A Few Dumb Phones – Review of T Mobile’s Samsung Gravity TXT
Posted by Heather
A while back I bought a Samsung Gravity TXT to replace my Nokia 3711. Let me start this review by saying I am a diehard Nokia fan, and every Samsung (dumb) phone I’ve seen and used, I’ve hated. However, I tried to be fair and I tried really hard to like this phone since it was one of only a handful to choose from at T-Mobile.
I just couldn’t like it though.
The Samsung Gravity TXT is moderately priced. The full price is currently $139.99. It was and currently still is being offered with a $100 instant discount and then a $20 mail-in rebate, for an advertised price of $19.99 (with 2-year contract).
Sounds good, but don’t forget to tack on the “upgrade fee” of $18 if you are upgrading your contract with T-Mobile, a fee paid upfront. Add the $20 to the upfront price and you’re paying around $40 with $20 coming back to you in approximately 8-10 weeks.
The phone doesn’t look half bad. It’s got a large screen with keys below it and the slide-out keyboard tucked underneath. In the middle of everything is an optical joystick, which looks like a small button but is actually a screen. It’s kind of cool.
The phone is a dark, bluish-gray color with a green stripe around the edge. If you can remember the “Jungle Green” Crayola crayon color, it’s sort of like that.
I will give this phone huge thumbs-up, five stars, for battery life. I noticed a stark contrast between my Nokia 3711 and this phone. My Nokia battery could easily die within less than 8 hours of frequent or semi-frequent texting. Playing a game, making a call, or taking photos would noticeably speed the rate at which the battery died.
The Samsung Gravity TXT, on a full charge, will last through all that and still be down by only one battery bar. I could play a few games of Scrabble, send a bunch of texts, and make a couple phone calls (under 30 minutes) – all while having it off the charger for several hours – and the battery wouldn’t budge. With little to no use the battery could last possibly 2-3 days.
If the phone is not silenced, it will sound an annoying 2 beeps when put on or taken off the charger, and a quieter (and less annoying) chime-type sound when fully charged.
Call quality on the Gravity TXT is good. I could hear clearly, and people I was talking to confirmed they could hear me clearly as well. As long as you have reception, the call quality should be fine with this phone. However, this phone seems to have weird reception issues and may lose reception slightly more than other phones.
Other users who left reviews on T-Mobile’s website had complaints about excessive dropped calls or poor call quality but I did not experience these issues any more than I did with other phones I’ve had.
Also, if you try to send a text and you are out of reception, the phone doesn’t appear to automatically resend. I always wound up noticing the unsent message notice once I got signal back, but I’d have to manually tell the phone to try sending it again.
One of the reasons someone would likely buy this phone is to have a Qwerty keyboard, right? Unfortunately, the keyboard on the Gravity TXT has a major drawback – keys are very hard to press. They are tiny, but that is to be expected. When purchasing the phone I actually thought the keyboard would be better than the Samsung T359. The Gravity TXT has slight spacing between the keys, leading one to believe it would be better for fatter fingers.
The spacing would be great except the keys are often difficult to press and, by being soflat, it is sometimes easy to press the wrong key because you can’t feel that your finger is on multiple keys. For me, this holds especially true with the space bar and the T.
The camera on the Gravity TXT is pretty decent for a basic phone camera and offers very basic video recording as well. The max image resolution is 2MP – fairly average for a dumb phone. You can also digitally zoom, but you cannot zoom if you are using the 2MP (1600×1200) resolution. For zoom, resolution has to be reduced to 1.3MP (1280×960) or lower.
That said, the camera had many surprising settings and options that I didn’t expect to see on a phone. You can create panorama photos, do smile shots, change the white balance, adjust exposure, even choose what metering settings! It also has Night Mode, which is handy. For a basic camera on a basic phone, I can’t complain.
Oddly though, while there is a shutter button on the side of the phone, there is no built-in camera button. The shutter button only works if the camera is active.
One of the things that first excited me about this phone was the memory – over 100MB! It also has a space to use a micro-SD card. My Nokia 3711 only had 30MB of internal memory, and I was ecstatic about even that. Seeing 100MB made me just about fall in love with the phone.
I am a text-hoarder, especially with my inbox. Sometimes I get texts that I want to hold on to – whether they have an address, phone number, an important date, a special message, whatever. With Nokia, 100MB would equate to probably over 10,000 messages in storage capacity. On the Samsung, you are limited to 500 text messages.
The phone shows you have 100MB available for picture messages, but for regular text messages you only have 500. And for some reason it likes to randomly save texts to the SIM card.
Weirder yet, I would reach around 190/500 texts and it would flash the “Message Inbox Full – Delete Messages?” message. I don’t know the exact limitations of the phone but basically if my Inbox had around 200 messages – it was full. Emptying my Sent Items didn’t change anything, it would still display that message.
As for other memory – games, photos, music/ringtones, there’s plenty of space available.
One thing I am not fond of this phone for is the lack of customization. Under “Personalize” – this is all there is:
- Sound Profiles – Normal, Silent, Vibration, Driving, and Outdoor. You cannot make others and you can only fully customize Normal, Driving, and Outdoor. You can’t customize the Silent profile at all, and Vibration lets you customize only how many times it vibrates before it rings.
