Since Samsung’s SGH-T100 model was released early this year, many other companies have come up with their own creations in attempts to mimic the very features that gave it the flagship status and hefty price tag at that time. A colour screen, sharp polyphonic ringtones and dual screens was the winning combination - and has since evolved into something more.
Designated as the SGH-T208 (or T208), the T-series’ first major upgrade comes with a new design while maintaining all the prerequisites of the SGH-T100 (that made it such a successful handset), improvements, and a neat little addition no manufacturer has yet to come up with! :)
Your first question would probably be “what are the differences between the two models?” Simply put, a new type of screen supporting around 65,000 colours replaces the 4096-colour TFT module, while the polyphonic speaker has been relocated to the back of the phone (above the battery). Most of the physical and UI (user interface) design has been adopted from the SGH-S100 model.
Finally, that “little addition” I spoke about before - an Auto Folder feature allowing a user to open or close the T208’s active folder with the press of a button! The motorised hinge has been guaranteed by Samsung to open and close flawlessly for over 100,000 times… good enough for you? :)
Gone are those very round curves that were all over the SGH-T100. The T208 adopts a very similar mould to the SGH-S100, with slightly-different cover and battery designs but incorporating the same keypad style and LCD screen sizing.
The T208 comes with a new colour display type, called UFB (Ultra Fine and Bright LCD). Designed and developed by Samsung, the UFB LCD provides improved sharpness and brightness - similar to a TFT design - while having the same levels of power consumption as a STN LCD. On reviewing the T208, I did experience slightly-better screen sharpness (when comparing to the SGH-S100) and improvements in standby times (when compared to the SGH-T100).
Whether you use your phone in the left or right hand, the Auto Folder button - located on the right side of the phone (below the antenna) - is ergonomically positioned for easy and convenient use. Similar to holding down either volume buttons to light up the external LCD, the Auto Folder button will require the same long depress before the assistance mechanism is activated.
Lastly, take note that the T208 has taken on approximately 20% more weight than the SGH-T100 (87 grams for the SGH-T100, 104 grams for the T208) - most probably due to the incorporation of the Auto Folder feature (since the SGH-S100 only weighs 92 grams) on top of the LCD’s existing weight. It also shares the same symptoms of “leaning backward on its antenna” while the phone is opened with the active folder up (see picture).
User Interface & display
The T208 adopts the same user interface as the SGH-S100, sporting similar themes and colour choices for its menus throughout. A set of keys located below the LCD allows seamless navigation through the different menu layers. For example, the 4-way navigation key allows scrolling through the list of selections (up and down) and in and out of menu levels (left and right). Within functions like writing messages, the 4-way nav key can make scrolling through the text very quickly with ease.
Should you decide on using your voice to perform operations on the T208, then you’ll be disappointed to learn that Samsung did not include this feature for this model. Alike the SGH-S100, both voice dialling and commands have been excluded from the list of features - even though the SGH-T100 had these abilities.
The UFB LCD is definitely brighter and sharper than the one used on the SGH-S100. Although it still may not be as good as the TFT LCD found on the SGH-T100 model, but when you weigh the importance of both screen sharpness/clarity versus battery life conservation, I am confident most would rather have longer standby times from a full charge. For those who disagree, look on the bright side - it’s better than the SGH-S100’s STN screen!
Sunlight is always a problem for colour-based LCD screens - and the UFB LCD is no exception. Using the T208 under direct sunlight will result in very low visibility of the display’s contents. Moving into a slightly-shaded area with the backlight enabled provided much better results.
On the other hand, the external LCD provided a very clear display in all lighting situations. In areas where lighting is available, the green reflective layer provided the sufficient lighting in reading the information on the little screen, while the soft blue backlight was the sole illuminator in dark environments (activated by holding down either volume keys).
Making and receiving calls
Call handling is very typical and is similar to any other Samsung model with the active folder and dual LCD design concepts. In addition to being able to answer and end calls, you can also initiate a redial of the last called number on the list during standby (by pressing on the answer/end button next to the microphone) with the wearable ear-microphone accessory.
Haven’t mastered how to open the active folder with one hand yet? Not to worry, since there’s that Auto Folder function! Whenever a call comes in, simply depress on the Auto Folder button and the call will be answered after the folder has opened fully.
Press on the same button again when you decide to end the call. Here, you will find that a longer hold of the button is required only in this particular circumstance (probably to prevent you from accidentally closing and ending a call).
As for the polyphonic tones, the T208 now comes with a dedicated speaker just for these very-musical tones, and is located on the back of the handset right above where the battery sits. For the many who found the SGH-T100 didn’t provide a loud-enough volume level for its tones, you will be happy to know that the T208 does ring louder and with more “umph!” :)
An improvement I found with the T208 was a slightly-modified messaging interface, which makes swapping between input methods a lot easier than before.
On previous models (like the SGH-S100 and SGH-T100), you were required to scroll through the list of input methods available (for example: caps on/off, numeric, symbols, T9 caps on/off) by repeatedly pressing a soft key. This becomes a really annoying exercise when you have to repeatedly scroll through a list to find the right input method for a particular entry!
For the T208, which also supports Chinese input methods (Traditional/Simplified Chinese Stroke and Pinyin), a menu has been introduced to allow quicker and more efficient switching of methods. To access this menu, press the right soft key during the message composition screen - where the current input method is displayed on the bottom right corner of the screen. For even quicker switching, remember the one-digit number listed next to each input method. To switch to “Quick English”, for example, press the right soft key then “3”.
The T208 maintains a similar level of build quality as compared to its colour-screen predecessors. As for the Auto Folder mechanism, let me say that after all the fun I’ve had with this ingenious little gadget, there’s hasn’t been any evident sign of it dying out on me anytime soon. In other words, it’s still going as strong as the first day I got the T208 - and should stay that way for a long time to come.
Similar to the SGH-T100, the plastic casing on the T208 is slightly easier to scratch than most other phones (due to its smooth plastic surfaces). The external LCD window and the alloy material surrounding it have an even lower scratch tolerance.
An innovative feature of the T208 is the temporary disabling of the internal backlights (screen and keypad) when the “battery low” message has been display (indicated by the flashing battery icon). You will still be able to use the phone because information on the colour LCD screen is always visible when active (the backlight merely makes it brighter and easier to read).
As previously mentioned, the T208 did extremely well in this department considering it was a colour screen phone. On the standard battery, I was able to churn out approximately 90-150 minutes of talk time and averaged 2-3 days standby. The extended battery gave me a bit more - around 2-3 hours of talk and 3-4 days of standby. If you want to maintain these high numbers, my tip to you is to not use the Auto Folder feature all the time. You have been warned! :)