Samsung SCH-W559 (Unlocked)

The Samsung SCH-W559 is a unique touch screen phone that provides tactile feedback in the form of tiny vibrations. Read our first take for more details.

Nicole Lee Former Editor
Nicole Lee is a senior associate editor for CNET, covering cell phones, Bluetooth headsets, and all things mobile. She's also a fan of comic books, video games, and of course, shiny gadgets.
Nicole Lee
3 min read

Editor's note: The Samsung SCH-W559 is usable only in Europe, Asia, and Africa. It will not work in North America

One of the biggest gripes we have with the current crop of touch screen phones has been the lack of tactile feedback. Though we're still waiting for the Apple iPhone, our experience with the NEC N908 tells us that manipulating a touch screen phone takes quite a bit of getting used to--you can't dial by feel and texting can be a pain. The Samsung SCH-W559 attempts to solve this problem, however, with the integration of Immersion's VibeTonez technology that provides tactile feedback in the form of tiny vibrations. While it's not quite perfect, it is a step in the right direction. Combined with the W559's multimedia feature set and its support for both GSM and CDMA networks, this is one phone that is sure to be a conversation piece. The price is $150 but as noted above, it isn't compatible with U.S. cellular networks.

At first glance, the Samsung SCH-W559 resembles an ordinary slider phone like the Samsung SGH-T629. Clad head to toe in silver, it measures a very slim 3.56 by 1.9 by 0.54 inches and weighs a lightweight 3.17 ounces. Yet, as you attempt to open the W559, you'll notice it is actually a candy bar phone without a keypad. Its impressive 2.2-inch display is one large touch screen, with all inputs done via your fingers or the included stylus. The stylus is attached via a charm-like lanyard off the corner of the phone, which became quite annoying after awhile--it was often in the way when we were answering calls. We would've preferred it if Samsung had incorporated the stylus into the design of the phone, rather than include it as an accessory.

As we said previously, the integration of VibeTones sets the W559 apart from other touch screen phones we've tried. The technology causes the display to vibrate whenever you touch a menu option or a virtual key, thus giving tactile feedback. You even can adjust the level of vibration--from a soft gentle shake to a full-on rumble. Though this is a step in the right direction in getting feedback from a touch screen phone, it doesn't quite work the way we want. For one thing, you still can't dial by feel--it's still mandatory to look at the phone while you're dialing since there aren't any textural differences between different keys. Also, texting should still be done with the stylus rather than the finger--we messed up way too often otherwise because of the tiny keys on the virtual keyboard. We also had more success using the handwriting mode of writing out text messages, which is similar to the Graffiti style used on the Palm Treo smart phones.

While the W559's vibrating touch screen is certainly a conversation starter, it packs quite a wallop in phone and multimedia features too. Basic features include text and multimedia messaging, voice commands, an alarm clock, a world clock, a calendar, a calculator, a unit converter, a dictionary, memo, PC sync, voice recording, a sketch pad, a microSD card slot, a wireless Web browser, Bluetooth 2.0, and a vibrate mode. It also comes with a 1.3-megapixel camera with video recording and video playback functionality and an MP3 player.

The W559 has both GSM and 3G capabilities. It utilizes CDMA 2000 and is provisioned through a hidden R-UIM slot. It also has two SIM slots in the back so you can switch between two GSM carriers. Unfortunately, the phone does not support GSM 850/1900, so it will not work in North America. Once we receive a full review of the phone from our colleagues over at CNET Asia, we'll be sure to link to the final verdict.