- Display – Choose between 2 themes (based on colors), wallpaper (theme based or custom image), font size/color of dialed numbers, brightness, backlight time, and keypad lighting.
- Phone – Airplane Mode (on/off), Keypad Auto-Lock (on/off – the auto-lock happens within less than 30 seconds and that can’t be changed), Security (lock phone or applications, change pins, etc), USB Mode (what the phone does when plugged in to a computer), Data Roaming (enable/disable), and OJ (Optical Joystick) Sensitivity.
- Messaging Key – Change what the Message key actually does (limited to messaging features such as email, voicemail, “Create Message”, etc).
- 4-Way Shortcuts – Set limited shortcuts for directions on the optical joystick and whether or not you want the joystick enabled. Left is for Messaging, up is for Media, right is for Social, and down is for Web. You can only customize the shortcuts within these parameters. (E.g. – Up can be changed to media player, camera, etc but cannot be set to a non-media feature such as the calculator.)
- Keyboard Shortcuts – You can create up to 26 different keyboard shortcuts for use with the slide-out keyboard. These are fully customizable.
- Memory Settings – Clear Phone Memory, Memory Card Settings, and Memory Status
- Language – English, French, Spanish.
- Greeting Message – A message that appears when you power on the phone.
- Time and Date – Basic time settings.
The settings other than “Personalize” are Help, Bluetooth, Manage Online Album, Call Settings, Advanced, and Reset Settings. Help is help – it isn’t a setting, per se. Bluetooth is for turning Bluetooth on/off, pairing devices, etc. Advanced refers to network settings and other things you’d probably never have to change.
There are also text settings but there are very few configuration options. Despite the extremely low reserved message memory – there is no option to not-save your Sent Messages.
If you have an online album, you might find that particular option handy but if not, the only other worthwhile settings are the Call Settings. These include:
- Answering Mode – Send key or any key
- Auto Redial – On or Off
- Show My Number – Enable or Disable
- Auto Block – Block a number or list of numbers
- Call Forwarding – Setup or cancel call forwarding, choose when and where calls should be forwarded
- Call Barring – Block some or all calls
- Call Waiting – Enable to Disable
- Call Status Tones – Call Connect Tone, Minute Minder, Call End Tone
- Alerts on Call – Hear a message alert if receiving a text during a phone call
- Auto Reply – Set up a text reply to be sent if you reject a call
Auto Reply and call Blocking/Barring are pretty neat but many of those options are basic/expected.
The Other Features
There are a few other things I love about this phone, and a number of other things I hate.
For example, it’s very non-intuitive to me. When you are trying to edit a sound profile, you are limited to the ringtones on the phone. It makes it appear as though you are unable to choose other ringtones (MP3s and such). However, if you go in through the Media Gallery, you can scroll through the list of files on, say, your SD card and when you right-click a file, it will give you the option to set it as a variety of different tones – message, alarm, ring tone, etc.
Here are some other features and settings I like or hate about the phone:
Pros – You can set multiple alarms as well as calendar alarms, etc. and change the alarm tone, change snooze settings.
Cons – When the alarm clock goes off, the keys and optical joystick are unlocked (if auto-lock was enabled). If you accidentally swipe the optical joystick trying to grab the phone to turn it off, you will shut off the alarm – for 1 minute. The alarm disappears until the next minute so you either have to wait until you can actually manage to touch just the right soft key (Snooze) or the left soft key (Alarm Off) or you have to go into the alarm list and disable it or change the time by a minute-past (if you are worried about disabling the alarm totally and forgetting to turn it back on). This sounds simple but when you’re just waking up and trying to find a small button on a phone it’s a little more complicated.
Pros – It gives the user a feeling of having a touch-screen since you have to swipe it? It is sorta cool looking and seems like a neat feature.
Cons – Although you can change the sensitivity, it doesn’t always respond accordingly. It takes a bit of getting used to and can be highly inaccurate. Sometimes I had to swipe it multiple times before it would move the pointer at all. Other times a simple swipe would go way too far.
Pros – As already mentioned, the phone’s internal memory provides a good amount of space for photos and the camera takes decent pictures for a basic cell phone camera.
Cons – If you have many pictures, it takes FOREVER to load them all in order to browse through them. It takes forever even to browse smaller folders of files. Actually, I’m not sure if the number of photos impacts it much or if it is more based on the size per photo or what, but don’t expect fast photo browsing.
Pros – The phone has the ability to do instant messaging (Yahoo Messenger and MSN/Windows Live Messenger only).
Cons – The instant messaging feature is handled by a browser and seriously – it barely worked at all. Maybe I was doing something wrong but it kept putting me into my profile. I could get into Hotmail but I didn’t want to be. Either I just didn’t quite figure that out or it really just didn’t work.
Pros – This phone has a feature called “Visual Voicemail” – it allows you to review, save and delete voicemail messages on your phone in the same way you would a text message. You don’t have to dial “123” and you can easily access any voicemail message. Say you have several. With “Visual Voicemail” you won’t have to wait for the other messages to play to get to the message you want).
