd prefer the Nokia 3555.
Though the SGH-T229's feature set is hardly unique, its design shows a few unique touches. Its front flap is bright red, while its rear face is basic silver. It's an odd combination in our opinion; we'd prefer that Samsung wrapped the entire handset in red. The external display is set slightly off center, which we've never seen before. We can take or leave such an arrangement. It doesn't hamper the phone's usability but it certainly makes the T229 stand out. We'll leave any strict judgments up to you. The monochrome display is rather small but it shows the date, time, battery life, and signal strength. Photo caller ID isn't supported, but you can use the screen as a view finder for self-portraits. You can change the contrast, but no other options are customizable.
The flip phone T229 makes a slight effort to be thin, but at 3.6 inches tall by 1.9 inches wide by 0.8 inch thick, and 3.3 ounces, it ends up having an average size. The camera lens sits just above the external display. There's no self-portrait mirror, but the display is rather reflective when the backlighting is off. A volume rocker sits on the phone's left spine, while a camera shutter and phone's headset jack/charger port rests on its right spine.
The internal display isn't the best we've seen. It supports just 65,536 colors (160x128 pixels) and it's rather small (1.7 inches) for the phone's size. Graphics weren't sharp and colors were washed out much of the time. We had the most trouble in the menus; though the interface was intuitive, the icons lacked clear definition. You can change the display's brightness, contrast, backlighting time, dialing font size and color, and the menu font style and color. Like the external display, the internal screen has a mirrored border.
The keypad and navigation controls were a mixed bag. The gray color that covers most of the controls doesn't blend well with the phone's red interior and most of the buttons are completely flush. The Clear control and the center column on the numeric keypad are slightly recessed but otherwise the controls lack real definition. The navigation array consists of a square toggle with a central OK button, two soft keys, the Talk and End/power controls, and the aforementioned Clear button. On the upside, the array is quite spacious and the toggle is bright silver. You can program the toggle to give one-touch access to four user-defined functions.
The Samsung T229 has a 1,000-contact phone book with room in each entry for five phone numbers, an e-mail address, and notes. You can save callers to groups and pair them with a photo and one of 15 polyphonic ringtones. Other essentials include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, an alarm clock, a task list, a notepad, a calculator, a stopwatch, a timer, a unit converter, PC syncing, a world clock, and a tip calculator. You'll also find Bluetooth, a speakerphone, and instant messaging.