As I mentioned in a previous segment of this review, the right soft key is coded to open the browser from the main menu screen, which is annoying if you accidentally press the button. Then you’ll have to quickly slide the phone shut to terminate the browser, but you’ll only have a couple of seconds before the first half unit of airtime is deducted.
Beyond that complaint, the next question that people most want to know about is whether the browser is restricted. And, in this case, the web is once again limited to what TracFone gives you on their mobile net – Downloads (for which you’ll pay using airtime units), Sports, Weather, Movies, News, Horoscopes, Lottery, and “My Stuff,” which as far as I can tell is another “downloads” section.
If you want to get to any “normal” website like ESPN, CNN, Facebook, etc., you’re out of luck. One strange thing is that from the browser home page, you can perform a search that turns up results outside of the restricted area. If you search for “Congress,” for example, you’ll get some results from house.gov and congress.org, along with an excerpt from each of those pages. But when you try to click on the link to those pages, you’ll get an error message stating “HHTP Error: 403 Forbidden.” So you can get a glimpse of things outside TracFone’s boundaries, but you’ll be unable to see the full picture.
One thing that I think is pretty cool about TracFone’s web, though, is the weather section. I’ve been able to put a shortcut in my favorites to the weather page, and now in a moment I can get the current conditions and 5-day outlook, and because I have saved a direct link it takes just half a unit to access the page because I’m not clicking around a lot to find the info I need.
I’ve also set up a direct link to my favorite MLB team page, where I can see current standings, the results of their two most recent games, including a very brief update of in-progress games, and links to game summary news stories for completed games. I’ve enjoyed this feature early in the baseball season.
The ‘tools’ menu is pretty much the same between the T101G and the T301G, so I’ll just post an excerpt from my T101G review to address the bulk of the tools on the 301 model:
The organizational tools are pretty standard among modern phones. The tools menu offers the following:
Calendar – This function offers quite a few features, with the ability to enter an appointment, anniversary (meaning a repeating event, I guess), task, or miscellaneous items. The calendar can then be viewed by day, week, month, or item type. The calendar can store up to 100 items, and repeating events (i.e. the same item occurs every day at the same time) take only one memory slot regardless of how many times it repeats. I did have a couple of minor gripes with this function, but they may not be of great importance to you: 1) I couldn’t find a way to set the default entry mode in the calendar subjects to be T9 entry. Every time I set a new calendar event, I had to switch to T9 before proceeding, and 2) I could not find a way to set a “snooze” function on the calendar events.
Calculator – This calculator is the easiest to use of any cell phone calculator I’ve ever used, mainly because each function is assigned to a specific key, and the map to those keys is displayed on the screen at all times. Also, the calculator allows for parentheses to be used, which means you can do some basic algebra on here if you really want to.
Tip Calculator – Enter the total cost of your meal, enter the tip percentage you want applied, and then enter the number of people splitting the bill (if applicable). The calculator then will determine the amount to be paid by each party.
Converter – Another very handy feature. Convert between different units of Currency (although I’m not sure how the phone determines conversion rates on this one), length, weight, volume, area, and temperature.
Timer – Enter a time and the timer will count down, alerting you when the time as elapsed.
Stopwatch – Count-up type timer, with up to 30 splits possible.
World time – Find out what time it is around the world.
SIM app. – I haven’t played around with this yet because I didn’t want to risk disabling my TracFone, but this appears to be the function that can unlock the phone for use on other services. With TracFone or Net10, though, it’s important to note that if this feature is indeed functional, there will be no going back to TracFone/Net10 if you do unlock it. Anyway, I suspect that the phone cannot really be unlocked, as has been the case with all phones released by TracFone or Net10 in the last two or three years.
There are also two tools that are not available on the 101 model:
Alarms – This function has its own main menu listing on the T101G. On either phone, you can set up to 5 different alarms, with the option of making it repeat for any combination of days you choose. You also have the option of changing the tone from 5 pre-loaded tones (but not custom tones), and unlike the “calendar” function, you do have the option of settingup a snooze.
Notes – You can use this tool to record notes of up to 1000 characters, which is about two fairly long paragraphs of text. The T301G also offers the option of sending the note as a MMS message, but I can’t see any reason for doing it that way rather than just sending multiple text messages, which would still end up being cheaper than sending a single MMS message. And for that matter, the voice recording tool, which I’ll discuss next, seems like it would be more usefull than keying in a note for just about all situations I could imagine.
Audio Recording – This isn’t actually on the tools menu. In fact, it’s rather well-hidden, in the My folder > Audio sub menu, but I always like to have this option on a phone. This option opens up a lot of possibilities; for example, I like to use it to record short reminders to myself, such as “ don’t forget to buy X, Y, and Z at the grocery store.”
