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Samsung SGH-T249 - black (T-Mobile) review: Samsung SGH-T249 - black (T-Mobile)

Samsung SGH-T249 - black (T-Mobile)

Jessica Dolcourt Senior Director, Commerce & Content Operations
Jessica Dolcourt is a passionate content strategist and veteran leader of CNET coverage. As Senior Director of Commerce & Content Operations, she leads a number of teams, including Commerce, How-To and Performance Optimization. Her CNET career began in 2006, testing desktop and mobile software for Download.com and CNET, including the first iPhone and Android apps and operating systems. She continued to review, report on and write a wide range of commentary and analysis on all things phones, with an emphasis on iPhone and Samsung. Jessica was one of the first people in the world to test, review and report on foldable phones and 5G wireless speeds. Jessica began leading CNET's How-To section for tips and FAQs in 2019, guiding coverage of topics ranging from personal finance to phones and home. She holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).
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Jessica Dolcourt
5 min read


Samsung SGH-T249 - black (T-Mobile)

The Good

The Samsung SGH-T249's expandable memory slot, music player, and camcorder make it a bargain at $50 for a prepaid handset. Shiny royal blue accents add style.

The Bad

The SGH-T249's body and buttons feel cheap, and reading text is a pixelated experience on the phone's small screen. There's a shared Micro-USB port for charging the phone and plugging in a headset.

The Bottom Line

The Samsung SGH-T249 is a nice-looking prepaid phone that offers basic services for an affordable price.

Just last year we called the precursor to the Samsung T249 (SGH-T249) a retro design for its large circular navigation toggle, slim body, and vertical sliding face. However, even if cell phone design has come a long way, this phone is easy to use, and it can handle calls and multimedia messaging for a low cost. The T249 is also a lighter, leaner version of its prepaid T-Mobile sibling, the Samsung SGH-T369, down to its dimensions, hardware and software features, and price. The $49.99 handset is a great value for a phone you can pick up without a contract or credit check.

Editors' note: Due to identical features in the Samsung T249 and the Samsung T369, some sections of the review come from our Samsung T369 review.

The Samsung T249 may not have a lot of brawn or brain, but we will say this--it's not a bad-looking phone. Shiny navy blue accents offset a glossy black face and the matte black spines and backing. There's also an impression of tapering, which keeps the handset from looking blocky. The T249 is 3.9 inches tall, 1.9 inches wide, and 0.6 inch thick. Its 3.2 ounce body is light but didn't strike us as being wispy.

The Samsung SGH-T249 is a compact little number with a royal blue trim.

The T249's 1.7-inch display has a 220x176-pixel resolution and supports 65,000 colors. Colors are bright and graphics and photos look relatively sharp on the small screen, although text doesn't always render crisply. Navigating the menu interface is easy in either the list or grid style, and you can also personalize the dialing font size and color, and the backlighting time. Below the screen are two soft keys, the Talk and End keys, and the Clear key. There's a large circular navigation array comprising a central Select button bordered by a four-directional rim.

The phone face slides up to reveal a numeric dialpad. The keys are pretty flat, which is typical for a vertical slider phone, but the trade-off is that they're harder to press. While the backlit buttons are separated, they're still too close to dial by feel effectively. The slider mechanism itself snaps into place, but we can rock it from side to side when the phone is open.

On the right spine is a dedicated camera button that protrudes from the side. Though it feels a bit cheap, it's easy to trigger the camera. There's also a shared Micro-USB charging port and headset jack. We generally frown on such a combo with phones that include music players, for the dual reasons that it requires an extra headset adapter and that you can't simultaneously charge your phone while cranking out tunes. On the left spine there's a volume rocker and a microSD card slot that holds a 16GB memory card. On the back is a 1.3-megapixel camera-plus-camcorder.

The T249's address book fits 1,000 contacts, and an additional 250 names can be stored in the SIM card. There's room in each entry for multiple phone numbers, an e-mail address, a note, and a group calling ID. You can pair a contact with a photo ID, and also with one of 20 polyphonic ringtones, or with a variety of other music and sounds.

A simple prepaid handset, the T249 doesn't stray far beyond the basics. There's a calendar, an alarm, a to-do list, a notepad, a calculator and tip calculator, a world clock, a unit converter, a timer, and a stopwatch. There's also a voice recorder. Text messaging, audio postcards, photo messaging, and instant messaging using AIM, Windows Live Messenger, and Yahoo Messenger are the phone's communication tools.

Web browsing comes in the form of a branded Web2Go WAP browser. Unsurprisingly, surfing is slow over 2.5G speeds, and the tiny screen and cramped, branded layout make surfing cumbersome. We wouldn't exactly take this browser for a joyride.

The vertical slider reveals a numbered keypad.

On the multimedia side, there's a simple music player that will work with songs you transfer over, though there's no T-Mobile music store. You can create up to 10 playlists on the T249 and can use the shuffle option. Again, the shared Micro-USB headset jack and charging port means you'll need to outfit the phone with a separate adapter if you're going to play tunes through your headphones.

The T249 has a 1.3-megapixel camera, a 16GB microSD card slot, and a music player. There's no dedicated headset jack.

A 1.3-megapixel camera does single, mosaic, and multishot modes in five resolutions (1,280x960; 1,024x768; 800x600; 640x480; 320x240). There are three timer modes, five lighting presets, and five color effects. You'll find three shutter sounds and various other settings. Photos are a bit blurry and unfocused, which is about what you'd expect for a 1.3-megapixel camera. They get the job done.

Photos are passable on the T249, but don't sell your point-and-shoot camera.

The camcorder records video in three resolutions (176x144; 160x120; 128x96.) You can optimize video for multimedia messages; they'll last about 30 seconds, give or take. All other video settings are identical to the camera options. Video playback is choppy on the T369, which is expected for a 1.3-megapixel recorder. There's 100MB internal memory on board and, again, an option for 16GB expandable memory--you'll need to buy your own.

The T249 comes with three Java games preloaded--two are demos. You can buy more online from the T-Mobile store, along with ringtones and other apps. As with other cell phones, you can further customize the T249 with wallpaper, a theme, and a greeting message when the phone boots up.

We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) Samsung T249 in San Francisco using T-Mobile's network. Call quality was everything you could hope for. Voices came through loud and clear, with strong tones and no crackles or other sounds of muffling, echo, or distortion. Our callers agreed and added that it sounded as though we were speaking from a wired phone. Speakerphone was also very good, with strong volume and clarity for the feature. We didn't detect any hissing, blips, or other fuzziness.

Samsung T249 call quality sample
Listen now:

2.5G EDGE data speeds on the T249 contributed to a more plodding Web experience than we're used to on 3G and 4G handsets, but in all fairness the phone was never intended for heavy-duty surfing. You'll get to your site eventually.

The Samsung T249 has a rated battery life of up to 4.5 hours and a standby time of 13 days. It has a tested talk time of 5 hours and 12 minutes. According to FCC tests, the T249 has a SAR of 0.51.


Samsung SGH-T249 - black (T-Mobile)

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 6Performance 7