Samsung Gravity Q (T-Mobile) review

The Samsung Gravity Q for T-Mobile offers a physical keyboard, but feels like a phone that landed a decade too late.

Thanks to the Samsung Gravity Q’s basic Web browser, 3-inch touch screen, physical keyboard, and Java-based games, it reminds me of a phone from 2006. On second thought, a phone that bravely challenged Palm’s dominance in 2006. That’s not automatically bad, at least for a feature phone. But at $153.99 (direct) on T-Mobile, the Gravity Q flirts with smartphone price, without any of the useful smartphone features. Steer clear of the Gravity Q’s pull and you’ll find much better deals on T-Mobile.

Design and Features
Does your closet have skinny jeans? The Gravity Q may not be the phone for you. It’s not as long or wide as most phones but considerably chunkier, at 4.43 by 2.35 by .56 inches (HWD) and 4.19 ounces. Some of that heft, however, comes from its slide-out physical keyboard.

That could seem an odd addition on a phone optimized for voice calls instead of Internet use, but its 3-inch, 240-by-320-pixel touch screen would leave little room for a software keyboard. It doesn’t feature a separate row of numbers, but does include four cursor keys, another old-school touch.

That display lacks a proximity sensor (the last touchscreen phone I used without one was the 2009-vintage HTC Hero), so your cheek can hang up on somebody. Instead, the screen times out after a few seconds, after which you have to press the power button to unlock it—even if you only want to put a call on speaker. Consider that if you plan on driving in places that ban non-speakerphone use behind the wheel.

The battery is easily user accessible, but you don’t have to remove it to get at the microSD card slot—it’s on the left side behind a plastic door. And you will probably want to pop one in, since out of the box the Q had all of 82,546 kilobytes available.

Call Quality and Apps
Voice calls came through clear, but with little discernible sidetone (the sound of your own voice, which can stop you from unintentionally yelling at people). In speakerphone mode, it may be a little too sensitive—in a voicemail I left to myself, I sounded louder than I intended. Nuance voice recognition software lets you place calls by saying a contact’s name or number; it worked fine on the phone, but required multiple tries through a Plantronics Bluetooth headset.

The Gravity Q’s 1,000mAh battery doesn’t have to deal with the overhead of a smartphone operating system, but the phone expired sooner than most smartphones. In a talk-time test, it only ran 6 hours and 40 minutes—even if that handily beats Samsung’s estimate of “up to” five hours. There’s no Wi-Fi, so you can’t count on that to stretch out its endurance. There’s also no LTE, not that this phone could do much with that faster speed.

Don’t be fooled by the touch screen—this phone doesn’t run Android and the apps it does include are pretty basic. You can use the Web on the Q if you restrict yourself to particularly spartan mobile-optimized sites. Attempting to view a full-sized site can yield a “Page too large” error. The email client connected to an AOL IMAP account without any fuss—and that’s about it for Internet apps. There isn’t even a navigation app, contrary to this line in T-Mobile’s sales pitch: “Get your real-time location on maps, driving directions, and more.”

The contacts program can import vCards, but the calendar app didn’t know what to do with standard .ICS and .VCS schedule files. Samsung throws in some basic, but helpful memo, to-do, calculator, timer, and stopwatch apps—and you can play Java versions of Pac-Man and a few other games.

Multimedia, Camera, and Conclusions
The music player handled MP3, AAC and WMA files, but the video app balked at imported WMV and MP4 clips. The error message it displayed for the former was a masterpiece of concise unhelpfulness: “Try again.” Transferring files from an iMac and a Windows laptop involved an irritating runaround: After selecting Samsung Kies from a menu, you get an error complaining that the phone isn’t in Idle mode, then you hit the back button until the phone shows an “Initializing…” dialog and reports it’s connected a moment later.

Pictures taken with the Q’s 2-megapixel camera were predictably grainy and ill-exposed, but also surprisingly soft. There’s no flash so low-light images are out. Its video quality— recorded at 320 by 240 pixels and 15 frames per second—was worse. There’s also no front-facing camera.

Its relatively low price might make the Gravity Q attractive compared with more expensive smartphones, especially with T-Mobile’s unsubsidized pricing. But with Google’s terrific Nexus 4 newly discounted to $199, this is a painful way to save $46. If you absolutely must have a physical keyboard, we like the Samsung Galaxy S Relay 4G better, and it’s even more affordable at $149.99. Also keep in mind that the Gravity Q is a poor fit for T-Mobile’s smartphone-optimized rates; unlike other carriers, it no longer offers cheaper feature-phone plans that account for simpler handsets’ diminished appetite for data. 

Specifications
Phone Capability / Network GSM, UMTS
Screen Resolution 240 x 320 pixels
NFC No
Dimensions 4.43 x 2.35 x .56 inches
802.11x/Band(s) No
Video Camera Resolution 320 x 240
Battery Life (As Tested) 6 hours 40 minutes
Available Integrated Storage 0.079 GB
Processor Speed 416 MHz
GPS No
Service Provider T-Mobile
Total Integrated Storage 0.25 GB
Weight 4.19 oz
Screen Type TFT LCD
Operating System as Tested Other
Physical Keyboard Yes
Camera Resolution 2-megapixels
Screen Pixels Per Inch 133 ppi
Bands 850, 1800, 1900, 1700
microSD Slot Yes
Form Factor Slider
Screen Size 3 inches
Bluetooth Version A2DP

Verdict
The Samsung Gravity Q for T-Mobile offers a physical keyboard, but feels like a phone that landed a decade too late.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc