The biggest draw of Research in Motion’s BlackBerry devices is its push e-mail capabilities. The convenience of having your messages automatically delivered to your device and being able to easily reply with the QWERTY keyboard is addicting, hence earning their nickname, CrackBerry. However, up until now, these handsets have pretty much been restricted to blocky, candy bar form factors. True, the BlackBerry 7100 series and the BlackBerry Pearl certainly did a lot to bring a more attractive and sleek look to BlackBerrys, but what about something for all the flip-phone fanatics out there? Well, let us introduce you to the Samsung SGH-T719. The SGH-T719 for T-Mobile is the first Samsung flip phone to offer support for the BlackBerry Connect e-mail service, letting you enjoy the advantages of the push technology in a sleek clamshell design. Of course, the trade-off of the compact design is that you’ll have to endure the frustrations of the SureType keyboard, but it’s still a good alternative if you don’t want to get a traditional BlackBerry device. The Samsung SGH-T719 is available for $199.99 with service, and BlackBerry Connect plans start at $19.99 per month.
Samsung is known for producing some slim cell phones, and the Samsung SGH-T719 is no exception. The flip phone measures 3.7x2x0.7 inches and weighs a light 3.5 ounces to make for a sleek mobile that easily slips into a pants pocket or purse. While it is thin, the handset is a little on the longer side (7 inches in its open state); not a deal breaker by any means, but just something to be aware of as you’re shopping around. Overall, the SGH-T719 is comfortable to hold and use as a phone, but we thought the front cover felt a bit loose as it jiggled a bit from side to side.
On the front flap, you will find 1-inch external screen with a 96×96 pixel resolution, but disappointingly, it’s only monochrome, and you can’t use it as a camera viewfinder for self-portraits. That said, it shows all the basics, including time, date, network strength, battery life, your BlackBerry Connect status, and caller ID (where available). Plus, the information is visible at all times, even when the backlighting goes off. Above the display, there’s a flash for the camera, which can also double as a flashlight if you’re in a pinch. The camera lens itself is housed in the hinge of the phone and swivels 180 degrees.
The Samsung SGH-T719 features a 1.3-megapixel camera with a swiveling lens and flash.
Open up the Samsung SGH-T719, and you’re presented with a large internal display and a spacious keyboard. The TFT screen measures a lofty 2.2 inches diagonally and shows off 262,000 colors at a 176×220 pixel resolution. Though the lower resolution doesn’t make for the sharpest screen, colors were bright and text was clear on the SGH-T719’s display; in addition, it was still readable in direct sunlight. The menus and interface are typical of Samsung phones, which is to say they’re intuitive and easy to master.
Below the screen, you have the standard navigation array of two soft keys, the Talk and End buttons, a Clear key, and a four-way toggle with a center OK button. The controls are extralarge and spacious, so most users won’t have a problem with pressing the wrong key due to a cramped layout. Making its debut on a non-BlackBerry phone is Research in Motion’s SureType keyboard. For the uninitiated, this modified keyboard features a traditional QWERTY layout, but two letters are assigned to one key. As you start to enter the letters of a word, SureType technology will present you with a list of possible letter combinations or words based on context. We’ve never been huge fans of this method, as you have to scroll to the correct word, then select it, which can be slow and frustrating. That said, in order to take full advantage of the BlackBerry Connect features and to keep the handset small, we can understand why they went with the SureType keyboard. The individual keys were large and well backlit, but a bit slippery for our tastes.
The SGH-T719’s keyboard is spacious, but the SureType technology is frustrating to use.
Rounding out the SGH-T719’s design is a headset jack on the left spine and an OK button and Volume Up and Down keys on the right side. The latter set of buttons can be programmed to launch other apps, such as the camera, through the Settings menu.
Samsung packages the SGH-T719 with a travel charger, a wired headset, a USB cable, a PC Studio CD, and reference material.
The main draw of the Samsung SGH-T719 is its BlackBerry Connect capabilities, so we’ll start there. This feature allows you to enjoy the famed BlackBerry push technology, which automatically delivers your e-mail to your device in real time. You will, however, need to sign up for T-Mobile’s BlackBerry Internet Service plan to take advantage of these advanced messaging options; it starts at $19.99 per month. Setup is fairly simple. For corporate e-mail, you can ask your friendly IT staff to help you get connected to the company’s BlackBerry Enterprise server. For personal e-mail accounts, just follow the step-by-step instructions printed in the quick-start guide. We used it to add our Yahoo Plus account, and it was a simple matter of inputting our ID and password. In addition to e-mail, you can also synchronize the SGH-T719 with your Outlook Calendar by installing the Samsung PC Studio app on your PC and using the included USB cable. Also, for quicker communication, the phone supports text and multimedia messaging and comes preloaded with AIM, Yahoo, MSN Messenger, and Yahoo instant-messaging clients.
Of course, the primary function of the SGH-T719 is still as a phone. The handset features a speakerphone (which can be activated only after a phone call has been made), a vibrate mode, and voice dialing. The phone book can hold up to 1,000 contacts (the SIM card stores an additional 250 contacts) with room in each entry for five numbers, an e-mail address, and notes. For caller ID purposes, you can add a photo, one of 30 ring tones, or a group ID. Unfortunately, photo caller ID will not show up on the external display, but the handset does support MP3 ring tones. Other goodies include Bluetooth 1.2, a Web browser, an alarm, a file manager, a calculator, a stopwatch and timer, a world clock, and a unit converter, among other things.
The Samsung SGH-T719 comes equipped with a 1.3-megapixel camera with video-recording capabilities, and camera options are on a par with other similarly featured camera phones today. There’s a 4X digital zoom, a flash, and a self-timer at your disposal. You can choose from one of five sizes (1,280×1,024; 1,152×864; 800×600; 640×480; or 320×240) and one of three shooting modes (single, multi, or mosaic). For fun, you can add various effects or frames to the images. In video mode, there are only two size settings (176×144 or 128×96), but you can apply the same effects (no frames though) to your video clips. After you’re done with your shots, you can send them via e-mail or multimedia message or save them to the phone’s 22MB of internal memory or to use as photo caller ID or wallpaper. The SGH-T719 took decent pictures for our quick snapshot, though nowhere near print quality.
The Samsung SGH-T719’s camera took decent pictures.
You can customize the SGH-T719 with a number of wallpapers, color schemes, various information display settings, and dialing fonts and colors. The phone also supports Java apps and comes preloaded with five games. Of course, if none of the default settings suit you, you can download more options and game titles via T-Mobile’s T-zone service.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; EDGE) Samsung SGH-T719 in San Francisco using T-Mobile service, and call quality was mediocre, though we experienced a couple of dropped calls. From our standpoint, the audio was loud and clear. Our callers reported much of the same, although they did say we sounded like a robot on several occasions. Speakerphone quality was a mixed bag. Our friends said they could hear us fine with just a slight echo, but we had a difficult time hearing them even with volume cranked to high. On the bright side, we had no problems pairing the SGH-T719 with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset.
The Samsung SGH-T719 has a rated talk time of 3 hours and up to 6.5 days. In our tests, we were able to get 5 hours of talk time from the phone’s lithium-ion battery. According to FCC radiation tests, the SGH-T719 has a digital SAR rating of 1.44 watts per kilogram.