When it comes to gadgets, thin is in. From the latest nano from Apple to the recent crop of slim bar-phones, chunky is strictly L7 for the electronic hipster.
Among the trimmest of the new cell phones is the Samsung Trace (SGH-t519), distributed exclusively through T-Mobile.
The Trace has everything you’d expect in a loaded phone — digital music player, Bluetooth connectivity, 1.3 megapixel still camera with video capture and an external memory slot.
As advertised, the Trace is tres fin, measuring a scant 0.33 inches thick, 4.5 inches long, two inches wide, and weighing a slight 2.5 ounces.
It has an ample color display — it scales diagonally at 1.9 inches — that is longer than it is wide. That “landscape” effect is better suited for viewing photos and reading text than the square screens found on most mobiles.
The Trace’s champagne color is attractive, but is has its liabilities in the legibility department.
My large fingertips had no problem punching the wide, flat keys on the Tracer’s keypad, but the light gray characters against its champagne background were difficult to see.
The keys are backlit in low light conditions, but unless it’s very dark, the backlighting is the same color as the phone, which means it totally washes out.
“Utility” clearly wasn’t in the vocabulary of the designers of this keypad.
Don’t Clip Your Nails
Ports for a headset, which is included with the phone, power charger and mini SD card are located on the side of the unit.
Not only is it difficult to make out the markings that identify the ports, they’re also arduous to access. If you want to use this phone, it pays not to cut your fingernails too close to the quick.
Operating the phone’s camera is very easy, however.
You press and hold a red button on the right edge of the mobile device. This turns its display into a viewfinder for the camera.
In the viewfinder, an icon at the bottom of the screen tells you if the camera is in “still” or “video” mode. You can toggle between the modes via a “soft” key just below the display.
Problematic Music Player
The music player in the phone is a bit problematic.
Since the phone doesn’t come with a USB cable for connecting it to a computer, nor does it include a set of stereo ear buds, you won’t be listening to much music on this puppy out of the box.
However, you can buy an optional micro SD card, load music onto that — if your computer has an SD card reader — and slip the SD into the mobile’s card slot. Then you can buy an optional Bluetooth stereo headset and you’re good to go.
It took a tad of trial and error to get the mobile’s Bluetooth feature to work.
I finally got it talking to my Palm Tungsten T PDA by turning off the phone’s security settings. Once that was done, I traded contacts and photos between the devices with ease.
If you’ve used a cell phone before, navigating the Trace’s menu system won’t be taxing.
You’ll find the familiar call record, phonebook, messages and settings items.
Since the phone can act as an audio recorder, there’s a menu item for voice notes, as well.
It can also do instant messaging through AIM, ICQ, MSN Messenger and Yahoo, so there’s a menu item for IM, too.
For Lovers of Slim
Other menu items include T-zones, which is T-Mobile’s Internet portal, and “Fun & Apps,” where the unit’s camera, music player and games are located.
The phone supports four frequencies — 850, 900, 1800 and 1900 Mhz — and runs on a lithium-ion battery rated at six hours talk time and eight days standby time.
The Trace lists for US$199, but at the T-Mobile Web site you can get a $50 instant rebate and $50 mail-in rebate, bringing the price down to $99 — as long as you sign up for a subscription plan to go with it.
If slim’s your thing and style’s your penchant, Samsung’s Trace will meet your tastes admirably.
John Mello is a freelance business and technology writer who can be reached at [email protected].