The Samsung Galaxy Spica is not a good advertisement for Google\’s Android
Samsung’s Galaxy Spica boasts the Android OS and a heap of solid specs under its hood but the handset is a poorly-designed disappointment, says Adam Maguire.
Technology giant Samsung has done extremely well in the touchscreen phone market to date – its Tocco and Tocco Lite handsets have sold well in the mid-market while its Jet has pushed hard against comparable devices from rival companies.
None of these mobiles were pitched as smartphones, however, and always lacked the additional functionality to make them more than a slick-looking yet standard phone.
Another feature they shared is that they all ran on Samsung’s attractive though limited proprietary operating system, a trend that the Galaxy Spica breaks.
Based on the open source operating system Android – the creation of which was spear-headed by Google – this phone has a much wider variety of capabilities as well as access to a growing application store.
In terms of spec the Galaxy Spica is good – it has a 3.2 inch TFT capacitive touch display, a microSD slot , an 800MHz processor and a 3 megapixel camera on the back.
The body of the phone is laden with buttons – fourteen in total – far more than you would usually see on a touchscreen device; while the housing itself is plastic with a rubberised back.
Android as an operating system is good, even though its implementation here feels slightly weak. The menu structure is easy to navigate, it is highly customisable and it is responsive and easy to use when texting or sending e-mails.
However the qualities of the system are overshadowed by the phone itself, which has a number of major flaws.
The device itself is quite ugly – a far cry from some of the sleeker phones Samsung itself has produced in the past. The plastic body feels quite cheap too, although not so much with the white version of the device.
More importantly the phone does not sit well in the hand and feels bulkier than most others – even though it is not all that different on paper.
Its problems are not just superficial – a number of small problems in the user interface lead to a lot of annoyance over a period of time.
For example, while the phone’s lock de-activates the touchscreen and most buttons it does not do the same for the hang-up/power button, which is easily hit while in the pocket. This rarely ends in the phone switching off by accident – largely due to Android’s need for confirmation of a power-off – but it does mean you have to exit out of the dialogue almost every time you take the phone from your pocket, which is frustrating.
Another problem is the phone’s ringer volume, which is surprisingly low. Even at full blast it is easy to miss messages or calls coming through, particularly if the ringtone used is a short one.
The placement of the camera button – at the bottom right-hand side of the phone – is also troublesome as it is hit accidentally far too easily, activating the camera function.
On the plus side the phone’s touchscreen is responsive for the most part and it is good to see Samsung put standard headphone sockets in more of their phones.
However these small saving graces to not take away from the fact that this phone feels rushed and half-hearted. This is far from the standard that Samsung has shown in some handsets in the past year and it is also nowhere near as good as its Android-based competitors.
It can only be hoped that the next Samsung/Android handset to hit Irish shores can do a better job.
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