What's hot: Cool looking. Good messaging and web surfing speeds.
What's not: External display is subpar, menu structure isn’t consistent.
Reviewed August 2, 2009 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
Full QWERTY phones always sell well here in the U.S., and a full QWERTY with bright colors? Even better. With a chic pearl white casing and a bright red or purple keyboard (two colors are available), the Samsung Comeback t559 looks hip and attractive. In addition to the cool looks and full QWERTY keyboard, the phone has dual displays with a large landscape internal screen, built-in GPS that works with TeleNav, Bluetooth with A2DP, a 2 megapixel camera and a microSD card slot. The Samsung Comeback also works on T-Mobile’s 3G high-speed network and comes with the very capable Netfront web browser.
Compared to current QWERTY feature phones, the Samsung Comeback is much smaller than the giant Samsung Impression but slightly larger than the LG Xenon from AT&T. Measuring 4.33 x 2.20 x 0.73 inches, the Samsung Comeback is noticeably wider and thicker than the Samsung Gravity 2. But what really makes the Samsung Comeback stand out from the pack is the landscape flip that bears a resemblance to the T-Mobile Sidekick minus the swivel hinge. The Samsung Comeback is a good messaging phone, a very decent music player and an adequate GPS navigator.
The Samsung Comeback’s design is playful yet with a dash of elegance, and it doesn’t look like “just another QWERTY messaging phone”. The phone has some heft at 4.6 ounces and feels good in the hand, though it does scream “plastic”. The front external display is the smaller one of the dual display, and is 128 x 128 65K PMOLED screen that looks decent in sunlight as well as indoors. The front keypad has slim but wide number keys, and 6 menu keys flank the 5-day d-pad: shoulder menu keys, call send and call end buttons, camera launcher and the back key. The square d-pad is easy to control in most tasks including gaming.
Open the side flip to reveal the larger internal display that’s bright with 240 x 400 resolution and 262K colors. The QWERTY keyboard shares the space with another 5-way d-pad and 5 menu keys (call send, call end, messaging, camera and back). While the menu keys and the d-pad are large enough for most people, the keys on the QWERTY are on the slim side and folks with large fingers might find it hard to type fast on this keyboard. The four-row keyboard offers dedicated keys including “www/.com” for your web browsing convenience and an emoticon launcher. There are also two shoulder menu keys on the inside of the flip just above the keyboard, but oddly they live closer to the center instead of closer to the edges.
The Samsung Comeback has a mono rear-firing speakerphone next to the 2 megapixel camera on the back. The battery covers up both the SIM card slot and microSD card slot. So no hot swappable media cards for you! Side buttons only include the volume rocker and the charging/headset port. There is a strap holder for those who use charms on their phones.
Phone and Web
The GSM quad band + 3G Samsung Comeback doesn’t have very strong reception even in good coverage areas, but it never drops a call. Voice quality is good but not superb. The phone has an address book that can store up to 1,000 contacts and each contact entry can have 5 numbers, 4 email addresses, 3 IM addresses, notes, birthday/anniversary and more. You can also have 8 speed dial numbers. The Samsung Comeback has Nuance’s voice command software that works reliably, but there is no quick way to launch it. Oddly the application lives under Organizer menu and it takes 2-3 key presses to get to the application which isn’t idea for someone who is driving. The easiest way to launch it is via Bluetooth headset. We tested several Bluetooth headsets with the Samsung Comeback, and voice dialing via Bluetooth worked well. The Nuance voice command software can not only voice dial but also launch apps, find contacts for messaging and more.
As a messaging-centric phone, the Samsung Comeback supports SMS, picture messaging with the option to add audio (audio postcard), attaching video to messages, web-based email and IM. The phone comes with a good number of options to set up your message sending and receiving options, templates and more.
There are two ways you can navigate through the applications and launch the most used tools on the Samsung Comeback. With the flip open and the large internal display available, the Samsung Comeback offers a quick launch menu bar that can launch your inbox, the web browser, application list (games, TeleNav, Voice recognition, etc.), my account info and the music player with just one click. With the flip closed, you lose this handy quick launch menu bar on the smaller external screen. Instead you get a Menu key (left shoulder key) that launches a traditional menu structure. Menu labels are bit different in the traditional menu from the quick launcher menu, and all applications are grouped under either the Organizer or Media menu. The lack of consistency means more initial memorization, but it doesn’t ruin the phone’s user experience.
