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This is definitely a Samsung phone. From the moment you switch it on and hear its little welcome jingle, to the system icons that are strewn all over the interface, you can feel it is a Samsung product. As an experienced user of Samsung products in the past, they all have that same Fisher Price-like aesthetic that they love to maintain from model after model of mobile phone. The only phones that I know of that does not have this Samsung syndrome are the Samsung i8510 Innovate, which uses the Symbian OS (a phone that I adored) and the Samsung Galaxy S, which uses the Android OS. So, why does this phone have the classic Samsung syndrome feel? It is because it is using TouchWiz 3 UI, AKA Bada, Korean for 'ocean', or Fisher Price.
On paper, this phone looks absolutely amazing. It has a 1 GHz processor rivaling the X10 Xperia and the iPhone 4, more than 512MB of RAM, 5 MP camera with HD video recording, built-in 3G tethering, a Super AMOLED 3.3" display, 2GB built-in storage with a microSD slot to expand up to 32GB. But all that coolness is let down by software that doesn't bring out the best in the phone.
Samsung tried to make their new operating system, Bada, a new platform for developers to develop for, hoping it to rival the Android and iOS OSes. Sure, it is easy to program for, but the problem here is that Samsung doesn't have the same marketing power as Apple, and its platform isn't as flexible as Android to be used on other devices, thus it is a relatively unknown platform that is limited to Samsung only mobiles. In fact, the only device I know of that has Bada on it is the Wave, so imagine developing software for a platform that only people with Wave handsets can use. Yeah, not very profitable is it? And Samsung knew they made a mistake, because a few months later, what did they do? Samsung Galaxy S i9000 with Android 2.1.
So, why does someone like me with a bad history with many Samsung phones, have a Samsung Wave? Well, it has recently been Christmas, and as an early gift, a few relatives got together to do a joint present for me. They knew of my past with Samsung phones, so out of that logic came a phone from the same company in a box with my name on it. Your next question would be why the Wave and not a Galaxy S, right? That's because the Wave is cheaper, but not too cheap. It has a premium feel, but doesn't break the bank. It has the hardware to make me go 'oh!', but didn't cost the world. In other words, it was a compromise between price and quality that they had to go for. The Galaxy S can cost around double to upwards compared to the Wave. Thanks to that, not only have I experienced Apple's iOS and Android for touchscreen greatness, but I can now add the latest Samsung Fisher Price version 3 UI to my list. I only need to do Windows Phone 7 and Nokia's latest Symbian efforts and I'll be able to cross off that tickbox in my life list.
I've used this phone for a little over a couple of months now, and I have to report that although I've made it sound like it is the phone equivalent of celery with sour cream dip, its actually not too bad.
The phone is light in the hand, I do not know the actual weight of the device but if I find it light with my weak and weedy arms, I am sure many others would probably find it lighter than I would. But it is light, without feeling like it was made in a toy factory in China. It has enough weight to prevent it feeling like a cheap and nasty, fabricated plastic toy and something that is nice to hold. This is helped by the fact that most of the body is metal or steel, with the back being made of this material and given an
Pictures of Samsung S8500 Wave
Samsung GT S8500 Wave
added brushed metal effect. Very little of the phone is plastic, unlike the Galaxy S with its plastic all-round cheapo-ness. The screen even feels premium, it is a very nice and smoothly made piece of glass with a discreet front facing camera lens, coated with that scratch-resistant stuff to resist scratches (of course), but it does tend to suck the finger prints from across the room as you use it. All the buttons blend in well with the handset, with its greys and blacks, it feels very executive. Samsung went all out in the design front and pushed the premium materials to be used to make it, and it shows. Looks great and feels fantastic. The only things I don't like are the shapes of the backwards facing lens and the LED flash, as they are both diamond shaped. Very odd for that to be on a phone that is made almost immaculately. The main button in the middle, the home button that exists on most touch screen phones, is diamond shaped as well, but it isn't as instrusive. It feels sturdy, solid, and it feels satisfying to press on it to load the up the main menu. To be honest, I'm startled, because Samsung phones are usually plasticky affairs if they use Samsung's own proprietry software, i.e. Tocco, Omnia, but here it is solidly built. Thumbs up to Samsung on this front, this is a backhand to its other phone, the Galaxy S.
