Samsung SGH-T339 (T-Mobile)
Several months after it came out with its HotSpot @Home service, T-Mobile introduced two new Wi-Fi-equipped cell phones, the Nokia 6301 and the Samsung SGH-T339. Though the features between the two phones are largely similar, the SGH-T339's red flip design calls more attention to itself. Call quality was good, if a bit quiet, but we'd prefer the Nokia handset in the end. The T339 is $159.99 if you pay full price, but you can get it for $49.99 with service.
Though the Samsung SGH-T339 has a standard flip-phone design, its bright red color gives it a bit of character. It's a deeper shade than on the Samsung SGH-T229--more like brick red than candy apple--and it stands out from T-Mobile's other HotSpot @Home phones. At 3.6 inches tall by 1.8 inches wide by 0.8 inch thick and 3.3 ounces, the SGH-T339 is compact and portable. Though it's covered by plastic, the T339 has a comfortable and solid feel with a sturdy hinge.
The T339's 1-inch external display is a bit small, but it supports 65,000 colors (96x96-pixel resolution). Besides the date, time, battery life, and signal strength, it shows photo caller ID and works as a viewfinder for the camera lens, which is located just above. You can only change the contrast, and the backlighting time is much too short.
A microSD card slot and a camera shutter sit on the right spine, while a volume rocker and the headset jack/charger port sit on the left spine. Though we like the convenient location of the memory card slot, we're disappointed that you can't use both a wired headset and a charger at the same time. Also, the headset uses a proprietary connection.
The internal display measures 2 inches and supports 262,000 colors (176x220-pixel resolution). Like on the T229, the screen is rather washed out, particularly for graphics and photos. On the other hand, the T339's menus look a bit better than on its sibling. You can change the display's backlighting, time, and the dialing font size and color.
The T339 does an excellent job with its navigation array. Though the controls are flush, they're quite spacious and easy to use. The round four-way toggle can be set as a shortcut to four user-defined functions. You'll also find two soft keys, a clear key, and the Talk and End/power buttons. The keypad buttons also are flush but their large size and varying color pattern makes them easy to use. The numbers on the keys are big as well and they're lit by a bright backlighting. Our only complaint was that alphanumeric keys are a bit slippery but it's not a big deal.
The T339 has a 1,000-contact phone book 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 callers to groups and pair them with a photo and one of 15 (64-chord) polyphonic ringtones. The T339 also supports T-Mobile's myFaves service. Other essentials include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, an alarm clock, a calendar, a task list, a notepad, a calculator, a stopwatch, a timer, a unit converter, a world clock, and a tip calculator. Beyond the basics, you'll find Bluetooth, a speakerphone, a voice memo recorder, PC syncing, and instant messaging.
Like on the 6301, Wi-Fi calls on the T339 are exceedingly easy to make. After turning on the feature, you just need to scan the available networks and make your choice. You can buy a special wireless router from T-Mobile or you can use an existing network. We connected successfully with the Wi-Fi network we use at home.
The 1.3-megapixel camera takes in pictures in seven resolutions. Editing options include a night mode, brightness and white balance settings, six color effects, exposure metering, a 4x zoom, three shutter sounds (there's no silent option), multishot and mosaic shot modes, a self-timer, and 28 fun frames. While that's an impressive array of options, photo quality was mediocre. Colors weren't bad, but our images were too bright and had too much noise. There is an image editor, but it doesn't help much. There are three resolutions to select from when using the camcorder, which also records sound. Editing options are similar still to the camera, but here again you don't get the benefit of a flash or light. Clips meant for multimedia messages are capped at just over a minute; otherwise, you can shoot for as long as the available memory permits.
When finished with your photos, you can upload them to an online album or journal or you save them to the phone's memory. The T339 comes with about 20MB of internal storage, but you can use a microSD card for more space. Also, you can take audio postcards, a photo with a sound file attached, that you can send to friends. The postcard comes in a special frame with a postmark graphic.
The T339's generic music player barely makes an effort, but it is fine for very short stints. The interface is minimalist with just simple visualizations, but it's easy to understand. Features are limited to shuffle and repeat modes, but you can use MP3 files as ringtones. Getting music on the phone was easy whether you're using a USB cable, a memory card, or wireless transfer. Music quality was unimpressive, but fitting for a music player like this.
You can personalize the T339 with wallpaper, themes, background colors, and alert tones. If you want more options or more ringtones you can download them from T-Mobile's t-zones service using the WAP 2.0 Web browser. The T339 comes with three Java demo games--Brain Challenge, Platinum Sudoku, and Forgotten Warrior--you'll have to buy the full version for extended play.
We tested the tri-band (GSM 850/1800/1900; EDGE) Samsung SGH-T339 in San Francisco using T-Mobile service. Call quality was decent, but it wasn't quite as good as on the Nokia 6301. Voices were clear the majority of the time, though some of our friends sounded a bit fuzzy. Also, the volume could be a bit higher. The signal was consistently strong, however.
On their end, callers said we sounded fine. They could tell were using a cell phone, and some of our friends reported that the phone picked up some background nose, but by and large we didn't hear major complaints. Automated calling systems could understand us except for when we were speaking in a noisy place. Speakerphone calls were decent, though the volume could be louder here as well.
Wi-Fi calls provide better audio quality. As is the case with most Wi-Fi calling services, there was a very short conversation lag, but we were quite pleased with the experience. Callers reported no issues on their end.
The T339 has a rated battery life of 6.4 hours talk time and up to 11 days standby time. Our tests revealed a talk time of 7 hours and 50 minutes. The T339 has a digital SAR rating of 0.733 watt per kilogram.