Red has become a popular color for cell phones in the past couple of years, but on most crimson handsets the hue is restricted to the front face. Now Samsung takes the design trend a step further with the new Samsung SGH-T219 for T-Mobile. Rather than just show red on the outside, the SGH-T219 brings the color inside as well for a brilliantly colored keypad. The phone also comes in a chocolate (aka brown) version, but the red handset certainly is more exciting. The feature set on both models is quite simple--instant messaging support and a speakerphone are the main highlights--but the call quality didn't live up to expectations. You can get it for $19.99 with service.
The Samsung SGH-T219 takes its basic design cue from Samsung's previous SGH-T619. Though it lacks a camera, the SGH-T219 has almost the same hinge design as the SGH-T619 and, except for the color change, the two handsets have near-identical profiles. The SGH-T219 also weighs the same (2.8 ounces) as its sibling, though it's slightly smaller at 3.5 by 1.8 by 0.8 inches. The phone fits comfortably in our hands, but its overall construction didn't feel very sturdy and the hinge mechanism was a tad loose. This doesn't feel like a phone for an active user.
The postage stamp external display sits in the center of the large black panel on the phone's front face. Though it's a bit small for the SGH-T219's size, it shows the date, time, battery life, signal strength, and caller ID (where available). As is the case with most low-tier phones, it has a monochrome resolution--but that's hardly an issue since the handset doesn't have a camera. You can change the contrast, but the backlighting time and font size aren't customizable. Users with vision impairments should take a close look before buying, as the display becomes very dim when the backlighting is off. Other exterior features are limited to a volume rocker and combination headset jack and charger port on the left spine.
The 1.75-inch (160x128 pixels) internal display is serviceable, but it won't knock your socks off. The 65,000-color resolution is about what we'd expect of this caliber of phone; the user-friendly menu interface looks fine, but games and graphics aren't very sharp. You can change the brightness, the backlighting time, the background color, and the font size and style. Just below the display is the spacious navigation array. Though the circular toggle is very un-Samsung--the company usually goes with a square toggle--it's easy to use and we like that it has some texture. An OK button sits inside the toggle, but it's annoying that it won't open the menu when the phone is in standby mode. Two soft keys, a clear control, and the Talk and End power buttons surround the toggle, which also functions as a shortcut to the call list, the voice recorder, the contacts list, and the text message menu.
As previously mentioned, the SGH-T219's keypad is entirely red. On the whole, it's a nice change from black and silver. The individual keys have only a slight tactile feel, but they're lit by bright backlighting and the numbers on the keys are rather large. Fast text messengers may want to give it a test drive, though, as the keys can be difficult to use by feel.
The Samsung SGH-T219 has a basic feature set that will appeal to users who just want to make calls. The phone book holds 1,000 contacts with room in each entry for five phone numbers, an e-mail address, and notes (the SIM card holds an additional 250 names). You can save contacts to groups or pair them with one of 10 polyphonic ringtones. The phone supports photo caller ID as well, but since there's no camera, you'll need to receive photos of your friends in a multimedia message. And in any case, the photos won't show on the external display.
Other basics include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a one-minute voice recorder, an alarm clock, a calendar, a task list, a calculator, a world clock, a unit converter, a stopwatch, and a timer. And to prove that LG doesn't have a monopoly on the nifty application, Samsung is beginning to include a tip calculator in its phones as well. Instant messaging for AOL, ICQ, Windows Live, and Yahoo clients is here too, while a speakerphone rounds out the offerings. Unfortunately, there's no dedicated speakerphone button.
You can personalize the SGH-T219 with a variety of wallpaper, color schemes, and alert sounds. If you're bored with the variety on the phone you can download more options with the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. Gamers only get demo versions of five titles (Forgotten Warrior, Freekick, Arch Angel, Lumines Block Challenge, and Midnight Pool), so you'll need to buy the full versions for extended play. The SGH-T219 has a hefty 22MB of shared space for all downloads.
We tested the triband (GSM 850/1800/1900) Samsung SGH-T219 in San Francisco using T-Mobile service. Unfortunately, sound quality wasn't quite up to par. Though the volume level was fine, voices had a muffled effect that came and went during conversations. At times, our friends sounded natural and clear, but at other times it was difficult to understand them fully. Callers didn't report any big problems on their end, but on the whole our experience wasn't the greatest. Speakerphone calls were about the same, but the speaker on the front flap did allow for plenty of volume. For a better T-Mobile basic phone, try the Motorola V195 or the Nokia 6030.
The Samsung SGH-T219 has a rated battery life of six hours talk time and almost nine days standby time. We only got five hours of talk time in our tests. According to FCC radiation tests, the Samsung SGH-T219 has a digital SAR rating of 1.28 watts per kilogram.