The Super AMOLED screen is just amazing, I mean the blacks and the colours are very vivid and constast is strong, be it with a slight hint of pink/green bleeding into the whites. The screen resolution of 480x800 squashed down to 3.3" means that the screen is sharp and bright, although not as sharp as the Retina display of the iPhone 4.
The phone call quality is actually very good, it is clear and crisp, and I have had no cut off mid-way through a conversation so I can say that as a phone, it succeeds in every way. The speaker phone is also very good, you can understand people easily and there is little distortion. The volume could be louder though, but I say that it is more than adequate.
Battery life was the most surprising aspect of this phone. On other phones, you would probably get a day's life out of the battery if you used it normally, but with this phone, even with WiFi on all day, you can get 2 days worth of se out of it before you need to charge it up again. How have Samsung able to pull that off, on a phone with a 1 GHz processor? With that in mind, why did they not do that with the Galaxy S? That phone's battery life is as bad as the iPhone's, its rubbish.
The digital keyboard is easy to use, and is actually much easier to use that the one found on the X10 Xperia phone. The sensitivity I find is just a bout right and most of the time it selects the right letter I was aiming for thanks to the capacitive screen on the phone. The only thing stopping this from being even better is the predictive texting feature of it. It is like a nanny, always getting in the way of you typing certain words. You can type a long word, but as you get to the last letter, the nanny software jumps in and corrects it to what she think is the right word, making all your efforts pointless. The other issue here is that I'm not 100% sure how to disable it. I did it once before but I do not know what sub-option in what option on the keyboard disabled it.
And then we get to the user interface, which, as I have already mentioned before many times, has those icons that remind you of a toy company that shall not be mentioned again in this review. However, the phone is remarkably responsive, a slight touch or swipe and the phone reacts almost immediately like a newly born filly on a hot plate. The best way to describe the usability of the software is that it is a combination of Android and iOS, with some Samsung-ness thrown in to try and differentiate it in the market. The main screen is a home screen where you apply widgets on it, and can slide left and right to access those widgets, i.e. Android. The main menu is accessed with the big button in the middle and you scroll through it with by swiping left and right, i.e. iOS. Thing is, you can't move the programs in the menu to the home screen to access quickly like in Android, you can only apply widgets that were designed to do specifically do that. Basically, if you are famialiar with using iDevices or Android devices, you will pick this up very, very quickly. I did, and I have a low IQ, so I'm sure you will.
The first thing I did on the main menu was visit the Samsung App store, and I am ready to report on it now. It's rubbish. There is hardly anything in there worth downloading or buying at this point in time. I heard that there were now over 500+ apps in the app store for Bada, but compared to the competition, that is not enough to compare it. It's not like we never gave the Bada time to be developed on, it has been out for just over a year now and it's hardly moved at all. There are some pretty fun apps, but all in all, you'll be using the apps that came with the phone more than looking for apps to download from the store.
The phone comes with what Samsung thinks would be the most important apps that any executive would need. Of these, I am sure that he or she would find the Social Hub app very important for their business needs. It allows you to do all your Twitter and Facebook stuff all in one place to make it quicker, and it's not bad. You can do the Facebook and Twitter separately as well with the separate apps on the phone, you just log into your account and you're ready to roll.
The built-in video player can play pretty much any video file I could throw at it, be it AVIs encoded with DivX or Xvid, MP4 or MPG. This is very impressive seeing that Android and iOS cannot do this without third party app support. The gallery app, called Media Browser, lets you check out all media files on your phone, be they stored on the phone or on the microSD card. Since having many media files can be confusing, this app lists them out in a tiled, mosiac form with a small preview picture.
