In many ways, T-Mobile's Samsung SGH-T609 is an update of one of the carrier's previous phones, the Samsung SGH-T309. Bearing a similar design--except that it comes in white--the SGH-T609 offers the same basic features but adds Blueotooth, a megapixel camera, an MP3 player, and an expandable memory slot. Although it's a pleasing feature set overall, the design is rather dull, and we weren't impressed with the keypad buttons. For what you get, however, the SGH-T609 is fairly priced at $199, and it's even cheaper with service.
Unlike most cell phones that come in either black or silver, the Samsung SGH-T609 is styled pleasantly in white. Like Samsung's SGH-T309, the SGH-T609 has the same rounded flip-phone shape, with the camera lens positioned above the postage-stamp-size external display. At 3.59 by 1.81 by 0.88 inches, the SGH-T609 is larger than its predecessor, but strangely, it's also lighter at 2.9 ounces. Unfortunately, the result is a rather dull and slightly bulky design; this is not a handset for the fashion conscious. Also, while the large hinge seems well constructed, the plastic casing feels flimsy. The phone is, however, comfortable to hold while you're talking.
The 1-inch-diagonal external display and the camera lens are set in a mirrored frame. The display is monochrome, but it shows everything you'd expect, including the date, the time, battery life, signal strength, and caller ID (where available). You can adjust the contrast but not the brightness or the backlighting time, and the screen does not show photo caller ID. The display functions as a viewfinder for self-portraits, but the monochrome resolution means it's not very useful.
Inside the Samsung SGH-T609 is a 2-inch-diagonal, 262,144-color display (176x220 pixels). It's a typical Samsung screen, which means it's bright and vivid, but it's hard to see in direct light. It comes with a full range of customization options, though; you can change the brightness, the contrast, the backlighting time, and the font size and color. The enormous hinge means the flip opens and shuts with authority, but it also means the navigation array is located an inch below the display. As a result, during the first few minutes when we were using the phone, our fingers trailed around, trying to find the correct control. What's more, the five-way toggle and the two soft keys felt crowded together. Although it's not marked as such, the toggle gives one-touch access to the contacts list, messaging, the camera, and the voice memo. You can't change the shortcuts, and we thought it was weird that the OK button has no function when the phone is in standby mode. Below the toggle are a Clear button and the traditional Talk and End/power keys.
Like the navigation array, the keypad buttons are raised above the surface of the phone. Although the buttons themselves are big enough, they're too slick, and we found the overall design a bit cramped. We had a couple of misdials, so users with large hands should give the SGH-T609 a test-drive. On the left spine are a dedicated camera button and the Micro SD card slot, while a volume rocker and a covered headset jack sit on the left spine.
Despite some work-friendly and multimedia offerings, the Samsung SGH-T609 is far from being a cell phone powerhouse. On the other hand, it should please low-maintenance users. The phone book holds an impressive 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 contacts. You can organize callers into groups or pair them with one of 33 polyphonic ring tones. Essential features include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a voice-memo recorder, an alarm clock, instant messaging (Yahoo, AOL, and ICQ), a calendar, a task list, a calculator, a world clock, a unit converter, a timer, and a stopwatch. On the higher end, you get voice dialing and commands, a speakerphone (operable after you make a call) and a Micro SD card slot (card sold separately). There's also Bluetooth, and we were impressed with the variety of supported functions. Besides connecting to a headset, you can use Bluetooth to transfer and contact information, and you can hook up with a computer to use the phone as a modem.