Cons -Really I see nothing bad about this. You can still dial “123” if you prefer the traditional method.
Pros – Your account and billing info are accessed directly from the phone and show up as a mobile website (not as a mobile website but as its own feature).
Cons – The phone detects this feature and, when you dial 611 to talk to a live person, the phone actually directs you back to itself. When you dial 611 it will first give an automated message stating “Did you know many of your questions can be answered directly from your phone?” It’ll then mention this feature, open the site, and hang up. To actually reach customer service you have to click a link from the site.
Pros – The Gravity TXT has a decent camera (as previously mentioned) and a media player that provides several audio settings, playback settings, etc. You can also set shortcuts for one or the other via the Optical Joystick. You can also set a keyboard shortcut for each.
Cons – There is no button to access the Media Player or the Camera without settings a shortcut. It may be typical of a Samsung phone, but at first I couldn’t even find either. Both can be found by going to the Media Menu and looking at “On phone” in either “Photos” or “Music”.
Pros – The phone has a full Qwerty keyboard, and Email and even Exchange Email can be set up and viewed from the main Messages menu. Email is set up and may cost data but does not use the browser for access, which makes it a little faster to load. Picture messages and other MMS (Multimedia Messages) are created in a style resembling email – that is, you can see “To”, “Subject”, “Message” all at once. Not really any different but more convenient. Default view is “Conversations” which is handy. Choosing text recipients is handled with convenient checkboxes, which makes it easy if you need to mass-text. One other positive about the Samsung is that it will, by default, capitalize “I” if used in the middle of a sentence, as well as each letter starting a sentence. Likewise, if you press the spacebar twice, it will automatically type a period and a space after it (which is handy unless double spacing was due to a typo).
Cons – Most my complaints with this phone revolve around the texting… My most foremost complaint is that I am an avid “abc” lover and never even used T9 before. I wound up learning it with the Gravity TXT because you have to switch from T9 to “abc” every time. There is no button to hold down to automatically change it. There is no place to change the default. The keyboard keys are kind of hard to press so the keyboard isn’t as convenient an alternative as I anticipated. The T9 seems to have a secret agenda (if you get the opportunity, go in T9 on the number pad and type “keys”). The Conversation view is handy but since the phone runs out of room for messages so frequently, you have to go in to delete messages in order to see your “Inbox”. Picture messages in a conversation thread may lead the phone to automatically take you to the very beginning of the thread when viewing that conversation (especially annoying if it is a long thread). Messages can be moved but moving them doesn’t take them out of the conversation thread (a good and bad thing). Since moved messages aren’t taken out of the Conversation thread they can be locked if you need to delete a thread or other messages from a thread but don’t want to lose some. However, moving and locking messages can only be done individually – deletion is the only function able to be done in bulk. Copy and paste feature only seems to work within the same message. Also, holding down backspace will clear your entire field. To delete back to a point requires either repeated presses or selecting/cutting the text.
Pros – The Gravity TXT’s manual is long and pretty detailed. It definitely contains a lot of information.
Cons – Some features may require you to read the manual because most features lack description or help text on the phone.
Other Features The Phone Has:
I used these but didn’t mention them much because there isn’t much to be said. They are handy features though.
- Games (phone comes with demos of Scrabble, Tetris, and Uno)
- Camcorder (very basic, small resolution)
- No-Sim Mode (all non-call-related features – even received text messages – are accessible without a SIM card in the phone)
Other Features That The Phone Has But I Didn’t Use:
These features I didn’t actually use, but I wanted to mention everything just in case.
- Web Browser (for general internet access)
- Social Buzz (Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, etc on your phone)
- TeleNav GPS Navigator
- Voice Recognition
- Tip Calculator
- World Clock
- Converter (for currencies, measurements, and temperatures)
At this point I’m sure it sounds like I would hate this phone no matter what, and have only negative things to say about it. What really prompted me to review it so thoroughly was the number of reviews on the T-Mobile website. When I last checked, the phone had 3 stars and a recommendation level of 34%. Some of the reviews are informational and helpful, others not so much.
My review is subjective to those who are used to Samsung phones. People who are used to Samsung phones may be not be bothered by many of the things I was, especially pertaining to texting. If you aren’t used to Samsung phones, especially if you’re used to Nokia phones, you may experience the same frustration I did.
If you are familiar with Samsung and like their overall setup, then you may very well love this phone. If you aren’t too concerned with customizations and you like T9 then you probably won’t have a problem. If you fall into that category, then I would definitely recommend this phone. The battery life – above all else – still impresses me. I’ve left it off the charger for a few days and it still loses 1 battery-bar, at most.
However, if you are a Nokia lover like me for any of the reasons I’ve mentioned – I couldn’t recommend this phone to you. You could try it out, you could see if it is tolerable to you, but if you loved Nokia for the same reasons I did then I can’t envision you being happy with it.
My Nokia had died and I still had to choose a phone though. If you want to see what phone I eventually decided on, check out my other review.