THE GOOD: The Samsung SPH-M220 has a simple, easy-to-use design, Bluetooth, and decent call quality.
THE BAD: The SPH-M220 plastic skin feels a tad cheap and it lacks caller groups.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The SPH-M220 isn't for the danger-prone, but it offers acceptable call quality in an easy-to-use design.
Think of the Samsung SPH-M220 as the low-end alternative to the already basic Samsung SPH-M320. While both handsets are designed primarily for communication, the SPH-M220 ditches all frills except for Bluetooth. Yet, the result is a simple and easy-to-use handset with decent call quality. This isn't a handset for extreme lifestyles but it should be fine for occasional callers. Offered by Sprint, the SPH-M220 is $29 with service.
The SPH-M200 perfectly fits the mold of a basic Samsung flip phone. The minimalist shape and clean lines invoke the memory of countless other Samsung handsets before it. At 1.57 inches by 1.25 inches by 0.7 inch, it's a bit smaller than the SPH-M320 and it replaces that handset's brick red hue and mirrored panel with a simple black and blue color scheme. As it weighs just 2.6 ounces, the SPH-M320 is extremely portable but we had mixed feelings about its construction. The hinge seems sturdy enough but the phone's plastic skin felt rather flimsy. This is not a handset for taking blows and bumps.
The external display is no bigger than a postage stamp, but it is appropriate for a phone like this. It's monochrome so it won't show photo caller ID, but that's not really an issue on a phone without a camera. On the other hand, it does display the time, battery life, signal strength, and battery life. You can adjust the clock style and the contrast. Completing the exterior of the phone are a volume rocker on the left spine and a 2.5mm headset jack and a micro USB charger port.
The internal display measures 1.75 inches and supports 65,000 colors (145x128 pixels). On most phones, we'd complain about such a low-resolution display, but on a basic model like the SPH-M220, we don't mind. Graphics won't jump out but colors looked fine and the menus are easy to use. You can change the brightness, the contrast, the dialing font size and color, and the backlighting time.
The SPH-M220 shows a spacious and well-designed navigation array. There's a circular four-way toggle with a central OK button. The toggle is mostly flush but its bright silver color distinguishes it from the surrounding controls. You'll also find two soft keys, Talk and End/power buttons, and a Back button. These controls are raised above the surface of the phone giving them a pleasant tactile feel.
The beveled keypad buttons are spacious and tactile as well. Misdials were rare and we had no issues dialing or texting quickly. What's more, large numbers on the keys and bright backlighting helped eliminate problems when dialing in the dark.
The SPH-M220 has a 599-contact phone book with room in each entry for five phone numbers, a URL, an e-mail address, a nickname, and notes. You can pair callers with one of 20 polyphonic ringtones or you can compose your own ringtones using the integrated voice recorder. You also can assign callers a photo, but keep in mind that the image won't show up on the external display. Oddly, the SPH-M220 doesn't accommodate caller groups. That's a disappointing omission, even on a basic phone.
Other essentials include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a calendar, a scheduler, a task list, a countdown timer, a memo pad, a world clock, an alarm clock, and a calculator. Bluetooth is also onboard. That's always a welcome feature on a cell phone.
You can personalize the SPH-M220 with a variety of screensavers, clock styles, and greetings. You can download more options and additional ringtones with the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. The handset comes with demo versions of three games: Jeopardy, Galaga, and Burnout. You'll have to buy the full versions for extended play.
We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900) Samsung SPH-M220 in San Francisco using Sprint service. Call quality was quite serviceable and a stepup from the SPH-M320. There was little static or interference and we enjoyed enough volume. Our only complaint was that callers sounded slight breathy. There was a slight "fuzziness" to the voice quality that crept in from time to time. It wasn't a big problem, but it was there.
Callers said we sounded fine for the most part. Most could tell we were using a cell phone, but that's to be expected on such a basic phone. Some callers said the phone picked up a lot of background but that's wasn't a universal assessment. Automated calling systems could understand us most of the time. Speakerphone calls were about the same as regular calls, though the volume on our end was slightly lower. Also, we had to speak close to the phone in order to be heard.
The SPH-M220 has a rated battery life of 3.5 hours talk time. According to our tests, it has a tested talk time of 4 hours and 2 minutes. According to the FCC radiation tests, the Samsung SPH-M320 has a digital SAR of 1.08 watts per kilogram.