The thing is that the Android OS, much like any other, is quite bland at face value and could definitely use a better UI. While HTC is the only one that finds this a ‘sensible‘ option the others are still working it out. The i7500 or Samsung Galaxy is the third Android handset to hit the Indian market and Samsung’s first. Having already had some experience with the OS from HTC’s Magic and Hero devices it was interesting to see what Samsung would offer that set it apart from those two. Here’s what I think.
First off you’ll notice, unlike HTC’s devices, Samsung’s is rather conventional, by that I mean, it has no chin. One could say it lacks character but that’s a matter of opinion. The first thing that’ll grab you is the large 3.2-inch touchscreen display. The button system and the five way nav-pad’s design also add to the overall appeal of the handset. The handset also appears rather wide in design which may seem like it’s a bit bulky but it’s not, although you will surely feel it evident in your pocket. It has volume/zoom keys for the 5MP AF camera on one side and camera shutter release and screen lock on the other. A standard 3.3mm handsfree sock and microUSB port are located on the top.
The biggest issue with the design I discovered was after opening and closing the rear panel a few times, it didn’t seem to sit too well. I also noticed that the battery never did seem to be squarely sitting in its cradle and that it had the tendency to simply ‘pop’ out every time I removed the back case. The lack of an exterior hot swap is no big deal but I prefer handsets have them.
While the handset looks good, I believe the body work on the whole is not well designed. The Galaxy may be a good looking handset I’ll admit, but that rear panel issue was quite the bother. On the other hand it could just be that the piece I got for testing was faulty but why would Samsung do that right?
Features and Performance
The Galaxy runs on Android OS v1.5, which uses a 528MHz processor to run things smoothly. With 8GB of internal memory I thought this would sincerely be a smooth ride and although most of the time it was, that was not always the case as I noticed a little bit of lag in a few minor aspects like opening the camera or while accessing the gallery section sometimes. But on the whole I have to say it’s not sluggish to the extent that you’d notice very often and complain aboutâ¨ The UI itself was the same as the Magic’s with three desktops, the usual set of widgets and shortcuts to add etc. Nothing that made it stand out. The Switcher shortcut was quite handy for accessing the handset’s wireless functions without going through the settings.
The keypad was not to my liking and although I calibrated the screen at least four times my stubby fingers just couldn’t seem to find it comfortable in portrait mode, however in landscape, it worked like a charm. Unlike any other handset on the planet it was rather odd finding out that the Call End key didn’t take me immediately back to the main menu. You’ll have to keep using the Return key to move through the previous pages till you get back to the desktop. Weird!
There were also quite a few times that the phone hung on me when dialing a number and although it didn’t seem to connect with the caller the call seemed active and it refused to disconnect till I removed the battery. This happened on more than two separate occasions. Very strange.
There’s still absolutely nothing wrong with the Android’s audio player although you would probably miss the settings that Samsung usually offers like Wide and Surround audio profiles, there’s really nothing to complain about with regard to both clarity and decibel level. Playlists can be created on the go. A handy Search feature is also present in case you want to hear something very specific. Thanks to the 3.5mm handsfree socket you can use your own set of earphones and that could make a huge difference in audio quality.
Samsung has gotten us used to the fact that their premium handsets would come with multiple video codecs for playback like Xvid and Divx. Sadly the Galaxy is devoid of this trait which was quite a let down. It’ll easily read 3G and MPEG4 formats though. The handset also lacks an FM radio and a voice recorder.
It’s a well designed handset for connectivity purposes as it’s ready for 3G services with HSDPA speeds and your Basic EDGE and GPRS or even Wi-Fi where available. Like Apple’s iPhone (till now) Bluetooth is strictly for audio (A2DP) with no file transfer feature. The Galaxy does not come with any Social Networking apps although you’re free to download whichever you want thanks to the presence of the Android Market application. You may find this to be a bit of a trial and error situation as I found that a few of the apps didn’t work too well while others were perfect. Since there are a huge variety of apps from Skype to Facebook, Twitter, Picasa etc. you can have your pick and uninstall what you don’t like.
Since it’s a Google friendly OS, Google Maps, Email, Google Talk, Search, YouTube and Google Calendar integration are all on hand. Setting up your POP or IMAP mail is also relatively simple through the automated wizard. Although the camera comes with a Geotagging feature, there’s no way to actually show the images captured on Google Maps which makes it a bit redundant from the mobile users' perspective strictly. You can also easily upload images to your email, Facebook or Picasa album.
The Android browser has to be the best there is so far. It’s extremely easy to use and very visually friendly. Pages open and fit the screen very well even after you’ve zoomed in. Multiple page browsing is also also available.
The biggest problem I had was while setting up a Sync profile with Google. With the other handsets I was allowed to make changes but with the Galaxy i was unable to create multiple accounts for some reason. It stored an email address I initially created and wouldn’t let me create any other account till I entered the password for the current account. I forgot the password so I couldn’t access anything and couldn’t reset it either.
A few of the regular mobile features are available as well. Those include an Alarm, Calendar and a Calculator. There weren't any task option, notepad or an app for leaving Memos. Basic seemed a little like an overstatement in this case. Of course you can leave reminders via the calendar feature. On the plus side you can of course download all the apps you want or need from the Android Market.
The 5 megapixel auto focus camera is strictly point and shoot. It comes with a single LED for the flash and storing the location on images. There are no other settings what so ever.
As for the image quality, pictures didn’t often come out too well, but I can't say that they were too bad either. It manages to provide some decent shots in conditions with plenty of light although certain areas tend to get a little burnt out with excess light. Low light conditions with the flash were not too great. On an average the camera is no great shakes. Had they gone with a 3MP camera they could have been able to reduce the cost of the handset.
The battery life is also quite a bust. The video player will drain the battery like a sponge in water. Before the end of a single movie of average length you’ll notice a very substantial drop in battery life. Talk time averaged in at about 2 hours maximum which is good no way no how.
The Bottom Line
The Samsung Galaxy comes with a price tag of Rs. 28,900. That’s pretty much in the same range as the other two Android handsets in the country and I’m still baffled as to why handsets of this kind are so expensive. There are handsets with similar features that worked better that cost less. We can’t be paying for the OS can we? But we are because of the level of customization it’s capable of.
But back to the Galaxy specifically, if you’re in the market for an Android handset, this one’s not a good option as far as I’m concerned. It has limited features as is. However, it does come with 8 Gigs of memory which is something to think about. But there are too many quirks with the system although I could attribute some of those to a faulty test piece. But as is it’s not something to spend that much money on. If you’ve already spent the large sum of money on this handset, you’ll just have to live with it and hopefully you won’t face any of the issues I did.
Published Date: Nov 16,2009 08:58 am | Updated Date: Nov 16, 2009 08:58 am