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Samsung SGH-T409 (T-Mobile) review: Samsung SGH-T409 (T-Mobile)

Samsung SGH-T409 (T-Mobile)

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Nicole Lee
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Nicole Lee

Former Editor

Nicole Lee is a senior associate editor for CNET, covering cell phones, Bluetooth headsets, and all things mobile. She's also a fan of comic books, video games, and of course, shiny gadgets.

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While the Samsung SGH-t409 may seem like an ordinary phone at first glance, it's actually one of two debut phones to launch with T-Mobile's new HotSpot @Home service that lets you make calls via Wi-Fi. That means the Samsung SGH-t409 has a Wi-Fi receiver built in, and it can automatically switch between GSM cellular airwaves and preconfigured wireless networks. The SGH-t409 is otherwise a pretty normal phone--it has a simple design with midrange features such as a 1.3-megapixel camera, Bluetooth, and more. It's available for $49.99 with a two-year contract.

7.0

Samsung SGH-T409 (T-Mobile)

The Good

The Samsung SGH-t409 is an easy-to-use phone with a 1.3-megapixel camera, Bluetooth, and a speakerphone. It also supports T-Mobile's HotSpot @Home service, which lets users make calls via Wi-Fi.

The Bad

The Samsung SGH-t409 has average call quality and disappointing photo quality.

The Bottom Line

The Samsung SGH-t409 is a simple and middle-of-the-road phone, but its killer feature is its ability to make calls over wireless networks.
Samsung T409

Design
As we mentioned, the Samsung SGH-t409 has a rather understated design. Measuring 3.5 inches long by 1.9 inches wide by 0.8 inch thick, the SGH-t409 is a little blocky around the edges but has smooth curves on the sides. Its colors are plain yet pretty: silver and periwinkle blue. At 3.1 ounces, the SGH-t409 feels quite lightweight, and is comfortable to hold in the hand as well as when cradled next to the ear.

On the front of the phone is a simple, 1-inch-diagonal monochrome external screen that displays the essentials such as the time, battery life, signal strength, and caller ID. If you want, you can also adjust the contrast of the external display. The display won't support photo caller ID, but it will still work as a pixilated-but-usable camera viewfinder for self-portraits. Above the external screen is the camera lens, but there's no flash. On the sides are the volume rocker and charger/headset jack on the left spine, and a dedicated camera key on the right.


The Samsung SGH-t409 has a 1.3-megapixel camera.

Open the phone and you'll be presented with a 65,000-color 2-inch diagonal internal display. Though we would prefer a 262,000-color screen, the t409's display is just fine for a midrange phone. You can change the brightness, backlighting time, background color, and the dialing font's style, size, and color. The menu interface appeared bright, colorful, and easy to navigate. Because the t409 supports T-Mobile's MyFaves, you'll also be presented with five contact thumbnails to scroll through directly on the main display.

Underneath the internal display is the navigation array that consists of two soft keys, a four-way toggle with central OK button, a Clear key, and the Talk and End/power buttons. The top and bottom toggle keys are also shortcuts for Call records and the Contacts list, when you are using the main screen. A dedicated speakerphone key, sadly, is missing. The keys on the navigation array, in addition to the ones on the alphanumeric keypad, are pretty spacious, and are clearly delineated by slight texture differences that make them easy to dial by feel. There's also a bright blue backlight when the phone is activated.

Features
The Samsung SGH-t409 is a decent midrange phone with a simple set of features that will please most people. It 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 as many as 250 additional contacts). Each contact can be saved to groups, paired with any of 15 polyphonic ringtones, plus a photo for caller ID (Although, do remember that the photos won't show up on the external display). You can also select up to five entries to be your MyFaves contacts, which should be the contacts you call most often. Some basic features include a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, text and multimedia messaging, e-mail, an alarm clock, a calendar, a task list, a calculator, a tip calculator, world time, unit conversion, a timer, and a stopwatch. On the higher end, there's Bluetooth, instant messaging (with support for Windows Live, AIM, ICQ, and Yahoo), a wireless Web browser courtesy of T-Mobile's t-Zones Web portal, and the ability to sync your contacts with the T-Mobile Web site so you can recover them in case your phone gets lost or broken.

Arguably the most important feature on the SGH-t409 is its support of the HotSpot @Home service. The SGH-t409 has built-in Wi-Fi, and the HotSpot @Home service lets you use that to connect to any wireless network to make, answer, and receive calls. Calls made within the wireless network will not be deducted from your plan's minutes, which allows you to get unlimited calls and save money at the same time. And when you set up a wireless @Home router in your home, you're almost guaranteed better reception than that from regular cellular airwaves. You can read more about our experiences with the HotSpot @Home service in our review.


Photos taken with the Samsung SGH-t409 were quite disappointing.

The SGH-t409 has an internal memory of 21MB and no external memory card slot, so it won't hold a lot of images. Since it comes with a 1.3-megapixel camera, you might want to empty out your storage every once in awhile. The camera has quite a few settings, which include up to seven resolutions (1,280x1,024; 1,024x768; 800x600; 640x480; 320x240; 160x120; and 128x96), white-balance controls, a night-mode setting, a self-timer, brightness, and six color effects. You can also assign keys on the keypad to be camera shortcuts to brightness settings and so forth. Photo quality was rather disappointing. Pictures appeared washed out and hazy.

You can personalize your SGH-t409 with a variety of wallpaper and alert sounds included with the phone, and you also have the option to buy and download more with T-Mobile's T-Zones store. There are also a few games included with the phone, like demo versions of Forgotten Warrior, Freekick, Arch Angel, Lumines Block Challenge, and Midnight Pool.

Performance
We tested the triband (GSM 850/900/1900) Samsung SGH-t409 in San Francisco using the T-Mobile service and with a variety of wireless networks, thanks to the T-Mobile HotSpot @Home service. No matter what service we used, call quality was the same--there was some noisy interference, and voices sounded a little flat. We could still hear our callers loud and clear, so that wasn't a deal breaker. As you can read in our review of the HotSpot @Home service, the signal strength does improve remarkably when within a preconfigured wireless network, so we do think the t409's Wi-Fi compatibility is a great feature despite the average call quality. Speakerphone calls weren't that impressive, with slightly muffled sounds from our end and echoed effects from their end. The speakerphone only really shines when both callers are in a quiet environment.

The SGH-t409 has a rated battery life of 5 hours of talk time, and a tested talk time of 5 hours and 11 minutes. It has a rated standby time of eight days. According to FCC radiation tests, the SGh-t409 has a digital SAR rating of 1.22 watts per kilogram.

7.0

Samsung SGH-T409 (T-Mobile)

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 6