Samsung Wave review
We review Samsung's Wave smartphone which includes bada, the company's brand new operating system.
Verdict: A top-quality smartphone with a brand new operating system.
Pros: SuperAMOLED screen, bada OS, 5 megapixel camera, 1GHz processor
Cons: A few quirks in the OS
Design: Slim touchscreen smartphone
Operating System: bada
More Info: Samsung website
With Google's Android making serious inroads into the smartphone operating system market, and Symbian and Windows down, if not quite out, now would seem to be a risky time for anyone to be launching a brand new operating system. The thought seems not to have occurred to Samsung however, which launches its new bada OS with the Wave, a premium handset which also features a striking OLED screen, powerful 1GHz processor and 5 megapixel camera.
The Wave feels like a premium handset, with metallic casing trimmed with glossy black plastic at the top and bottom. Beneath the screen are stylised call start and stop buttons surrounding a diamond-shaped menu key. The sides have slivery volume rocker plus screen lock and camera buttons while the top has a loudspeaker, a conveniently placed 3.5mm headphone jack and a micro USB power/sync slot protected by a quality sliding cover. On the back is the 5 megapixel camera lens and single LED flash, both of which sport the same diamond shape as the menu button on the front.
Operating system and user interface
The bada operating system (it means 'ocean' in Korean, Samsung tells us) is the key to Samsung's plans to give all its future handsets smartphone status. Even the most lowly budget models should be able to improve themselves via access to the Samsung Apps store, which is looking a little anaemic at present, but has potential to grow.
Strictly speaking, bada is a platform based on a Linux kernel and seems to work quickly enough, no doubt due in part to the 1GHz processor on board. The user interface owes a lot to Samsung's TouchWiz interface, albeit with a few tweaks. The widgets are bigger and with more features, and they're pulled from a menu at the bottom of the screen rather than the side. When you pull them on to the home screen, if there isn't enough room, the handset will automatically introduce another one, up to a maximum of ten. Strangely though, if you decide to downsize at a later date, the various screens remain, even if you delete all the widgets from them, which seems like a quirk that should be fixed.
The menu button calls up three pages of functions which you can arrange in any order you wish but unfortunately you can't add them to any of your home pages, which is a shame.
One of the menu options is Social Hub, which attempts to bring together all your Facebook and Twitter updates along with your emails and text messages. It's not quite as fulfilling as Motorola's Motoblur or Sony Ericsson's Timescape, which collect all your updates together in a single stream. In Samsung's version you'll need to open each application individually but at least you can pull all your contact info from your Facebook and Twitter accounts into your phone book.
The large 3.3in SuperAMOLED capacitive screen is a bit of a gem. It's extremely sharp, bright and clear with 480 x 800-pixel WVGA resolution, and proved to be nicely sensitive to the difference between brushes and presses. It supports multitouch too, so you can intuitively pinch to zoom in and out of pictures and web pages.
The Wave is well connected with both WiFi and HSDPA 3G (7.2Mbps) on offer for fast Internet access. Zooming is easy thanks to the screen's pinch-to-zoom capability and a single touch brings up a menu offering search, bookmarks, multiple pages, text search and image filtering.
There's a YouTube app on board which worked much better than attempts to access the site through the browser – although it supposedly supports Flash, we couldn't actually get our test sample to do so.
The 5 megapixel camera on board isn't at the top of Samsung's photography tree but it's a quality snapper nonetheless. Maximum resolution is 2,560x1,920 pixels and there are a few clever features such as smile detection, multi-shot (up to nine quick pics), and panorama, which automatically stitches four pics together as you turn the camera. Colours are realistic and edging is sharp, with a minimum of the dreaded purple fringing.
There's HD video recording on offer too (1280x720), as well as the option to shoot in slow motion.
Watching films on the sharp OLED screen is a treat and there are three options to expand the frame so it best fits the screen, whatever the format, with MPEG4, H.264, WMV as well as DivX and XviD all catered for.
Music is equally well served, with a hidden menu offering such niceties as virtual surround sound, shuffle and track info popping up when you tap the screen. Audio quality is pretty good through the supplied headphones, though it's easy to upgrade them thanks to the 3.5mm jack and stereo Bluetooth capability. There's an FM radio with RDS on board too, plus the ability to record direct from the wireless.
The 2GB of onboard memory is decent enough though you can add up to 32GB to this via microSD card – none comes as standard though.
Unsurprisingly with such a high-spec handset, battery life is less than amazing, though we did manage to get a little over a day of quite heavy use out of it.
The Samsung Wave marks a striking debut for its new bada system, which on this evidence looks like a credible alternative to the big players. The screen is terrific and the camera better than we might have expected from the spec list. Social networking has at least been addressed, though not quite as well as some of Samsung's competitors, notably Sony Ericsson and Motorola, and music and video are well catered for. All in all it's a quality media-centred handset that deserves to do very well.