Is the world ready for consumer-class 8 megapixel cameraphones? That's a loaded question, but one way or another, T-Mobile's about to find out now that its SGH-T929 Memoir from Samsung is in the marketplace. With a full touchscreen and support for that elusive 1700MHz HSDPA, the handset packs some serious heat at the top end of the featurephone heap, and we've now had a chance to put it through its paces. Read on for video, pictures, and -- for the literate types out here -- even a few words about Samsung's mighty 3264 x 2448 worth of handset muscle.
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Samsung Memoir hands-on
Physically, the Memoir feels relatively solid (thanks in no small part to its metal side caps) and it's at the very upper end of how thick we'd want a slate form factor device to be -- it still fits comfortably in a pocket and in hand, but if it were any beefier, you'd start to run into troubles. We had concerns that the lens hump on the upper rear of the phone would get in the way of normal operation, but it wasn't an issue at all; in fact, it may have actually helped, since it keeps the phone raised on surfaces which probably serves to amplify the loudspeaker a bit.
As usual, we love TouchWiz, and the Memoir's implementation is no exception. Samsung includes enough widgets to make the concept totally useful, and we love the fact that T-Mobile has taken the time to convert its myFaves management system into its own widget rather than dominating the home screen as they do on most myFaves-enabled phones. The interface was generally snappy; we ran into some occasional slowdown with animated screen transitions, but orientation changes (for changing between numeric and QWERTY keyboard entry, for example) were insanely fast -- and thanks to the accelerometers, they were conveniently automatic, too.
Speaking of the QWERTY keyboard, it's solid and we were able to use it relatively error-free, save for one niggle: the placement of the pop-up letters makes no sense and adds essentially no value while you're typing. For some reason, the pop-ups go to the side, which leaves them to be obscured by your thumb -- and what's worse, they're barely larger than the keys themselves so they're virtually indistinguishable from other keys. We would've preferred a smarter implementation here.
Obviously, the Memoir's big draw is its high-spec camera, but after toying around with it for a bit, we're pretty sure it's more bark than bite. Yes, it's great to have a xenon flash -- and the Memoir's camera UI is one of the better (and more complete) that we've seen -- but ultimately, picture quality leaves a lot to be desired. Put simply, the Memoir stands no chance of replacing a decent point-and-shoot, which is exactly what the phone needs to be able to do to justify its bulk and price. Noise didn't seem out of control, but that may simply be because the software is going crazy with noise reduction, which would explain the unacceptable levels of softness and splotchiness in every shot we took. On the plus side, the automatic lens cover that protects the delicate stuff when you're not in camera mode is totally trick -- but we're here to use the optics, not protect them.
We didn't take the bundled TeleNav service on a ride, but for alleging assisted GPS support, we were shocked by how hard of a time the Memoir had getting a location. In any flavor of Google Maps, we'd expect a rough lock within a few seconds, but with the Memoir, we waited about a minute -- patiently, per the phone's request -- before giving up. Clear view of the sky recommended, it seems.
Ultimately, we're thinking T-Mobile may have painted itself into a corner here. The Behold is a more attractive phone from the same manufacturer featuring the same form factor, the same UI, and the same 3G support; granted, you do lose 3 megapixels, but you're still left with a totally commendable 5 -- and the Memoir's extra resolution isn't doing you much good in the way of picture quality anyway.