THE GOOD: The Samsung SGH-T139 has an easy-to-use design, decent call quality, and functional features like Bluetooth.
THE BAD: The Samsung SGH-T139's external display doesn't show us much, and there's no video recording.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The Samsung SGH-T139 doesn't promise much, but it serves its purpose as a low-end phone for making calls.
Samsung's new SGH-T139 for T-Mobile is just what you'd expect it to be. As a VGA camera phone with a standard flip design, it offers basic features and little style. Yet, since that's really the whole point, we're not going to complain. Comfortable controls and decent call quality give the SGH-T139 a minimalist appeal, and you can't beat the price. Also called the Mayon, the handset is free with an Even More plan (that's with a contract) and $59.99 with an Even More Plus plan (without a contract).
The T139 is the very definition of a flip phone. The blue-gray handset has smooth lines and a compact shape (3.7 inches tall by 1.9 inches wide by 0.7 inch thick; 2.98 ounces) than lends itself to easy travel. Besides a diamond pattern on the rear cover there are no design elements to distract from the phone's obvious purpose of making calls. The handset's plastic skin doesn't give it a durable feel, so we suggest carrying the phone in a pocket or bag.
The external display is just 1 inch diagonal, and the resolution is low (96x96 pixels). It shows the date, time, battery life, signal strength and numeric caller ID, but it won't work as a self-portrait viewfinder for the camera, which sits just above. On the left spine you'll find the volume rocker and the right spine has a camera shutter/lock control and a combined headset jack/charger port. Unfortunately, the latter uses a proprietary Samsung connection.
The internal display is also a bit small for the phone's size (1.75 inches). It supports 65,000 colors, so it's not the most vibrant display either, but it's suitable on a basic phone like the T139. The menus are easy to use, and you can change display options like standby text style and color, the dialing font size and the backlight time.
The SGH-T139's keypad and controls are its best design features. Both have spacious layouts with raised button that have a comfortable, rubbery feel. The diamond-shaped four-way toggle is clad in silver, which sets it apart from the black controls. You'll also find a central OK button, two soft keys, the Talk and End/power button, and a Clear control. The backlit keypad buttons feature large numbers and letters. We could text and dial quickly without any problems.
The SGH-T139's phone book holds 300 contacts with room in each entry for five phone numbers, an e-mail address, and notes. You can add callers to groups and pair them with a photo and one of 10 40-chord polyphonic ringtones. Other essentials include text and multimedia messaging, an alarm clock, a calendar, a task list, a calculator, a tip calculator, a world clock, a timer, a stopwatch, and a unit and currency converter.
You don't get much else beyond the basics, but Samsung included the most useful options. There's a voice recorder, instant messaging, Bluetooth, and the capability to send audio postcards with photos and a voice recording. There's no integrated e-mail app, but you can always get online through the WAP 2.0 browser.
The VGA camera takes photos in four resolutions (from 640x480 down to 120x96). Other editing options are standard. You'll find a self-timer, and adjustable white balance, four color effects, brightness settings, exposure metering, and a digital zoom. You also can choose between different sounds for the zoom, brightness, and shutter. The SGH-T139 does not record video. Its photo quality is good for a VGA shooter. There's a bit of image noise, but colors looked natural.
You can personalize the T139 with wallpaper, background colors, greetings, and alert tones. More options are available from T-Mobile's T-Zones service. The handset includes demos of four games: Tetris, 5th Grader, Midnight Pool 2, and Family Guy Uncensored. You'll need to buy the full versions for extended play. The SGH-T139 has about 6MB of memory, so you'll need to monitor space carefully.
We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1,900MHz) phone in San Francisco using T-Mobile service. Its call quality was satisfactory overall. There was a slight metallic tinge to the audio, but the signal was clear, and we could understand our conversations. We also appreciated that the loud audio enabled us to hear in most environments.
On their end callers said we sounded fine. They could tell that we were using a cell phone, but complaints were limited to the metallic sound that we heard.
The SGH-T139 has a rated battery life of 4 hours talk time and 6 days standby time. It has a talk time of 4 hours and 3 minutes in our tests. According to the FCC, the T139 has a digital SAR of 0.59 watt per kilogram.