The Samsung SGH-E316 for AT&T Wireless isn't the first mobile to combine a VGA camera, video capability, and Web functions, but at a scant 3 ounces, it's one of the smallest full-featured phones out there. Available through AT&T Wireless, the handset resembles the (also by Samsung) in offering worthy features and a stylish design. Performance was mixed--audio quality wasn't great, although battery life was impressive--but overall, it's worth picking up. Its $319.99 price tag is high, but AT&T should offer it a discount with service. T-Mobile and Cingular offer similar versions, the SGH-E315 and SGH-E317, respectively.
Usually we're suckers for Samsung's signature styling, and the SGH-E316 is no exception. Clad in silver with smooth surfaces and curved lines, it has a simple and soothing design. Yet it also represents an improvement over Samsung's last AT&T Wireless camera phone, the SGH-V206, mostly because it's smaller. The 3.3-by-1.8-by 0.8-inch E316 weighs just 3 ounces, compared to the V206's 3.4 ounces. You can slip this mobile into your pocket and easily forget it's there.
Compared with the V206, the Samsung SGH-E316 has an improved external display. Supporting a vibrant 65,000 colors, it shows the date, the time, signal strength, battery life, and caller ID (where available). As a bonus, the E316 even lets you assign pictures to individual callers. Be warned that it goes completely black when the backlighting is off, but a simple touch of the left-side volume rocker turns it back on. Samsung gets higher marks for two slash-shaped LEDs set on either side of the screen. Without being too distracting or consuming too much power, they do a great job of showing the phone's status by blinking intermittently in standby mode and flashing continuously for a call or a text message. You can choose between seven colors or turn it off completely. Finishing the front of the mobile is the camera lens, which, unlike the SGH-V206's, doesn't rotate. It's also missing the flash found on the.
The phone's internal screen is just as attractive. It measures 1 inch (diagonal) and displays 65,000 colors. It's vibrant and crisp enough for viewing pictures, watching video, and playing Web games; you can also use it for photo caller ID. Plus, it displays the number you dial in big, easy-to-read characters. Our only complaint: The screen looks washed-out in bright light.
The menu system makes good use of the display, with colorful animations indicating the various function options. A four-way toggle helps you move about the menu and gives you one-touch access to user-defined functions, while a centrally located mMode button serves a shortcut to AT&T's data and Web services. Alternatively, you can move through menus via the volume rocker. Still, we would have preferred an OK button in the toggle's center; instead, the left soft key serves this function. We did appreciate, however, that the pound key also changes the ringer mode, and a dedicated camera button is on the right side. The well-spaced keypad buttons are backlit and easy to see in the dark, but they are set flush with the phone and can be a little slippery. We hit the wrong keys by accident more than once.