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Samsung SGH-T259 - blue (T-Mobile) review: Samsung SGH-T259 - blue (T-Mobile)

Samsung SGH-T259 - blue (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).
Expertise Content strategy, team leadership, audience engagement, iPhone, Samsung, Android, iOS, tips and FAQs.
Jessica Dolcourt
6 min read


Samsung SGH-T259 - blue (T-Mobile)

The Good

The Samsung T259 has strong call and speakerphone quality, e-mail access, and room for 32GB expandable memory.

The Bad

We're not fans of the Samsung T259's squared-off edges, or the shared headphone and charger jack.

The Bottom Line

The Samsung T259's intuitive design, excellent call quality, and affordable price make it a good choice for someone in search of a simple handset.

Every carrier needs a good flip phone on its roster, and for T-Mobile, the Samsung T259 fits the bill. This 3G world phone resembles its clamshell cousins on other carriers, like the Samsung Contour and the Samsung SPH-M360, but with an edgier, sharper design that compromises comfort somewhat. Call quality is excellent, however, and the speakerphone is pleasantly loud. There are enough software features to satisfy those looking for a simple phone with one or two extras, but there is a design flaw--a shared headset and Micro-USB jack that Samsung should have addressed better on a phone with a music player. However, the requirement for an adapter isn't enough to put us off the affordable handset. Indeed, $29.99 after an instant rebate is a great price for this reliable communicator.

Blockier and less streamlined than the Samsung Contour, the T259 flip phone is still portable. Surfaces are a glossy, midnight-blue plastic of the smudge-prone variety. The phone is also mostly comfortable to hold--the one exception being the flip-up face. Its two squared edges clash with the rest of the phone's rounded corners and lines, and make the T259 feel unfinished. Beyond that, the T259's dimensions are right at 3.9 inches tall, 1.9 inches wide, and 0.7-inch thick. It weighs 3.3 ounces.

Though it resembles many other flip phones, the Samsung T259 has an edged face we could do without.

On the phone's front is a 2-megapixel camera that doubles as a camcorder. There's also a 1.3-inch external CSTN display with a 128x128-pixel resolution. You can swap the wallpaper to show either a clock or an image. If you choose a digital clock style, you'll also see information like the date, signal strength, and a battery life meter. The external screen also will flash incoming caller IDs and display the number of missed calls and texts.

Flipping up the phone isn't difficult once you work your thumb between the two faces, but we've had an easier time on other models. Thankfully, Samsung has used a thick plastic hinge we've seen before. It may not be especially stylish, but it endows the handset with a sense of durability.

The 2.2-inch TFT internal display has a 240x320-pixel QVGA resolution that looks appropriately bright and sharp. The menus are intuitively laid out and the numbers are large when you dial. You can change the font type, size, and color, and can also customize the background color.

Beneath the display is a generously sized navigation array that includes two soft keys and a four-directional navigation pad (D-pad) with a central OK button. The T259 is chockablock with shortcuts--there are two programmable shortcut keys and a shortcut for each direction you toggle the D-pad while you're on the home screen.

The navigation buttons, Talk and End keys, clear keys, and dial pad are all spacious and comfortable. Buttons aren't fully separated, so it isn't very easy to dial by feel, although we would recommend the T259 for someone looking for easy-to-see and easy-to-press keys. The pound key also turns on vibrate mode.

Although it's a fairly simple phone, there are a few multimedia extras on the T259 that are reflected in the phone's external features, like the camera trigger button on the right spine. Unfortunately, Samsung only provided one Micro-USB jack, which has to do double duty as a charging port and headphone jack if you intend to make use of the music player within. As such, you'll need to pick up an extra adapter to use headphones with a standard 3.5-millimeter connector. The T259 has a volume rocker on the left spine, as well as a microSD card slot that takes up to 32GB expandable memory. We like the easy access.

Making phone calls is the T259's focus, but that doesn't mean there isn't a decent set of essential features inside. There's space for 1,000 entries in the T259's address book, with fields for multiple phone numbers, an e-mail address, a home address, a birthday reminder, and a note. You can also associate a caller with a group, a photo, or one of 19 polyphonic ringtones.

An array of shortcut keys complements the T259's large, easy-to-press dial-pad buttons.

Basic tools include a calendar, an alarm clock, notes, a to-do list, a calculator, a tip calculator, a world clock, a converter, and a timer. There's also a stopwatch, an RSS reader, and voice commands.

Text and multimedia messaging are the typical conduits of written communication, but Web mail is also an option. A Social Buzz app connects you to your Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace accounts. You'll also want a data plan to use this app and others, or charges will mount quickly.

T-Mobile's Web2Go browser attends to your Internet needs as best it can, with a customizable, widget-based home page that quickly routes you to the weather, headline news, sports scores, and so on. It's no high-powered browser and it's not meant to be, but it will work in a pinch for visiting sites. In our opinion the widgets work best, or the Google search bar for launching queries. It took about 8 seconds for CNET's Web-optimized site to load over 3G and about 12 seconds to load over EDGE (that's with very sketchily rendered photos in both cases).

Our studio shot looks pinkish-gray through the T259's lens, and not very vibrant.

Cameras don't always make an appearance on straightforward cell phones like this, but we're very glad to see that the T259 has one. The 2-megapixel lens isn't going to wow anyone with its grainy and dull photos, but the pictures could be worse and the subjects were discernible. The same goes for the quality of the camcorder, especially since 320x240 pixels is the highest of two resolutions.

At least the numerous camera and video settings help boost image quality. There are five shooting modes, four photo resolutions (from 320x240 pixels to 1,600x1,200 pixels), five white-balance settings, five color effects, night mode, a self-timer, and other various options. Camcorder settings are similar, with the exception of the low resolution and the option to limit the video to about 30 seconds for sending as a multimedia message. There's 80MB of internal memory for all that multimedia, and there's that card slot for 32GB expandable memory.

There is one other multimedia option on the T259: the bare-bones MP3 player that can crank out tunes you've installed on your microSD card or stored on the phone. Controls include play, pause, back, and forth. The player displays album art when available. You can rate tracks and add them to a playlist on the fly, plus play the song through a Bluetooth stereo headset. That may be necessary if you don't have a Micro-USB adapter for your headphones. As we mentioned above, you have only the shared jack to use.

Games, wallpaper, ringtones, and other items of customization are available via the T-Mobile Mall, which you can find in the Menu options.

We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; GPRS) Samsung T259 in San Francisco using T-Mobile's network. Call quality was impressive on both ends of the line. Voices sounded consistently natural and comfortably loud, perhaps a tad muffled on our end. The call clarity was likewise clear, without any background noise, feedback, or digital distortion during both indoor and outdoor calls. One caller described the T259 as "one of the best-sounding cell phones" he's heard, and mentioned it was clear enough to be a landline. We did experience two dropped calls in low-coverage zones, however, with the error being on our end both times.

Speakerphone was also loud and clear. There were the typical tininess and hollow character you can expect from having a rear-facing speaker spill out into an open area, but we could easily carry on long conversations over the T259's speakerphone.

Samsung T259 call quality sample
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The T259 has a rated battery life of 4.5 hours of talk time and 12.5 days of standby time. It has a talk time of 4 hours and 48 minutes in our tests. It has a digital SAR of 0.53 watts per kilogram, according to FCC radiation tests.


Samsung SGH-T259 - blue (T-Mobile)

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 7