The Camera app quickly loads the camera up and the icons immediately reminds you of the Samsung phones of old if you are familiar with it, with the familiar icons strewn around the sides of the screen. You can easily change the mega pixels of your picture before taking a picture, or with a swift touch, it goes straight to camcorder mode. You can film HD video, and it is very fast in doing so. There is some grainyness to the image when in camcorder mode, even in HD mode, but outdoors in the sunlight, it is smooth as silk. Slow motion is on offer, but it does it at half the resolution. The pictures this phone can take are pretty good, everything you would expect from a 5 MP camera, and it is comparible to the iPhone 4's camera quality (I am comparing quality and not the MP count, by the way). For some reason, you cannot access the front facing camera from the app, that only becomes available in a video call.
There are some apps, though, that disappointed me, and they are the Internet Browser, YouTube, BBC iPlayer (iPlayer!) and Samsung's map app, Navigation.
The internet browser app works well for basic needs, it loads up most websites, and you can even do pinch to zoom with it, so that's a bonus. Even my X10 Xperia cannot do that because it has no multi touch. What I've noticed is that images that load and look pretty good on other phones appear to look pixelated and blurry on this phone when I zoom in. It's not the most annoying thing in the world, but I can do without it. It even happens over WiFi, so I'm spectulating that the software compresses images a lot to speed up load times of websites. But the main thing that annoyed me was the Flash support. Samsung claims the phone supports Flash, but all Flash based websites I've visited did not work. It sometimes displays an image of the first frame of a video, but if it isn't a video, it just does not work at all. That is just annoying as heck.
The BBC iPlayer and YouTube apps are basically shortcuts in the main menu that open up the internet browser, and load the mobile versions of the website on the phone. Usually on these type of phones, the apps are actual apps that run on the phone as apps on their own, and then becomes an interface to the content you are looking for. The apps here just link to them. How lazy were the developers when they made these apps for the phone? And to top it off, the websites do not work half of the time. YouTube sometimes crashes as it loads a video and then tries to stream the video onto the phone. The seeker bar stutters and sometimes becomes unresponsive as I scroll along it to get to the part of the video I left off from, like if I received a phonecall halfway through a YouTube video. That's just unacceptable. And yes, it does not keep the location where you left off. It is less annoying with BBC iPlayer, but only slightly.
Finally, Samsung's own map application. It isn't that bad, but it looks like crap. There are some lines that vaguely look like the UK, and the colours are all solid primary colours. It doesn't work properly, it takes forever to make GPS connection and the update on the phone is too slow to use while driving. Why didn't Samsung just get Google to make Google Maps for it like we have on Android and iOS? I guess they just wanted to be different, but if theywant to be different, why do they have a google search widget by default installed on the phone? If you have the search widget, put the map app on the phone as well!
So, would I recommend this phone? I have to say, I don't really love it, it doesn't tickle my insides like the iPhone or the X10 Xperia does. It hasn't broken down on me, it hasn't given me software issues that require flashing of its firmware, it has not given me anything that would made me get hands-on with it. And because of that, I personally have no emotion for it whatsoever. The X10 Xperia I adore because I had an adventure with it, the iPhone was all about trying to get it jailbroken, this is just a feature combo smart phone with software that is not well known, not well supported and not very aesthetically pleasing. But you know what? Because it is a rather reliable phone (ignoring the YouTube/BBC iPlayer video streaming bug), I do recommend it to users. This is like a Porsche Boxster, its pretty good and pretty fast, and on some later models are actually quite pretty (even though the basic shape has change very little over the years), but it is rather boring. It lacks something to give it that extra oomph, and the Samsung Wave S8500 is the exact same thing. It is still in its infancy so maybe Bada platfrom will be updated to become magnificient and then all of a sudden, a million top apps will appear on it, like Angry Birds. But until then, you buy this phone at your own peril, will you take a risk or play it safe? Either way, this phone goes on my good Samsung phone list, along with the Samsung i8510 Innov8