The Samsung Behold is the first 5-megapixel camera phone available from a U.S. carrier that can truly give your point-and-shoot a run for its money. Snapping good shots both indoors and outdoors, the $149 touchscreen phone also features Samsung's TouchWiz interface, which is just as pleasing to look at as the photos it takes. The Web browser is somewhat lackluster, but fast 3G speeds and a classy design make the Behold a solid option for T-Mobile customers.
At 4.1 x 2.1 x 0.5 inches, the Beholid is about half an inch shorter than the Samsung Instinct, and is available in Espresso or Light Rose. The 3-inch touchscreen display is centered on the piano black face of the phone and accented by three silver buttons below it. The Behold provides haptic feedback (a slight vibration) when you make a selection on the screen, letting you know that the Behold has registered your command. A built-in accelerometer automatically rotates the screen from portrait to landscape mode, but only for viewing pictures, video, or the Web.
Along the sides of the Behold are volume controls, a proprietary headset/charging port, a camera quick-launch button, and a phone lock key. The brushed metal back plate is home to the 5-megapixel camera lens and single LED flash; the cover was very easy to remove, but we didn't appreciate having to remove the battery to insert a microSD Card.
The Behold is one of the first Samsung phones available stateside with the TouchWiz user interface. A toolbar on the left side of the home screen holds customizable widgets that you can either drag out onto the desktop or launch directly. The 19 widgets include a music player, photo viewer, T-Mobile MyFaves contacts, and an instant messaging application.
We liked that we could drag the music app out to the home screen to play music, and then hide it again when we were done. But while TouchWiz is colorful and fun to look at, this interface was noticeably sluggish at times, especially with the MyFaves application open.
The Behold has two primary keyboards: alphanumeric and a full QWERTY when typing in landscape mode. The alphanumeric keypad had a handy .com button, which we appreciated while entering Web addresses. We liked the autocorrect feature of the full QWERTY keyboard but found it distracting that suggestions popped up below the current line of text while we were typing. We couldn't type as quickly as on the Instinct, which had a more spacious keyboard, but the layout was easy to use from the get-go.
The Behold's 5-megapixel autofocus camera took some truly stunning shots; it measured up to the Motorola ZN5, which also has a 5-MP camera. Outdoors, the green grass in front of some floral bushes was much more saturated on the Behold then it was on the ZN5. However, photos of the lions in front of the New York Public Library looked warmer and more pleasing with the ZN5, but even still, the Behold accurately portrayed the pale coloring of the stone. In general, the Behold took brighter pictures, so sunlit buildings looked more washed out than they did with the ZN5.
Indoors, comparison shots of a plate of Skittles were like night and day between the two cameras: The Behold's pictures were much sharper, and colors were more vibrant. A shot of a co-worker in an office chair was less blurry, and skin tones were much more accurate.
In darker conditions, the ZN5 performed better, as its Xenon flash is brighter than the Behold's LED flash. With the Behold, pictures taken of a toy robot in a dark room came out blurry and a bit noisy. The ZN5 offered sharper shots, although the flash did wash out some reflective areas. Despite this shortcoming, we prefer the Behold's camera, since it performed just as well outdoors and better inside under most conditions.
Using the Behold's video-recording feature, a movie of ice skaters in Bryant Park came out decently. Colors were washed out, but the video was clear enough for our tastes, and the skaters moved smoothly without lag. However, when we dragged the videos over to our computer, a message popped up saying our file had an unsupported resolution. We learned that the phone only supports small 320 x 240 resolution videos.
Messaging and E-mail
Samsung's TouchWiz widget bar has an IM application, a shortcut for launching AIM, Windows Live Messenger, and Yahoo Chat applications. We signed into AIM easily, and the application was able to run in the background, but you can't sign into more than one buddy list at once.
You can set up a host of Internet e-mail accounts from providers such as AIM, AOL, Comcast, Compuserve, Earthlink, Gmail, and Yahoo Mail, but you can't manually configure an IMAP or POP account. We set up our Gmail account easily, needing only to enter our username and password.
Web and Pricing Plans
Internet access on the Behold is fairly limited: the browser defaults to T-Mobile's new web2go homepage. Web2go replaces the former T-Zones, and, while it's an aesthetic improvement, it still lacks the offerings of the other three U.S. carriers. You're stuck with the mobile versions of most Web pages, and full HTML sites don't render correctly. When we loaded ESPN.com we were greeted with a primitive WAP page, not the mobile site we're used to on our EDGE-only BlackBerry Curve. However, T-Mobile's 3G network is sMusicpeedy: CNN.com loaded in 8 seconds, ESPN.com in 8 seconds, and NYTimes.com in 6 seconds. We wish the Behold had Wi-Fi for fast speeds outside of T-Mobile's limited HSDPA network.
Yahoo OneSearch is a welcome feature. We typed in "Role Models" and found a mini-review of the movie, as well as showtimes. Unfortunately, this application is not location-aware; you have to preset your search area first. You can also download ringtones and wallpapers from this menu. There are also RSS feeds for ABC News Money, Reuters World News, Access Hollywood, and more. You can customize these homepage feeds by selecting Personalize My Homepage; choose from a menu of sources including News, Sports, and Entertainment. For example, when we chose the Sports option, we received headlines from ESPN.
In addition to its new browser, T-Mobile also introduced new data plans with the Behold. All-in-one pricing starts at $24.99 per month for unlimited Web and 400 messages; a premium plan for $34.99 per month includes unlimited Web and unlimited messages.
The Behold's music player can be launched from the TouchWiz interface. When we played 311's "Feels So Good," the music was clear and the volume was loud enough, but it lacked bass. While we appreciated the included earbuds, the plastic tips were uncomfortable during long periods of use.
Telenav GPS software is preinstalled on the Behold, and you can use it for voice-guided turn-by-turn directions and for local search. We were able to lock onto a satellite signal in under a minute and route a path to our house from a nearby train station in two minutes. The GPS guided us there accurately on foot. The touchscreen made interacting with Telenav easy, but you can also search for directions or points of interest using your voice.
Call Quality and Battery Life
A caller on a landline sounded excellent to us, but they said we were tinny and loud. They also reported too much background noise. When we left a voicemail from outside on the street to our office landline, we could hear our own voice echoing; when we played the message back, background noise was overbearing and sounded like we were standing in a windstorm. We never experienced a dropped word or call, though.
Over a 24-hour period that included a night of idling, we snapped pictures, browsed the Web, and listened to music before running down the Behold's battery. You'll be okay on a weekend trip without the charger if you're using it to take pictures occasionally, but if you're a heavy multimedia user then you'll want to bring the charger along.
As long as you don't need a smart phone, you can't go wrong with the Samsung Behold. At $149, it takes great pictures and it has a fun (albeit sluggish) touch user interface. The Motorola Motozine ZN5 ($99.99) is more affordable, but the Behold's camera performed better and it takes advantage of T-Mobile's 3G network. To us, this phone is worth the extra $50.