What's hot: GPS works very well with Google Maps and TeleNav. Good mobile YouTube streaming.
What's not: Camera takes terrible pictures. Small, low resolution display.
Reviewed December 20, 2009 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
These are bargain hunting times, so T-Mobile has introduced a more affordable touch screen phone, the T-Mobile Tap, made by Huawei. It's basically a lower-priced Samsung TouchWiz clone that's superficially similar to the Samsung Highlight. The T-Mobile Tap is a quad band GSM phone with T-Mobile US 3G, and it has a built-in aGPS, a 2 megapixel camera with video capture, Bluetooth with A2DP, an SDHC microSD card slot, a full HTML web browser and a music player. It also supports widgets and has a widget bar. For the launch price of $79.99 with a 2-year contract, the T-Mobile Tap has good specs and touch screen phone features. The GPS performance is strong on the T-Mobile Tap, but the camera leaves much to be desired.
The T-Mobile Tap isn’t a bad looking phone, though it looks plasticky compared to the more robustly built Samsung Highlight. The phone has a very nice soft back that also frames the front touch screen, and it comes in either reddish berry or midnight blue. The mirror-like display shows fingerprints and hand grease like crazy, and is very reflective and hard to see outdoors in the sun. The touch screen looks bright with moderately saturated colors, and it has haptic feedback when you touch it. That said, the display isn’t quite as sharp as higher end touch screen phones. You can turn on or off the haptic feedback or change the level of the vibration. The dedicated call send and end buttons live below the touch screen flanking a 5-way d-pad. The d-pad and the call control buttons are backlit.
The T-Mobile Tap has a Samsung TouchWiz-like user interface. There is a Widget bar on the left side that resembles the one on Samsung’s TouchWiz phones, and the T-Mobile Tap has 4 shortcut buttons on the bottom. You can launch any application on the widget bar by tapping on the app’s icon, but you can't download new widgets. Most applications on the phone have an icon on the widget bar including the web browser, TeleNav, messaging, weather, MyFaves, Google Search and Google Maps, picture viewer, FM radio, games, calendar, clock and more. The T-Mobile Tap has an accelerometer that works in most apps like the web browser, messaging, video playback and more. The on-screen keyboard switches to QWERTY when the screen turns landscape and is responsive.
The T-Mobile Tap has minimal side buttons that include volume controls, screen lock and camera launch/shutter key. The power on and off button lives on top right next to the charging port/headset jack/accessory connector. The 2 megapixel camera lives on the back, and under the battery door, you will find the SIM card next to the battery and the microSD card slot. The SIM card slot requires removal of the battery for access while the microSD card slot does not.
The T-Mobile Tap is a GSM quad band world phone with T-Mobile US 3G bands. The Tap doesn’t get a very strong signal and can lose the 3G connection in weak coverage areas. The phone has an on-screen dialer that includes a number pad and touch buttons to Contacts and call log. The touch number pad should be large enough for most people. The T-Mobile Tap supports most call management features including caller ID, call waiting and call forwarding. The Contacts database can store up to 1000 contact entries and 8 speed dial numbers. Voice quality is decent on both the incoming and outgoing ends, and the phone has voice dialing.
For messaging, the T-Mobile Tap supports SMS, MMS, IM and web based POP3 and IMAP email accounts. The phone also comes with the Netfront HTML web browser that can display both WAP sites and full HTML sites. WAP sites load quickly but full HTML sites load slowly even over T-Mobile 3G. The web browser renders pages pretty close to the desktop layout with images intact and it has a full screen mode where you can browse web pages using a virtual mouse cursor. Mobile YouTube videos look quite good on the T-Mobile Tap and the player supports landscape playback. Streaming speeds over T-Mobile 3G are good when playing YouTube mobile videos and audio is in sync with video.
Music and Radio
The T-Mobile Tap is a decent music phone. It has a built-in music player that can play files in MP3, AAC, AAC+. eAAC+, MPEG4, WAV and MIDI formats. The phone’s speaker is loud and quite sharp when playing music, but it’s a little tinny. The T-Mobile Tap has a proprietary blade style connector for headsets instead of a 3.5mm audio jack, but thankfully it comes with a stereo headset that has good bass, but is lacking in treble and clarity. We tested tunes ripped from CD using iTunes (AAC) and Windows Media Player (MP3), and all played fine on the Tap. The touch screen phone has an SDHC microSD card slot that we tested with an 8 gig card, and it has built-in Bluetooth with A2DP wireless stereo support.
