Following the path of and , Samsung enters the slider phone arena with its cleverly designed SGH-D415 for T-Mobile. A clear departure from the company's long tradition of sleek flip phones, the D415 is sure to turn heads. A generous, colorful display slides up to reveal an ample keypad, while a barrel-like VGA camera lens rotates around for broad picture-taking opportunities. While it certainly has the looks to get itself noticed, its somewhat Spartan feature set leaves you wondering, "What's the point?" At $300, it's also a bit overpriced, though T-Mobile will likely offer it at a discount with service. When we first saw the slider phone, we liked its cool design immediately. And when we heard about the Samsung SGH-D415, we wanted to love it, too. But while the Siemens was compact and almost cute, the D415 is big and boxy. Measuring 3.8 by 1.9 by 1 inches (when closed) and weighing 3.5 ounces, it fits in only the largest pockets and feels a bit awkward when held against the face while you're talking. And though the handset's overall construction feels solid, a stubby, 1-inch external antenna adds even more bulk. On a more positive note, the rotating camera lens is well integrated into the design and sits on the mobile's top left corner.
Super size: The D415 will take up some room in a pocket or a bag.
Size does have its advantages, however, with the most prominent one being the extra real estate for the beautiful 2.1-inch (diagonal) display. With support for 262,000 colors, the screen is among the crispest and most vibrant on the market today--just watch for smudges. It's perfect for displaying pictures down to the tiniest detail. Text and numbers are large and readable, and it's even legible in direct sunlight. The animated menus also show up well, and navigating through the vivid icons is a pleasure. Though you can choose between bar- and page-style menus, we strongly favor the eye-catching page design that mimics a film reel and displays each choice on its own page. Take some caution though: you must slide the phone open to turn it on or off, and access to the main phone book menu isn't intuitive. There's no dedicated phone book choice on the main menu, so editing and adding names required more clicks than it should.
Savvy screen: We loved the D415's colorful display.
Though we like the D415's controls overall, they could stand a few improvements. Two soft keys and a smallish, four-way toggle help you navigate through the menus--you also can use the volume rocker on the phone's left side--but there's no dedicated OK button. Instead, you must use one of the soft keys, while the button in the middle of the toggle acts only as a shortcut to T-Mobile's T-zones service. Nevertheless, the navigation buttons are well spaced. You get one-touch access to the camera (there's no dedicated capture button though), ring tones, messaging, and voice memos. By pressing the toggle sideways, you can back out of submenus.
We appreciate the multicolor LED sitting just below the screen that flashes brightly for incoming calls and messages. You can choose from seven different color combinations or turn it off entirely. The blue-backlit keypad buttons are of ample size, but since they are set flush with the phone's surface, dialing by feel was difficult. Also, the top row of keys closely borders the bottom of the sliding face--a bit of an impediment to someone with larger fingers. The Samsung SGH-D415 definitely has all the basics, but it comes up a bit short on the higher-end features you might expect from a phone in this price range. You get a 1,000-name phone book with room in each entry for three phone numbers and an e-mail address. And if you're really popular, you can store an additional 250 names on the SIM card. Contacts can be assigned a picture for photo caller ID, but the 30 polyphonic ring tones can only be paired with caller groups. Other features include text and multimedia messaging, e-mail support (IMAP4 and POP3), 30-second voice memos, a minute minder, an alarm clock, a calculator, a vibrate mode, a currency converter, six-way conference calling, a calendar, and a WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. There's also an infrared (IR) port for beaming contacts and other data.
Yet the D415 also has some notable omissions. Though it has the appearance of a business-centric handset, the absence of a speakerphone, Bluetooth, and voice dialing prevent the D415 from becoming a good corporate citizen.
Turn around: The D415's camera lens rotates 180 degrees.
The D415 comes with an integrated camera, but considering the growing number of 1.3-megapixel camera phones, we were disappointed to see it was only VGA quality. Still, we like the rotating camera lens, which allows for a clear field of vision up to 180 degrees. There's no flash, but the lens's barrel-like design allows for easy self-portraits. You can take photos in four resolutions (640x480, 320x240, 160x120, and 176x160) and select from four quality settings and four picture effects. You also get a choice of 12 fun frames, and you can alter the shot's brightness and rotation (necessary for self-portraits). A self-timer, with a choice of 3-, 5-, and 10-second delays, lets you be in photos with your friends, while a multishot feature takes up to nine pictures in rapid succession. Photo quality was among the best we've seen for VGA camera phones--they looked even better on the high-resolution display. Our only complaint was that the zoom was limited to 2X, and it can't be used for photos at the highest resolution.
For budding directors, the video recorder takes 15-second clips with sound; you can also adjust the zoom and brightness settings. Once finished shooting your photos or films, you can send them to your contacts in an e-mail or a multimedia message. You can also store them on the phone's dedicated photo memory or dedicated video memory--it has 3MB of each. Alternately, you can save them to the online album available through T-Mobile. Pictures can also be used as wallpaper or for caller ID purposes. But we were puzzled that, despite the presence of the IR port, we were unable to use it to transfer photos to a PC or wireless device.
Sweet shot: We were impressed by the D415's photo quality.
You can have some fun with the D415. You get a choice of four Java (J2ME)-enabled games: BubbleSmile, Fun2link, MobileChess, and Ultimate Golf Challenge. Since they won't occupy you for long, you can download more titles through T-Mobile's T-zones service. The handset can be personalized with a variety of sounds and images, with more choices (and more ring tones) also available through T-zones. The phone provides 300K of dedicated memory for ring tones and games. We tested the dual-band Samsung SGH-D415 (GSM 900/1900) in San Francisco using T-Mobile's service. Call quality was fine, with clear conversations, and callers said they couldn't tell we were using a cell phone. The volume level also was satisfactory, but we found that you had to have the phone quite close to your ear or the sound diminished noticeably. Calls made with the included earbud headset had a little more background hiss, but it was nothing we couldn't live with.
We beat the rated talk time of 4 hours by an extra half hour. For standby time, we managed 7 days, a bit less than the promised time of 8.3 days. According to the FCC, the D415 has a digital SAR rating of 0.6 watts per kilogram.