Saturday, January 16, 2010

T-Mobile Tap (midnight blue)

T-Mobile Tap (midnight blue)

Product summary

The good: The T-Mobile Tap has a comfortable and lightweight design, a music player, a 2-megapixel camera, an FM radio, and GPS. It has good call quality as well.

The bad: The T-Mobile Tap's small screen size results in a cramped virtual keyboard and a difficult browsing experience. The Web browser feels a little primitive as well.

The bottom line: If you can get past the limitations of the screen size, the T-Mobile Tap is a decent midrange touch-screen phone.

Chinese phone maker Huawei is relatively unknown in the U.S. market. Up until recently, its only U.S. phones have been basic handsets, like the Huawei M328 from MetroPCS. That has changed with the T-Mobile Tap, which marks the company's first feature-rich touch-screen handset with a major U.S. cell phone carrier. The T-Mobile Tap is available for $79.99 with a two-year contract and $179.99 without.

The T-Mobile Tap has a similar look and feel to the HTC Touch. Measuring 4.2 inches long by 2.2 inches wide by 0.5 inch thick, the Tap has curved corners, rounded edges, and a soft-touch exterior. This gives it a nice comfortable feel in the hand, and at 3.7 ounces, it won't weigh you down. Like the Touch, it is also one of the more petite touch-screen handsets we've ever used.

One of the reasons the Tap is so small is due to its 2.8-inch display, which is smaller than the 3.0-inch displays on comparable touch-screen phones like the Samsung Mythic and the LG Chocolate Touch. Despite its size, however, the screen has 262,000-color support and 240x320-pixel resolution, which results in crisp and vibrant graphics. You can adjust the brightness, the backlight time, and the greeting message.

The touch screen on the Tap is quite responsive, though you need to press the screen a little hard at times. It has haptic feedback, and you can change the intensity of the vibrations. You also can improve the precision of your finger taps by going through the calibration wizard. Along the left side of the Tap's home screen is a widget tray very similar to the TouchWiz interface commonly found on Samsung phones. You can show or hide it, and you can drag and drop shortcut icons to and from the home screen. Some of the more notable widgets on the Tap include shortcuts to Google Maps and GPS with TeleNav.

Also on the home screen are four shortcut icons along the bottom. They correspond to the phone dialer, the contacts list, the Web browser, and the main menu. There's also a speaker icon on the top right of the home screen that lead to a list of different sound profiles. The phone dialer has a roomy number keypad, with a large area for the dialed digits. It has a handy backspace key, and quick access to the contacts list and the call log.

As for text messages, you can either enter text via an alphanumeric T9-capable keypad, or via a full virtual QWERTY keyboard. Thanks to the Tap's internal accelerometer, the keyboard is automatically revealed when you rotate the phone while in text input mode. The keyboard feels cramped due to the small screen size. The Tap supports auto word completion in either English or Spanish.

Beneath the display are three physical controls, which are the Talk key, a square navigation toggle with a middle selection key, and the End key. The toggle seems a little redundant since you can just use your fingertips to navigate, but it's a nice option to have anyway. On the right spine are the volume rocker, the screen lock key, and the camera key. The power button and headset/charger jack are on the top. On the back is the camera lens next to the external speaker. The microSD card slot is located behind the battery cover.

The T-Mobile Tap has a 1,000-entry phonebook with room in each entry for four numbers, an e-mail address, a nickname, a company name, a job title, a street address, a web address, birthday, anniversary, and information notes. You can add the contacts to caller groups; pair them with a photo for caller ID, or any of 27 polyphonic ringtones. You can also use voice recordings or your own MP3 files as ringtones. Other basic features include a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, text and multimedia messaging, a calendar, a reminder feature, a memo pad, an alarm clock, a calculator, a unit converter, a world clock, a stopwatch, and a timer.

A few more advanced features include voice command support, a voice recorder, POP3 and IMAP4 e-mail, stereo Bluetooth, GPS with TeleNav, and a HTML browser. Even though you can use it to view full Web pages, the browser feels a little primitive. You can perform basic functions like enter a URL and refresh a page, but you can't do a keyword search on a Web site or toggle your Javascript settings. To zoom you must slide your finger along the magnifying glass line or with the volume rocker. We much prefer using the volume rocker, as it feels more effective. Yet, you can't zoom out all the way into full page mode, which means a lot more scrollingon such a small display.

The Tap also has a built-in music player. You can load your music via a microSD card, which is helpful since the Tap has only 156MB of internal memory. The player interface is basic but easy to navigate and use. You can create and edit your own playlists, set songs on repeat or shuffle, and there's a graphic equalizer as well. You can also send the music player into the background while multi-tasking in other parts of the phone. A nice bonus is a built-in FM radio, which you can only use with the headset plugged in.

The Tap's 2.0-megapixel camera can take pictures in five resolutions and three quality settings. Other settings include three color effects, a night mode, five white balance presets, three shot modes, a self-timer, and two shutter sounds plus a silent option. Photo quality was not bad. Though images didn't look as sharp as we'd like, colors were bright and vibrant. The camcorder can record in two resolutions (176x144 and 320x240) and with similar settings as the still camera.

You can personalize the Tap with a number of graphics and sounds for wallpaper and ringtones. If you want, you can download more via the Tap's browser. The Tap comes with a number of applications and games. They include Google Maps (complete with Streetview and traffic information), Brain Challenge, Platinum Solitaire, UNO, and Bubble Bash 2. You can download more Java apps and games via the browser as well.

We tested the quad-band T-Mobile Tap in San Francisco using T-Mobile. We were quite impressed with the call quality. We heard our callers with little distortion and plenty of volume. They sounded natural as well.

Callers reported similar good call quality. They did detect some environmental noise and there was a little bit of hiss, but it wasn't a deal breaker. They also reported good volume levels and a natural sounding voice. Speakerphone calls was also quite good, though callers said there was a lot more echo and background sound. On our end, we heard them loud and clear, though their voices sounded a little harsh.

The mono speakers emitted tinny and flat audio, so we would recommend using a headset for the best music- or radio-listening experience. The Tap comes with a wired headset in the package.

The 3G speed on the Tap was good, but not great. We loaded the full CNET front door in around a minute and 5 seconds, which is a little slower than we would have liked.

The T-Mobile Tap has a rated battery life of 5 hours talk time and 10 days of standby time. The tested talk time is around the same, at 5 hours and 15 minutes. According to the FCC, it has a digital SAR of 1.09 watts per kilogram.

(from: team)

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