And in certain circumstances, you might want to record a message and then send it to someone as an MMS message. Keep in mind that MMS messages can also be sent to email addresses, which creates another possibility of getting in touch. One thing that comes to mind here is that emailing an audio MMS to an overseas friend might be cheaper and/or more convenient than making an international call. In my testing, an audio recording of roughly 60 seconds cost 1.5 units to send to my own email address.
Another thing for which you might wish to use recorded audio is for home-made ringtones. In my limited testing, the audio quality produced when trying to record music was pretty bad, but the song was at least recognizable. You might also like to use it to record your own voice or the voice of a loved one, to use as a ringtone.
And of course, I couldn’t complete this review without discussing the games available on this model. Both the T201G and the T201G lack games completely, so it’s worth noting that the Samsung T301G has two games available. Sudoku is the standard number puzzle game that’s available on many recent TracFone/Net10 handsets. Jumpboy is a horizontal scroller game in which you try to maneuver the character from one platform to the next by conrolling the height and angle of his jump. I don’t find it particularly entertaining, to tell the truth. I’ve also seen in the past that TracFone offers downloadable games for some models. At this time, however, none are available for the T301.
Speaking of ringtones, there are 15 pre-recorded ringtones on this model, all of which are pretty basic. But it does support TracFone’s downloadable mp3 ringtones. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to figure out a way to get your own mp3 tones onto this model, having tried email, bluetooth, and data cable. So if you’re into that you’ll have to go with the LG 600g, which can receive .amr audio files via bluetooth.
If you want really loud ringtones, I think the default tones on the w376g or the w370 are louder than on the t301g. The default tones on the 301 are adequate for my needs, but I can see how others might prefer louder tingers. Of course, there is also the possibility of recording your own tone, so if the default or downloadable tones aren’t loud enough for you, you could record your own voice and set that as your ringtone.
I’ve seen several reiterations of a rumor that the t301 has 128 mb of internal storage, but that is not true. My phone has about 3800 kb, or a little less than 4 mb. This should be plenty, though, to store the ringtones, audio recordings, and pictures you’ll accumulate on your phone. If the phone had an mp3 player, which was also rumored, the low memoy would be a concern. But 3800 kb should be enough to store a handful of ringtones and dozens of pictures and voice recordings.
Another thing that I wanted to point out is that the Samsung T301G manual is terrible. The printed manual that came with the phone left me with a lot of questions, so I went to the web to look for more comprehensive instructions. I downloaded it from both TracFone’s site and Samsung’s and the only thing I could find was a PDF that is 4 pages total. Everything in there you could pretty much figure out on your own, but it doesn’t answer any of the difficult questions for which you might actually want to consult the manual.
Finally, I mentioned previously that I had purchased a Samsung data cable to attempt to use it with this phone. The cable fit perfectly into the charging/data port on my T301G, but the Samsung software that came with the cable told me that my phone doesn’t support any of the services provided by the software. Perhaps there’s another type of software available that will work for this phone, but I haven’t found it yet. On the bright side, at least the cable worked to charge my phone from the USB port.
In conclusion, I like the design and looks of this phone, as well as the ease of text messaging. However, I was disappointed with the call quality, signal reception, and the lack of any option for connecting to a PC for data transfer.
LG 600g, Samsung T301G, and Motorola w376g
As I’m writing this, the Samsung T301G is $20 more than the Motorola w376g, which has superb call quality and reception. So if you’ll be using your new phone mainly for voice calls, I would suggest you save yourself $20 and go with the Motorola.
If you’re trying to compare the LG 600g and the Samsung T301g, the decision is a little more difficult. I really like the ability of the LG to connect to a PC (or some other phones) via bluetooth, something that the T301 cannot do. On voice quality and ease of texting, these two models are pretty close, and at this time the pricing is identical. So, I’d give the edge to the LG due to the unrestricted bluetooth, but if that doesn’t matter to you I guess it comes down to personal preference in terms of appearance.
Another option is to wait on the arrival of the Motorola EM326g, a slider phone that many suspect might offer an mp3 player, or the LG 401g, a phone that I don’t know much about. Actually, we don’t know much about either of these phones, but I expect that we will be able to get our hands on at least one, if not both, of them by the end of the summer.
If you’re shopping for a new TracFone right now, though, I’d suggest you evaluate your needs and decide between the w376g and the 600g. (For an old article I wrote to compare the LG 600g and the Motorola w376g, click here.) The Samsung T301G just doesn’t offer any significant advantages over either of those models, in my opinion. Click here to see what models are available in your area.
What do you think? I welcome your comments if you agree with me, and especially if you don’t. Use the comments section to share your opinion or ask questions about anything that I haven’t covered. Several readers have already submitted questions, and I’ll try to answer those in a future post.