Music and GPS
The Samsung Comeback has a built-in media player that can play music in MP3, AAC/AAC+ as well as WMA and streaming audio formats. The mono speakerphone sounds average for music playback, but thankfully T-Mobile includes the wired stereo headset which has very good audio quality for music playback. The Samsung Comeback also works with Bluetooth stereo headsets via A2DP, and the audio quality is excellent via Bluetooth stereo with good clarity and strong bass. You can either store music on microSD cards using a card reader or copy music files via USB though the phone doesn’t come with a USB cable.
The Samsung Comeback has a GPS and the excellent TeleNav for real time navigation. It’s not free however ($9.99/month), but you get a free trial with the Comeback. The GPS gets fixes reasonably quickly and it gets accurate positions. Route calculation is speedy but the spoken turn-by-turn directions lag just a few seconds behind the real time location when driving at highway speeds. Voice guidance is right on target and you also get POIs searches and traffic reports.
The Samsung Comeback has a 2 megapixel camera with 2.5x digital zoom but no flash. The camera takes surprisingly good photos by 2 megapixel camera phone standards. Still images look sharp with accurate colors and pleasing contrast. Outdoor shots don’t have a lot of white out and indoor shots, even without a flash, have accurate colors and good exposure though more noise. The camera phone offers the usual white balance, effect settings andit has multi-shot mode. The Samsung can also record video with audio. The quality of the video clips is good for a non-camera-centric phone and playback is smooth with audio in sync with video.
The Samsung Comeback has a rechargeable Li-Ion battery (AB463651BA model) that’s 960 mAh in capacity. The claimed talk time is up to 5.5 hours and the claimed standby time is 12.5 days. Our test phone didn’t match the claimed battery life, getting about 4.5 hours of talk time and a week of standby on T-Mobile’s 3G network (GSM/EDGE should have better battery life). If you are consistently using the GPS with TeleNav the battery drains quite fast and the phone gets hot. But music playing hardly adds any extra load for the battery.
In the sea of QWERTY messaging phone on the U.S. market, the Samsung Comeback dares to look a little different; and T-Mobile subscribers who have been eyeing the LG enV3 for its form factor now have an answer in the Samsung Comeback. Like the enV series, the external display on the Samsung is nothing to write home about, but the main (inner display) is larger and brighter. The strong messaging features including push messages mean that the Samsung Comeback will compete with the Sidekick LX 2009. The 3G data speed and Netfront web browser make for a good web surfing experience. GPS plus TeleNav services, camera, music and mobile gaming make this a competitive mid-tier feature phone. We don’t dig the external display and people with large fingers won’t like the slim keys on the QWERTY keyboard.
Pro: Cool looks, though plasticky. Good internal display, HTML web browser, very good 3G speed for web surfing, messaging and app downloading. Nice to have TeleNav (though not free) to go with the phone’s built-in GPS.
Con: The keyboard has slim keys, and the external display looks grainy.
Price: $74.99 with a 2-year contract after discount and mail-in rebate. $249.99 without a contract.
Battery: Lithium Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable. 960 mAh.
Performance: 80MB internal memory. Phone book holds 1,000 entries.
Size: 4.33 x 2.20 x 0.73 inches. Weight: 4.6 ounces.
Phone: GSM quad band world phone with EDGE (850/900/1800/1900MHz) and 3G HSDPA on T-Mobile's US bands: 1700/2100MHz.
Camera: 2MP fixed focus lens with no flash. 2.5x digital zoom. Can shoot photos and video with audio (320 x 240 and 176 x 144 pixel resolutions).
Audio: Built in speaker, mic and Samsung blade stereo headphone jack. Stereo headset included. Has music player that supports MP3, WMA and AAC formats.
Networking: Integrated Bluetooth with headset, handsfree, A2DP stereo, serial port, FTP, basic printing, OBEX (object push), SIM access and DUN profiles.
Software: Traditional grid/rotating menu along with quick launch menu (on internal display mode only). Nuance voice command and voice dialing software included. Netfront 3.5 web browser, SMS/MMS messaging, web-bases email and Instant Messaging, calendar, contacts, tasks, Memo, media player, world clock, stopwatch, timer, file manager, RSS reader, TeleNav Navigator (trial version), alarm clock, calculator and unit converter.
Expansion: 1 SDHC microSD card slot compatible with cards up to 16 gigs.
In the box: the Samsung Comeback phone with standard battery, AC charger, wired stereo headset and printed manuals.