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Samsung Wave smartphone

Review Fast, attractive with good features
Mon Aug 09 2010, 11:28

Product Samsung Wave touchscreen smartphone
Specifications 3.3-inch touch-screen, Bada OS, Dolphin browser, 1GHz chipset, GSM, Wi-Fi, and HSPA, Bluetooth, 5-megapixel camera with fixed focus and flash
Price £300 plus Vat

SOUTH KOREAN PHONE MAKER Samsung's Wave smartphone, announced at Mobile World Congress in February, is not going to have an easy ride in the market with Apple's Iphone 4 dominating the headlines. However, this sleek and stylish device, available on the Vodafone network in the UK, is certainly not to be dismissed.

The Samsung Wave is light and pleasant to hold, weighing 118g and measuring 108.9mm x 53.5mm x 10.9mm. It features a super Amoled 3.3-inch screen, which Samsung boasts is a smartphone first, offering 16 million colours at a 800x480 pixel resolution.

wave-frontAll this makes the device very attractive to look at. Web pages are crisp and clear, and images are very sharp. The handset has just three buttons on the front, making the screen the focal point, no doubt as Samsung wished.

Using the touchscreen is simple, and the screen is responsive without being overly so. It reacts instantly when shifting between landscape and portrait orientation, and also does a good job of adjusting the scale to suit. Like all touchscreen devices, the art of finger placement should be pretty well mastered after a little practice, but for some it will prove an irritation. This seems to be something the industry will need to address to push smartphone take-up beyond those willing to accept the slow input speed and inevitable mis-keying.

The layout of applications on the screen is well put together, resembling that of most other smartphone screens, and can be easily customised. 'Pages' can be added to the start-up screen so that key widgets can be accessed directly from the home screen, rather than having to go to the applications menu.

The Wave is the first device in Samsung's portfolio to operate on its new Bada platform - which means 'ocean' in Korean - and its application store is a little on the bare side. Samsung hopes that the store will grow as it releases more Bada devices, and it will probably have to if it is to prove a viable alternative to Apple's App Store and Google's Android Market. Justin Hong, Bada's platform lead at Samsung, told The INQUIRER that, while there are only about 150 apps currently available on the store, there are thousands awaiting approval.

The phone comes preloaded with key applications, including a Google widget for quick access to maps, mail and search, as well as apps for BBC Iplayer, Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. The Twitter tool is a touch basic and does not make users' names interactive, which seems like a glaring oversight rather than an intentional build design; perhaps one for an over-the-air update. Standard web viewing is smooth and the Wave features pinch-to-zoom, tabbed browsing and copy and paste functions, much like other major smartphones on the market. Again, it orientates pages well in landscape and portrait modes.

Connectivity is good too. The device offers several connectivity technologies, from Edge to 3G to WiFi, and each can be managed automatically. The WiFi can be easily turned off to save the battery with a drop-down menu on the front screen. Speeds can be good on 3G but can drop off, while Edge connections are also slow; perhaps to be expected when loading fully formed web pages. The WiFi is better and the phone often found numerous networks, suggesting a strong signal range.

Internet web access is via on Samsung's own Dolphin browser and it's a good build, offering a simple and straightforward interface for accessing bookmarks, recently-visited pages, and browsing history. It also seemed faster than Apple's Safari on an Iphone. There is an option to turn Flash on or off in the phone's Internet settings, but an attempt to play a Flash video on the BBC web site failed. We were prompted to install an update, but Adobe's web site told us it was not compatible with the device. The apps load, run and close quickly thanks to the Wave's 1GHz ARM Cortex-8 CPU processor and Hummingbird S5PC110 CPU. Developers are able to use the built-in PowerVR SGX 3D graphics engine chipset.

Other key functions include a 5-megapixel camera and video camera, good sound quality for music and calls (particularly when made via a headset) and watching video. Oddly, the voice recording function is remarkably poor. It seems Samsung had assumed that quality was not necessary for quick voice notes, but it renders the function somewhat redundant when it's so unpleasant to listen to.

Battery life appears a little on the low side, often down to one bar after a normal day's browsing, texting, game playing and phone calls. Left idle, Samsung claims it will last for 450 hours and offers 180 minutes talk time. Rather strangely, the phone vibrates when low on battery, thus using up the valuable resource it is warning about. The basic tools such as alarms, calendar, phone book, file management and similar are all well laid out and intuitive to use, all contributing to the phone's user-friendly interface.

In Short
The Wave is an excellent addition to the Samsung portfolio and the smartphone market. While it would be ill-advised to suggest it will rival the Iphone or the growing Android smartphone market in the near future, it is a serious contender. µ

The Good
Fast processor, attractive to use, simple and intuitive layout, good screen, excellent sound quality, good camera and video.

The Bad
Some built-in applications lack complete functionality, small applications store, marginal battery life, vibrates when battery's low.

The Ugly

Bartender's Score



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