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Samsung Gravity Q (T-Mobile) review: Buy it for the keyboard, but not much else

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MSRP: $153.99

The Good The Samsung Gravity Q has a simple design that's easy to use and a spacious, comfortable keyboard.

The Bad The Gravity Q has a small, dark display and supports only 3G data. Call quality was variable, with a speakerphone that's almost unusable.

The Bottom Line If you're not opting for a smartphone and you can look past its dated design, the Samsung Gravity Q is your best choice for a T-Mobile keyboard phone.

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5.7 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 5
  • Performance 6

The Samsung Gravity Q is one answer for anyone wondering where can they find a cell phone with a real keyboard. As a simple feature phone, it isn't the best answer, but it bravely carries on the (dying) tradition of slider handsets with physical keys.

In fact, the keyboard is the best thing about the Gravity Q and the only reason to buy it. That's because if you took the keyboard away, you'd have only the most basic features, a dim display, and variable call quality, with 3G data. That doesn't make it much different from most of the previous six Gravity devices (except for the Android-powered Gravity Smart), but it does stand alone in a smartphone-obsessed world.

In that respect, I have to wonder just what kind of T-Mobile customer the Gravity Q will attract. At $154 (no down payment, 24 payments of $6.42), at the time of this review it's $50 more than the Gravity Smart, as listed on T-Mobile's Web site. Yes, the Gravity Smart is older, but it will deliver more features for your money. Yet, if you just don't want to deal with the complexity of a smartphone or the extra data charges that come with it, the Gravity Q is the best choice for T-Mobile keyboard lovers and texting pros. It also could work as a beginner phone for tweens or anyone who just needs a handset for quick communication.

The Gravity Q: A design from another time.
The Gravity Q: a design from another time. Josh Miller/CNET

Design and display
Hello? Oh, 2004, is that you calling?

Indeed, the Gravity Q is a design from another era, an era when sliding-keyboard phones were all the rage. Now, I promise that I'm not being snide when I say that. Even a decade later, it's a design that continues to be versatile, functional, and extremely easy to use. It's also a nice change since almost every other phone on the market now is a plastic rectangle.

At 4.43 inches long by 2.35 inches wide by 0.56 inch deep, the Gravity Q is small, short, and fat with rounded ends and curved sides. In my hands, which are accustomed to using a big-screen smartphone, it felt instantly foreign, but more familiar the longer I held it. Given that I used to have a phone like the Gravity Q ages ago, it almost felt like an friend coming to visit. It's heavier than it looks at 4.19 ounces and though it's made of plastic, I'd feel more comfortable watching it take a tumble than I would a Galaxy S4 or an iPhone 5.

The paltry QVGA display is just 3 inches from corner to corner. That's positively miniature by today's standards, but, honestly, there's no need for more space given the low-end features. I'm more concerned about the dim resolution (262,000 colors; 240x320 pixels). Yes, you also could argue here that the resolution befits the Gravity's Q's meager features, but I'd prefer even a small step up. After all, even on a phone like this, you're going to spend a lot of time staring at the display while you text.

On the other hand, the display is a touch screen, so there's at least one mark of a smartphone. It's not terribly responsive, but I never had to use the touch interface all that much. You can cycle between five home screens and you can populate them with several widgets -- nice. At the bottom of the display are three touch controls for the (small) virtual dial pad, your contacts list, and the main menu. There's no accelerometer, except when you're in camera mode, but the display will rotate automatically when you open the keyboard (more on that in a moment).

Controls and keyboard
Below the display are the Talk and End keys (both are touch controls) and a physical Back/Clear button. Up top is the 3.5mm headset jack, on the left spine are a camera shutter and the power control, and the right spine has a long volume rocker and a microSD slot that can hold cards of up to 32GB. I can't imagine ever needing that much space on the Gravity Q, but it's a welcome touch just the same. The camera lens is near the top of the back of the phone, just where I wanted to put my finger.

The Gravity Q has three touch controls at the bottom of the 3-inch display. Below them are two more touch controls and a physical Back button. Josh Miller/CNET

To get to the keyboard, flip the Gravity Q to the left 90 degrees and slide up the front face. The slider mechanism takes more than a gentle nudge, so it's not too loose, and it springs into place without feeling too stiff. For such a small phone, the physical keyboard is quite spacious, with big keys that aren't crowded together. It also passes another test of mine by not crowding the top row of keys up against the slider. With four rows of keys, most buttons serve double duty with a letter and a number or symbol. Four arrow controls, an OK button, and a dedicated ".com" / "www." key sit off to the right, and I like the long spacebar that's right in the middle of the bottom row. Helpful shortcuts take you to your mailbox and a list of emoticons. The buttons are only slightly raised so you can't type by feel, but I still found the keyboard to be very easy to use. In fact, it's an improvement over the keyboard on the Gravity Q's most immediate predecessor, the Gravity TXT.

The Gravity Q's keyboard is spacious and easy to use. Josh Miller/CNET

As I mentioned, the Gravity Q delivers little fun beyond the most essential cell phone features. For starters, the phone book holds 2,000 contacts with multiple fields per entry. Organizer features, which include a calculator, a calendar, an alarm clock, and a notepad, hold no surprises. You also get Bluetooth, voice dialing and commands, and a voice memo recorder, but no Wi-Fi. The Gravity Q supports a limited range of apps and comes stocked with three demo games. You can buy more titles if you like, but app-happy shoppers would be better off with a full-fledged smartphone.

As you'd expect from a keyboard device, the Q supports many kinds of written communication, including text messages, messages accompanying photos and videos, and some e-mail services. Keep in mind, though, that while domestic text and photo messages are free with any T-Mobile service plan, e-mail uses data. Yes, you do get 500MB of data with the carrier's cheapest plan, but you'll have to factor in e-mail when monitoring your data use. Fortunately, the Gravity Q's tiny display and slow 3G connection won't put you in a data-crazed mood in the first place. The same goes for the Web browser. It's slow and rather tedious to use, but still serviceable when you really need it.

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