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Samsung, we have a message for you: 2006 called and it wants its phone back. All right, maybe that's mean, but the fact remains that the Samsung SGH-T659 exhibits a design trend that was popular three years ago. And as features go, the SGH-T659 offers nothing that we haven't seen before. It's not a bad phone, and the 3G service is nice, though you're likely to confuse it with a gallery of Samsung handsets that came before it. But if you want it, you can find it at T-Mobile for $69 with service.
As we mentioned, there's nothing original about the T659's design. It's thin, it's silver, and it's a slider. It's hardly unattractive, but if you're looking for trendy and modern, you won't find it here. Of course, a slim profile does have its advantages. At 4.06 inches by 1.93 inches by 0.88 inch, the T659 fits easily into a pocket or bag. It's also relatively lightweight at 3.28 ounces. The slider mechanism is sturdy and the phone feels comfortable in the hand. The T659's 2.25-inch display is exactly what you'd expect. It supports 262,000 colors and an average resolution (320x240 pixels). Colors and graphics look fine and the menus are simple and easy to use. You can choose between a circle and grid design. The display is customizable--you can change the backlighting time, the brightness, and the font size, type, and color.
The T659 has a well-designed navigation array with a spacious layout. The circular toggle and central OK button are tactile and you can program the toggle to act as a shortcut to certain features. The remaining controls are flat, but they're not too slick. You'll find two soft keys, a clear button, and the Talk and End/power keys.
As on most slider phones, the keypad is flat. That wouldn't be a problem by itself, but the T659's keys are also slick. Dialing numbers was fine, but texting wasn't quite comfortable. On the upside, the numbers on the keys are relatively large and the backlighting is bright. The remaining exterior features include a tactile volume rocker and the microSD card slot on the left spine. Over on the right spine you'll find the camera shutter and the headset/charger jack. Unfortunately, the latter uses a proprietary connection and you can use only one peripheral at a time. The camera lens and self-portrait mirror are on the back of the slider. You must have the phone open to take a photo.
The T659 has a 1,000-entry phone book with room in each for four phone numbers, four e-mail addresses, three instant-messaging handles, a birthday and anniversary, a URL, a street address, and notes. You can save callers to groups and you can pair them with a photo and one of 21, 72-chord polyphonic ringtones. The SIM card holds an additional 250 contacts.
Basic features include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a speakerphone, a voice recorder, a calendar, an alarm clock, a task list, a memo pad, a calculator, a world clock, a timer, a stopwatch, a unit and currency converter, and a tip calculator. Beyond the basics you'll find an RSS reader, full Bluetooth with a stereo profile, instant messaging, GPS with access to Telenav services, PC syncing, and USB mass storage. The T659 also offers POP3 e-mail, but it requires a clunky Web-based interface.
The 2-megapixel camera takes pictures in four resolutions, from 1,600x1,200 down to 320x240. The selection of editing options is sufficient for a phone like the T659. You'll find three quality settings, a night mode, adjustable brightness, three white balance settings, spot metering, three color tones, a self-timer, and three shutter sounds plus a silent option. The camcorder shoots clips with sound in a 176x144 resolution. Editing options are similar to the still camera if a bit less plentiful. Clips meant for multimedia messages are capped at 45 seconds, but you can shoot for longer in standard mode.
When finished shooting you can save your clips and shots to the T659 or you can transfer them off the handset using Bluetooth or a message. You also can send an audio postcard. Internal memory is about 80MB, which is quite respectable, but you always can use a memory card for more storage space. Photo quality was pretty good for a 2-megapixel shooter--colors looked natural and there was a little noise. Just make sure that you have enough light since there's no flash.
The music player is fairly basic with a simple interface and controls. Features include an equalizer of sorts, an airplane mode, playlists, and shuffle and repeat modes. The T659 doesn't support album art but you can set visualizations. Music quality is tinny and flat over the external speaker. You're best off using a headset.
You can personalize the T659 with a selection of wallpaper, alert tones, and background colors. More options and additional ringtones are available from T-zones with the WAP browser. The handset comes with two games: Platinum Solitaire 2 and Brain Challenge 2. T-Mobile offers more titles for purchase.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) Samsung SGH-T659 world phone in San Francisco using T-Mobile service. Call quality was admirable. Conversations were clear and the signal was strong with little noticeable static. Voices sounded natural. Though, there was a slight amount of "GSM buzz." It mainly amounted to a background hum and we wouldn't characterize it as interference. The volume level was sufficient, except when we were in very loud places.
On their end callers said we sounded fine. For the most part they could tell that we were using a cell phone, but a couple of our friends didn't know. They also heard a slight GSM buzz, but for the most part, they didn't have significant problems. The experience wasn't quite as good when we called from a noisy place, though even then it wasn't a deal breaker. Automated calling systems could understand us as well, but we needed to be inside if we weren't going to repeat ourselves. Speakerphone calls were average. Voice quality on our end was distorted at the highest volume, and we had to speak close to the phone.
The SGH-T659 supports T-Mobile's AWS 3G network. That's a welcome feature even if the WAP browser doesn't put it to best use. Pages loaded in seconds--not that they wouldn't on a standard 2.5G connection--but the stripped-down Web pages don't make for the best browsing experience.
The SGH-T658 has a rated battery life of five hours talk time and 12.5 days standby time. Our tests showed a talk time of 5 hours and 27 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the SGH-T659 has a digital SAR of 0.733 watts per kilogram.