Review: T-Mobile Samsung Memoir 8 megapixel camera phone

Summary:The line between feature phones and smartphones continues to blur and in some cases we are seeing feature phones that are more powerful than smartphones. T-Mobile and Samsung now have the Memoir available for US$249.99 after mail-in rebate (US$50) and T-Mobile contract of minimum service. The major distinguishing feature of the Memoir is that it has an 8 megapixel digital camera with Xenon flash and if you look at the phone you may actually think it is a camera more than a phone. I have been playing with the Memoir for a few hours and post some thoughts on it below, along with a small image gallery and video of the new phone.

The line between feature phones and smartphones continues to blur and in some cases we are seeing feature phones that are more powerful than smartphones. T-Mobile and Samsung now have the Memoir available for US$249.99 after mail-in rebate (US$50) and T-Mobile contract of minimum service. The major distinguishing feature of the Memoir is that it has an 8 megapixel digital camera with Xenon flash and if you look at the phone you may actually think it is a camera more than a phone. I have been playing with the Memoir for a few hours and post some thoughts on it below, along with a small image gallery and video of the new phone.


Image Gallery:A walk around the Samsung Memoir T-Mobile feature phone.
Image Gallery: Back of the Memoir
Image Gallery: Camera software

I previously took a look at the touchscreen Samsung Behold and this new Memoir is similar in that it also uses the Samsung TouchWiz user interface and has very similar specifications. Samsung is definitely leading the pack in touchscreen feature phones with these latest devices and so far the Memoir is pretty impressive.

In the box: The T-Mobile Samsung Memoir box contents include the Memoir, battery, charger, 1GB microSD card, wired stereo headset, and Getting Started, T-Mobile Services and User Guides.

Specifications: The Samsung Memoir SGH-t929 has the following specificatons:

  • Quad-band GSM phone (850/900/1800/1900 MHz)
  • Dual Band UMTS/HSDPA (1700/2100 MHz)
  • 240x400 pixels 1.61x2.64 inch touch screen display (resistive) with haptics
  • 8 megapixel camera with Xenon flash
  • microSD card slot with 1GB card included
  • Integrated Bluetooth radio with A2DP support
  • Integrated GPS receiver
  • 1000 mAh lithium-ion battery
  • Dimensions: 4.2 x 2.1 x 0.6 inches, 4.4 ounces

Walk around the hardware: When you first take the Memoir out of the box, you find it feels great in your hand with the soft touch feel around the back camera, rubber/leather textured bottom and back, and steel sides. At first glance the device appears to be a digital camera more than a mobile phone with the large lens on the back that protrudes out a bit from the back.

The 240x400 pixels front display looks great and while the touchscreen is resistive it is still very finger friendly and if I didn't know any better I would think it was actually capacitive. There is no stylus included with the Memoir and none is needed with the large landscape keyboard. Haptics feedback is included on the device and there are settings that let you control the stength of the haptics. The usage of haptics actually makes entering characters on the keyboard better since you know you are tapping keys on the keyboard.

There are three buttons on the bottom of the front; send, end, and back so you can quickly navigate and control the phone on the device.

The back is where the real business end of the Memoir is located with the large round lens for the 8 megapixel camera. A light sensor is located below the lens and the Xenon flash is located above the camera lens. About 3/4 of the back has soft touch black covering. A stylish metallic stripe divides the soft touch removable back cover from a rubber textured back/bottom piece that helps you grip the Memoir in your right hand as you take photos. The camera and back seem quite well designed and feel great in your hand.

On the right side you will find a lanyard opening towards the bottom, the camera capture/lens release button further up with the lock button just above the center of the side. Further up you will find the zoom in and out buttons. The Memoir supports 16x digital zoom, but I have never found digital zoom to be that helpful. With an 8 megpixel camera though this may change and I will be sure to check it out as I spend more time with the Memoir.

There are two access covers on the left side that conceal the Samsung port and microSD card slot. The Samsung port is used for charging and for the wired headset. A 1GB microSD card is included with the device. The only think on the bottom is three holes for the microphone opening. Along the top you will find the back cover release button.

Usage experiences: I have only had a few hours to use the device so far, but am pretty impressed with the hardware and find it to be rock solid. The TouchWiz interface is easy to use and I like the customizable widgets. The haptic feedback is helpful and confirms screen presses on the Memoir.

The browser is actually Netfront Access 3.5 so it is a decent browser that lets you access most websites. However, T-Mobile has some things locked down so you cannot install and use apps Opera Mini that would give you a much better browser experience or Gmail that gives you a good email client. There is an on-screen icon to quickly toggle between full screen and menu mode on the browser.

There appears to be plenty of options in the software for the 8 megapixel camera that lets you capture still images (3264x2448 max resolution) and video (720x480 max resolution). Shooting modes include single, continuous. panorama, smile shot (not supposed to capture unless a smile is made), and mosaic. There is a 2, 5, and 10 second timer mode too. There is no red-eye flash. You can play with effects (black and white, sepia, negative, and water color to have a bit of fun with the camera. There are a large number of settings present for adjusting focus, ISO settings, quality, anti-shake, storage location, shutter sound, and much more. The flash can be set to off, on, or auto, but there does not appear to be a red eye mode.

After you take your photo, a pop-up appears to let you send to your T-Mobile album online or add a voice note to the photo. You can also edit a photo you have taken by applying effects, resizing, cropping, and adjusting photo attributes (brightness, color, contrast). You can also write memos right on the photo if you like. Printing to a Bluetooth printer is also supported.

Price, availability, and more thoughts on the Samsung Memoir: The Samsung Memoir is available now from T-Mobile USA for US$249.99 after rebate and contract. The Memoir is $100 more than the Behold and the only real difference between the two is the camera quality and Xenon flash. I personally like the color options and slightly slimmer form factor of the Behold, but need to spend more time with the Memoir capturing images and video to see how well the camera performs. Depending on how well this camera performs, I may just have to pick one of these devices up for myself.

I will make sure to include sample photos from the camera itself in a follow-up post. Do you have any other questions about the device?

UPDATE: Lisa Gade has had the Samsung Memoir for a bit longer than me and posted a detailed review on Mobile Tech Review that I highly recommend you check out. She was able to also get Opera Mini loaded even though T-Mobile blocked Google Maps. She gives it very high marks and an Editor's Choice award as well.

Michael Oryl also posted a very detailed review on MobileBurn. If I wouldn't have been off cruising in the Caribbean last week with the family I would have had a chance to spend more time with the Memoir myself. Actually, it would have been a great phone to have with me to capture photos on the trip.

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, Samsung

About

Matthew Miller started using a mobile devices in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since. He is a co-host with GigaOM's Kevin Tofel on the MobileTechRoundup podcast and an author of three Wiley Companion series books. Matthew started using mobile devices with a US Robotics Pilot 1000 and has owned over 200 d... Full Bio

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