T-Mobile's phones are splashier, but not quite perfect

Mar 18, 2009 By Eric Benderoff

T-Mobile's phone lineup is starting to sparkle. Still, some of the company's models could use more luster.

The products include the T-Mobile G1, also known as the Google ; Memoir, the nation's first 8-megapixel camera phone; the refreshed Curve 8900, the lightest full-Qwerty BlackBerry available; and Renew, the first phone in the U.S. made of recycled materials.

Outside of the G1, which is second-best to the (AT&T), T-Mobile's other top offerings are not quite whole - and that applies to the Memoir and the Curve 8900. Let me elaborate.

• Samsung Memoir $250, two-year contract

Few phones offer resolutions comparable to a point-and-shoot camera. The 8-megapixel Memoir does, and it even looks like a camera.

The phone is controlled via touch screen, but the camera can be activated by pressing the shutter button - then point and shoot. It couldn't be easier to capture spontaneous fun. For more shooting choices, tap the screen. Options include digital zoom, a flash, brightness adjustments, a timer, five shooting modes and a video recorder.

Some of my shots were very good, while others were so-so. The camera has shutter lag issues, like most digital cameras. The lag here is slightly worse but acceptable in daylight or with good interior lighting _ particularly for a phone. The flash helps in lower light.

As a camera phone, few are as good as this one. As a touch-screen phone, however, the Memoir lags the iPhone and the G1. The home screen on the Memoir allows you to move icons with the touch of a finger. It's a good feature reminiscent of the G1. Also, dialing by touch is simple.

But the touch screen is a pain when browsing the Web. Scrolling is an exercise in unintended clicks. I needed to use a firmer touch than I do on the iPhone, resulting in my clicking of links I had not intended to open.

Also, for some reason, sending photos from the phone via e-mail didn't work well. Some e-mails went through, most didn't. I was able to make prints on a Dell printer and send photos to a computer via a Bluetooth connection.

8900 $199, two-year contract

This is not the first BlackBerry Curve, but it is the cutest. The 8900 is like a Mini-Me to the excellent Bold, the best BlackBerry available.

The Curve 8900 would challenge the Bold if it ran on T-Mobile's new 3G network. (The Memoir does.) If you use a BlackBerry primarily for e-mail, you'll be fine on the slower Edge network. (A 3G BlackBerry will be available later this year, a T-Mobile spokesman said.)

I did download several applications using Edge, including the fine Slacker App for BlackBerry. I was worried it wouldn't work well on the slower network, but it did.

The 8900 does compensate with Wi-Fi, but let's hope it works better than it did in my house. My home network connected to the 8900 via Wi-Fi, but I couldn't open a Web page or application despite the phone showing a connection. I'm not the first person to use this phone, so there may be an issue with the review unit (my Wi-Fi is fine).

The 8900 is the smallest BlackBerry with a full keyboard. I had little trouble using the keys to send a message, but some people might find them cramped.

If not for the slower network, this would be the second-best BlackBerry on the market _ maybe the best if you want a smaller phone.

___

(Eric Benderoff writes about technology for the Chicago Tribune. Contact him at ebenderoff at tribune.com or at the Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago IL 60611.)
(c) 2009, Chicago Tribune.
Visit the Chicago Tribune on the Internet at www.chicagotribune.com/
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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