Phone Factor: The Samsung D415


I had a friend who taught high school, but not just any high school though. He taught at a school for kids who were training to be Olympic athletes. They have schools like that, you know. Often times the students, as well as people from other schools, would refer to this academy as "the school for strong stupid kids." Because of their physical prowess, many of the students there had been told they were stupid so often that they came to believe it, even though it wasn't true. These kids were smart, but they needed the guidance of the academy's teachers to make the most of their wits as well as their bodies.

So the Samsung D415 needs to spend a little time with some insightful teachers. It has power, it has looks, but it needs some guidance to release its inner intelligence. Like the "strong stupid kids," the D415 is already good, but a better user interface could do wonders for this phone.

If you like what you read about this phone, it's available now through T-Mobile.


The Bod:


The D415 is a slider, which typically are not that thin. The phone is small enough to fit in the change pocket on a pair of Levi's, but it's a tight fit. The external antenna does wonders for reception, but makes the tight fit even more awkward. I would up slipping it in my change pocket with the huge (did i mention it's huge?) LCD screen facing in and the antenna sticking out further away from my body, risking antenna decapitation in favor of not being poked in the side. The keys are all big, have a nice feel to them and are almost all placed in the exact perfect spot. My only complaint would be the clear key, which is centered at the bottom of the face. Since you need to have the D415 open to do anything, the clear key would be more convenient on the slide out keypad where you will use it to erase mistakes.

Yes you heard right, except for answering calls the keypad needs to be open since the D415 uses the action as a keylock as well as "end call." Worse than that, any time you slide the keypad closed to put the phone away, it returns you to the home screen, so you lose whatever you might have been doing if say, you were composing a text message or browsing a website.


Even with the keypad slid open, the D415 feels good in the hand almost all the time. It even has great balance so you can hold the phone steady when you're takin pictures with the camera, which is one of those rotating jobbies at the top left of the face.

Battery Life: Oh Yah!
Samsung managed to squeeze in a smartphone-sized 900 mAH battery into this phone. Using GPRS, making a few a calls and such, one charge lasted about 5 days. You can go on vacation and leave your charger at home.

Signal and Sound: Oh Yah!
The external antenna may not look pretty, but damn does it get great reception. I was getting a signal in places I had never gotten before. The phone also sounds good. The speaker is pretty loud and the microphone does a decent job of keeping out the wind noise and such.

Menus: Ugh
I'm sorry but this is where Samsung really needs some work. The main menu can be adjusted to either show one or three items at a time, that's the best it can do. The key in the middle of the D-pad is NEVER select, instead that's the left soft key. so to advance you always have to move off the D-pad and hit select. The key in the center of the D-pad that should be select is a shortcut to the browser no matter what screen you're in. I can't tell you how many times I launched the browser trying to hit select.

Calling: Oh Yah!
Taking a call is about the only thing you can do with the slide closed. There's about 100 ways to answer a call with the D415, all of which are abundantly clear, including opening the slide if an option called "Active slide" is activated. Incoming caller ID is huge since the phone's LCD screen is visible at all times. If you want to reject the caller, sending him to voice mail is just as easy as on any phone. In call menus are very user friendly, well labeled, except I couldn't find the speakerphone (if there is one). The phone uses standard GSM short cuts for redial and voice mail too.

Politeness: Ugh
Silencing a call was easy, but everything else was two steps further away than it needed to be, which encapsulates why this phone needs to spend some time with people who will teach it to make the most of its smarts. On the D-pad, the down arrow key is marked with a musical note, the universal symbol for ringer on cell phones. Instead of taking you to a simple silent / audible control, the key brings you to the sound settings menu. From there you can eventually switch the phone to vibrate or back to ring. The D415 does not support ringer profiles either. The phone does have up and down sidekeys, which control the volume during a call. This phone has a very loud speaker, so you'll use this often if you know any loud talkers.

Contacts: Yup
The D415 will read phone numbers off your SIM card, it also allows you to store numbers on the phone. Contacts stored in phone memory can have up to three numbers per name : work, office and mobile. There is no slot for email address or any other information. Dialing from the contact list is obvious, but adding numbers to it is not. You must exit the contacts and dial a number like you are making a call. Once the number is on the screen, you can choose "save" (you just press call to dial it) and then choose a new or existing contact for that number.

Sending an SMS is perfectly obvious except that the little envelope icon on the D-pad (the universal symbol for messages, right?) takes you to the picture messages menu, not a new message dialog box or the more common text message menu. Composing a message is obvious, and the phone gives you plenty of ways to address the message. Sending an MMS is even easier since the D-pad shortcut takes you there. Sending a picture to another T-Mobile phone or an email address worked flawlessly (even if iI did have to key in the email address myself). Setting up an email account is a bit more work, but still fairly straightforward. The email application does a neat trick and only downloads unread email so your phone's memory won't be jam packed with old messages.

Calendar: Yup
This calendar and alarms were *this close* to "Oh Yah!" My only niggle (what an English word, I know) is that you actually have to switch on the option to allow the phone to turn on and sound an alarm if the phone is powered off. By default, this ability is set to off. Otherwise setting an alarm to wake you or from the calendar for an appointment is easy.

Oh Yah!
The huge screen and xHTML (WAP 2.0) browser make surfing the mobile web a pleasure on the D415. T-Mobile was nice enough not to lock the browser to their own website, so surfing to Google and other sites was easy. The browser is also the only places where the key in the middle of the D-pad actually works as select, which is a pleasant change. It was easy to buy and download a ringtone from T-Mobile's site in addition to checking out all our favorite phone-friendly sites.


Pictures: Yup
The D415's camera can pivot to rotate a little over 180 degrees, to face towards you  for convenient self portraits, or away for snapshots. The picture quality is average- not good enough to replace your digital camera but certainly good enough for snapping a cute picture to send to family or friends. I was even able to snap some reasonable night time pictures as long as the scenes were reasonably lit. Like many other features, the camera is hindered by a poor user interface. It's only worth mentioning because in this case, it's more than just an extra click or two, it's actually somewhat misleading.

Personalization: Yup
A number of animated wallpapers are come with the phone, many of which are photographic. They make for a rather captivating home screen. You can download regular ringtones as well music clips from T-Mobile's website in addition to those that come with the phone. You cannot change the D-pad shortcuts or the softkeys on the home screen.

Other Stuff:
There are some seriously addictive games on this phone. The java engine launches quickly too, so you can actually play a game before it's your turn to use bathroom at that busy nightclub. There's no IM applications or neat stuff like that, but you can still use T-Mobile's IM through SMS options.