Hands-On: T-Mobile Samsung Highlight

Noah Kravitz
 from  Oakland, CA
| July 20, 2009


Samsung sent me the T-Mobile Highlight last week, and I have to say I've really been enjoying testing it out. Highlight stands out, at least just a little bit, in a world of mobile phones that all too often feels like, "Been there, seen that, done that, texted on that."

Highlight is the third phone I've seen this summer that features a full touchscreen, a full-featured non-smartphone operating system, and a smaller than expected form factor. Why a tricked out non smartphone with a smaller than huge touchscreen? Because women buy phones, too, silly.

And no, I can't tell you what the other two phones are. Not yet, anyway.

You don't have to be a woman to dig Highlight, and it's not overtly being marketed only to the fairer sex. Highlight's size makes for easy one-handed operation and great pocketability, if that's a word, and its styling and color schemes (mine is the orange and red "Fire" variant) give it an eye-catching look. Yes, there's definitely something meant to be appealing to women in this phone's overall look/feel and combination of rounded corners and fingernail-friendly resistive touchscreen (iPhones, G1s and Pres don't play nicely with nails), but I can see guys getting into Highlight, too.

Samsung's done well to up the quality of their resistive touchscreens in the latest batch I've gotten to check out (yes, including a few I can't yet tell you about). I do think we'll eventually see resistive touch go the way of the dinosaur in favor of all-capacitive lineups, but a number of factors still stand between here and there. In the meantime, Highlight is easier, nicer, and altogether better to tap and scroll on than recent Samsung models like Memoir, Behold, Eternity, and Impression.

You also get a slightly updated TouchWiz experience on Highlight, TouchWiz being Samsung's user interface that provides a hide-able tray of widgets that can be customized and stocked full by individual carriers and dragged and dropped by users onto their home screens. Highlight includes a new T-Mobile Web2Go widget that provides RSS-style headlines from a handful of pre-chosen Websites (news, sports, entertainment, etc.). Phone geeks will scoff at the canned content, but mainstream consumers will likely enjoy the nicely formatted, easily digestible homescreen info. Phone geeks already skipped this paragraph, anyway, because Samsung's promising TouchWiz 2.0 hasn't shipped yet.

That said, TouchWiz isn't my favorite OS, and you really can only drag one or two widgets onto the home screen before things become a jumbled mess. Highlight has a decent full HTML web browser, and the virtual QWERTY board works pretty well in widescreen mode, but it's no iPhone/Pre/G1. Also, where's the headphone jack?

Not everyone wants the size, feature overload, or expense of a flagship smartphone. That's why carriers stock their lineups with the enV Touches (Verizon), Eternities (AT&T), and Highlights of the mobile world. Samsung and T-Mo did a nice job with this one, save for one critical factor: Price.

$149 is way too high a price tag for this phone, especially when a you-know-what-3G can be had on AT&T for $99 on contract, and the more fully featured Behold (with its 5 megapixel camera) is only $129 on T-Mo and the even snazzier Memoir is a scant $49.99 when purchased via LetsTalk (a PhoneDog partner).

Drop the price on Highlight to $79 or $49 on contract and T-Mobile could have a winner on its hands, especially with women and teens who don't need a full-on smartphone. Even if T-Mo doesn't do it for us, I'm sure LetsTalk or some other online retailer will discount Highlight before too long. As it is now, however, Highlight is a neat, but overpriced/underpowered feature phone at $149.

Products mentioned