- Handsome handset
- Good battery life
- Solid screen viewing angles
- Laggy performance
- Sloppy slider hinge
- No Gingerbread
Throw in a sub-$100 price and comely exterior, and you've got a recipe for a decent entry-level Android smartphone.
Samsung's Gravity Smart is the evolution of the company's Gravity feature phones, and is the first handset in the line to run Android. As such, the device has features that follow its forebears, with a landscape QWERTY keyboard like the Gravity 3, and a capacitive touchscreen like the Gravity T. The Smart's screen is a 3.2-inch, 480 x 320 panel flanked by silver T-Mobile and Samsung logos. Also on its front is a black mesh earpiece, capacitive buttons for menu, back, and search, plus a tactile home button.
The display is neither exceptional nor subpar. Viewing angles are quite good -- similar to the LCD on our daily driver, an HTC Thunderbolt -- but colors appear washed out when compared to higher-end displays, and blacks are nowhere near as inky as what you see on Sammy's AMOLED screens. Additionally, the step down in screen size from the massive 4.3-inch LCD on our Thunderbolt to the 3.2-inch panel on the Gravity Smart was quite an adjustment. We regularly found ourselves wishing for more screen real estate while reading emails and surfing the web.
Inside, the Gravity Smart packs WiFi 802.11 b/g/partial n (meaning it only does speeds up to 72Mbps) and Bluetooth radios, plus quadband GSM (850/900/1800/1900 MHz) and 1700MHz AWS antennae -- so no HSPA or globetrotting 900/2100 UMTS radios here. In our experience, that hardware and the phone's earpiece provided good call quality -- the folks we talked to had little difficulty hearing us whether we had two bars of signal or five, and on our end the dulcet tones of friends and family came through crystal clear.
Aside from its ebony face, our phone was appropriately dressed with a rose-colored exterior (it's a T-Mo phone, after all). The metal rim around the screen has a satiny finish, while the matte plastic battery cover and buttons provide a pleasant, grippy feel. A volume rocker resides on the left side of the device, while a micro-USB port and power button sit on the right. Both the volume and power buttons protrude just enough that our fingertips easily found them (but not so much as to negatively affect aesthetics) and provide precise feedback with each press. Up top is a 3.5mm headphone jack ringed in chrome, and on the back you'll find a 3-megapixel shooter, a single LED flash, an embossed Samsung emblem and a diminutive dual-slotted speaker grille. Although the Smart is priced as an entry-level Android device, we must say it's a handsome handset, pink color notwithstanding -- the chrome accents are tasteful and add a touch of luxury, and its matte finish is a welcome change from the shiny and fingerprint-prone skins found on other phones.
Slider / Physical Keyboard
Droid 2 or Xperia Play. It's not all doom and gloom, though, as it's a spring loaded affair that we easily operated with one hand -- just nudge it halfway and the mechanism does the rest.
Pushing the slider up reveals four rows of letter keys that we found preferable to using Swype or the stock Android keyboard, but BlackBerry and Sidekick fans will find the Smart's grid wanting. Firm button presses were met with a short throw and a pleasing click, and touch-typists will appreciate the nubbins on the "J" and "F" keys. Unfortunately, we found the remaining oval keys to be indistinguishable, and we routinely got lost among them, which caused plenty of typos while banging out emails and texts. We also wish Samsung hadn't swapped out arrow keys for a set of shortcut buttons. While it's nice to have search, email, internet, and Facebook just a tactile tap away, we'd much prefer the ability to navigate text by button rather than touchscreen.
While the slider was less than luxurious, the 3 megapixel fixed-focus shooter actually punches a little bit above its weight class. Samsung has made a point to improve the camera capabilities in its handsets, and it shows in the Gravity Smart. There's a plethora of settings -- including white balance, 13 scene modes, and exposure compensation -- to ensure pictures turn out the way you want. Plus, you can get trippy with a negative picture effect and do some photographic time traveling with black and white or sepia shots. When the lighting was good, we were able to get quality results out of the phone's modest sensor. Video recording was predictably less impressive, as resolution is limited to 320 x 240 and, again, it's a fixed-focus affair. So, you won't exactly be getting Spielbergian results, but it works just fine for capturing YouTube fodder.
Software, Performance, and Battery Life
As we've said before, the Gravity Smart runs Android 2.2 swathed in Samsung's custom TouchWiz skin. The phone also comes loaded with less bloatware than many phones, but there's still several stock applications that cannot be removed -- why can't all carriers follow Sprint's lead? Among these irremovable apps are the useful (cloud and group texting courtesy of Bobsled), the playful (Tetris, Bejeweled 2 and Uno), and ones we could do without (Highlight, a news aggregator, and Glympse, which shares your location and lets you track your friends). There's also free TeleNav GPS, which is similar to Google Navigation, but if you pony up $2.99 a month for the premium version, you get added functionality like traffic camera alerts and real-time traffic updates. Overall, the phone provides the standard TouchWiz experience you've seen elsewhere.
Samsung Gravity SMART