Entering text for SMS messages requires you to enter in the letters one by one via the ABC input method. You can turn on predictive text, however, which will help for faster messaging. The message interface also has a few stock reply templates like "Please reply" and "I'm in a meeting."
On the left side of the phone are the volume rocker and FM radio toggle, on the top is a small LED bulb that acts as the flashlight, and on the right are the flash light toggle, and the keypad lock toggle. The charger jack and 3.5mm headset jack are on the bottom. On the back is an SOS button, which is created specifically for an emergency. When you press it, the phone will text and dial up to five preprogrammed numbers until one is answered. If you don't program the phone, it'll automatically dial 911. While dialing, the phone will emit a very loud alarm.
As you might expect, there isn't a whole lot in way of features for this phone. The J509 does have a few basics, like text messaging, a speakerphone, a calculator, and an alarm clock. The phone book only holds 100 contacts, with the rest relegated to the SIM card. You can only have one number per contact.
As for alerts and sounds, you can customize incoming call ringtones, the alarm tone, and the SMS tone. For the ringtones and alarm tones, you have up to six choices, and another six choices for the SMS tones. You can also change the number keypad tone (two choices plus a silent option), and the sound the phone makes when it powers on and off. There's a vibrate mode as well.
You can check voice mail from the Just5 phone, but that depends on the network you're on. For T-Mobile, just press and hold the 1 key. For AT&T, you need to dial a certain number (it's 213-300-1059 according to Just 5), and then add that to your phone book for easier accessibility.
Another nice feature is the FM radio. Just toggle it on, and you can use the up-and-down toggle to tune to the desired station. Unlike other cell phones, you don't need to plug in a headset for the FM radio to work; you can just play it over the phone's speaker if you want.
We tested the Just 5 J509 (GSM 850/1,900) in San Francisco using both T-Mobile and AT&T SIM cards. Calls made over AT&T sounded choppy and muffled with a lot of static and crackling, whereas T-Mobile calls sounded much better, so we went with T-Mobile for the most part. On T-Mobile, we heard our callers loud and clear with hardly any background noise, and callers said they heard us clearly.
The Just5 J509 has a rated battery life of 1.7 hours talk time and six days standby time. The J509 had a disappointing talk time of 2 hours and 4 minutes.