The T-Mobile Tap also has an FM Radio that uses the included headset as the antenna. The phone can scan for stations automatically and it gets a large number of stations in major metro areas. Audio sounds clear and loud when playing FM radio stations and you can listen to the radio either through the headset or through the speakerphone (but you must leave the headset connected since it’s the antenna).
GPS, TeleNav and Google Maps
The T-Mobile Tap has a built-in aGPS and works very well with Google Maps (free) and TeleNav (paid service), both pre-loaded on the phone. The GPS gets a strong signal and accurate position fixes. When working with TeleNav, the T-Mobile Tap was speedy at real time navigation, and turn-by-turn directions were right on target. Routing and re-routing were also speedy, and traffic info was mostly accurate. TeleNav offers 2D and 3D maps and they look good on the T-Mobile Tap, as long as the screen isn’t in strong sunlight. The phone’s speaker isn’t super loud but is good enough for voice directions over moderate road noise.
Google Maps loads at a decent speed though not super fast, and the satellite view takes a bit of time to download. Unlike TeleNav, Google Maps is free. While it doesn’t offer real time navigation, it does give you a satellite view of locations, on-screen directions and traffic info.
The T-Mobile Tap has a built-in 2 megapixel camera that can also shoot video with audio. The camera phone can take still photos in 5 resolutions and three quality levels. It offers white balance options, three color effects (normal, black & white and sepia), night shooting mode and a self timer. Perhaps the phone needs a camera software update because it takes bad photos even by 2 megapixel camera phone standards. The camera phone has problems with focus in some cases, and pictures look murky and lack sharpness and colors. Videos also look a little out of focus, but audio is in sync with video. The camera phone can take video in either QVGA or 176 x 144 resolution.
The T-Mobile Tap has a rechargeable Lithium Ion battery that’s 1150 mAh in capacity. The battery is good for up to 5 hours of talk time and 10 days of standby. Real time navigation using TeleNav and streaming video over the web accelerated the battery drain in our tests.
The T-Mobile Tap is a decent alternative to more expensive touch screen phones from Samsung and LG. It has many of the features found on higher end phones including a built-in aGPS, full HTML browser, Widget UI and an SDHC microSD card slot. If you don’t care about the camera quality or the hard-to-see screen in outdoor sunlight conditions, then the T-Mobile Tap can get you the goods at a cheaper price. But for those who do care about the camera performance and want a more solidly built touch screen phone, look for deals on the Samsung Highlight.
Pro: GPS works very well with Google Maps and TeleNav. Good mobile YouTube streaming.
Con: Camera takes terrible pictures. Screen is hard to see outdoors in the sun.
Price: $79.99 with a 2-year contract after discount and mail-in rebate.
Display: 2.8-inch touch screen, 240 x 320 resolution, 262K color TFT display.
Battery: Lithium Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable. 1150 mAh. Claimed talk time: up to 5 hours; claimed standby time: up to 10 days.
Performance: Contacts can store up to 1000 entries.
Size: 2.2 x 4.2 x 0.5 inches. Weight: 3.7 ounces.
Phone: GSM quad band 850/900/1800/1900MHz world phone with 3G HSDPA on T-Mobile's US bands: 1700/2100MHz.
Camera: 2 MP with video capturing capability. Still image resolutions: 1600 x 1200, 1024 x 768, 800 x 600, 640 x 480 and 320 x 240 pixels. Night mode and self timer.
GPS: Works with Google Maps and TeleNav (TeleNav requires a $10/month subscription).
Audio: Built in speaker, mic and blade style proprietary audio jack. A stereo headset is included with the phone. Music Player onboard for your MP3 pleasure, and can play music in MP3, AAC, AAC+. eAAC+, MPEG4, WAV and MIDI formats. FM Radio. Has vibrate alert and silent mode.
Networking: Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR. Supported profiles: Headset profile, Hands-free profile, A2DP, AVRCP, FTP and Serial port profile. USB 2.0.
Software: Widget-based UI and T-Mobile icon menu as well as T-Mobile MyFaves. Netfront HTML web browser and music player included. PIM tools include Contacts, Calendar, Alarm, Calculator, Converter, World Time, Stopwatch and Timer.
Expansion: 1 SDHC microSD card slot. Tested with up to 8 gig cards.
In the box: the T-Mobile Tap phone with standard battery, an AC charger, stereo headset, USB cable and printed manual.