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Samsung Galaxy i7500 review

Dave Oilver


We review the Galaxy i7500, Samsung's first Android-based smartphone

Rating:

Verdict: Samsung's first Android is just the latest in its series of nice-looking but underperforming touchscreen smartphones.

Price: Free with contract or £440 SIM-free

Pros: OLED screen, 8MB onboard memory, WiFi, GPS, HSDPA 3G, 3.5mm audio jack plug

Cons: Poor battery life, irritating lock system

Design: Slim, black, shiny = macho

Operating System: Android 1.5

More Info:
Samsung website

For a while there, HTC seemed to have Google's Android operating system all to itself. But now others are getting in on the act, including Samsung's first attempt, the Galaxy.

It's a slim handset at just 116mm x 56mm x12mm and 117g with a largish 3.2in OLED touchscreen and sleek black good looks that’s very much in keeping style-wise with Samsung's Jet. It also has a five-megapixel camera, HSDPA 3G, WiFi, GPS and a hefty 8GB of onboard memory.

Handset

Beneath the screen are the usual call start and stop buttons, plus return, menu and teensy home buttons arranged around an odd, mouth-shaped D-pad. The button system isn't particularly intuitive – pressing the call end key won't necessarily take you back to the home screen for instance (the very small home key is just above it) and it has the annoying habit of locking the screen automatically, requiring you to press and hold the dedicated unlock key on the side, which can take up to four seconds, depending on what's running. This soon became very irritating, especially as there's no way to reset the automatic lock. Around the sides are the aforementioned unlock key, camera shutter and volume rocker, with a mini USB slot covered by a plastic gromit and a 3.5mm headphone jack on top.

Interface

Many liked Samsung's TouchWiz UI with its quirky widgets but it has to be said that Android's is better – easier to use, more varied, and more intuitive. We had thought they might have tried to combine the two, but they seem to have been content to simply load up the standard Android interface, albeit with the addition of a Switchers widget, which gives you quick on-off access to WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth and auto-sync functions. The fact that you can download and add function widgets to each of the three home screens from the Android Market is another one up on TouchWiz, plus the fact that you can drag and drop any of the icons from the menu onto the screen.

Screen

The 3.2in OLED touchscreen certainly delivers on clarity and sharpness, but we got the feeling it's just not as sensitive as some of the other Android phones out there, notably the HTC Hero and the Motorola DEXT, let alone the iPhone. It isn't as quick to distinguish between a brush and a press, and it occasionally lagged a little too much when we were browsing the menus.

Browser

The Android web browser is pretty good, as usual, but it could have been better if, for instance, the volume buttons could have been used for zooming (you'll have to press and hold the screen until the zoom buttons appear). The 1x button allows you to snap back to the original size and there's a button to activate the magnifier pane, which you can scroll around a page until you find the bit you want.

The menu button also calls up bookmarks, new window, forward (you need the hard back button to get to the previous page) and text search, plus you can copy and paste and share pages directly by email (or Facebook, or Twitter, if you have them).

Samsung's virtual keyboard is a bit of a disappointment though. The portrait version is very cramped, and depending on the application, you can't always use the onboard accelerometer to switch it to landscape mode.

Camera

The five-megapixel camera includes autofocus and flash and takes about four seconds to launch, plus another two to take a pic – not great but not bad. You can half-press the shutter button to set the focus then give it a full press to take your pic. There's nothing in the way of features, not even a digital zoom, and the picture quality isn't as good as we'd hoped. Colours are a bit too rich and it has some issues with light saturation – we've certainly seen better five-megapixel cameras.

Media

Videos look great on the bright and sharp OLED screen though it doesn't have much in the way of extras and there are no options for resizing videos to fit the screen's dimensions. It will play MP4, H.263, H.264 and WMV video files and MP3, e-AAC+, WMA, Ogg Vorbis and Real Audio music files. There's a healthy 8GB of memory onboard, plus the option to add another 32GB via microSD card.

The music player is okay quality-wise but its menu system can be a little convoluted and fiddly to find your way around – Apple's had it sussed for years, it's not exactly reinventing the wheel, is it? It also plays a strange jingle when you insert or remove the headphones (or sync it to your PC) which becomes increasingly distressing each time you hear it – or is that just us?

Battery

Battery life on the Samsung Galaxy isn't great; in fact it's surprisingly poor considering it's supposed to have an energy-saving OLED screen. We barely managed a day of fairly moderate use.

The fact that Samsung has released an Android phone is cause for celebration, but it's a shame they haven't really done much with it, as we've seen with the customised versions on the HTC Hero with its Sense UI and the Motorola DEXT with its Motoblur social networking innovations. We liked the sharp screen and the browser is okay, but the camera is a disappointment as is the paltry battery life. It's unlikely that Samsung will rest on the meagre laurels it garners from this so-so phone though, so we'll expect to see some big Android-shaped improvements in the near future.

 

 

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Samsung's first Android-enabled phone


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