Currently resting up from surgery so I'll have some time to get back in to reviewing! I just wanted to take the chance to say thanks to all Ciao-ers for the fab reviews, and for the reads and rates on mine =]
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A Smartphone Smooth Like Galaxy Caramel
User friendly, responsive & good size touch screen, lots of features, smooth to run
Poor battery life when using apps
Look & Feel
Durability & Robustness
Battery standby time
Value for money
Range of features
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I wanted to upgrade my phone last month and I was shocked, though I don't really know why, at how quickly phones seem to go outdated and are replaced by their 'newer version'. There are so many to choose from, and numerous tariffs you get hassled in to signing up to, that it's hard to decide unless you have a good idea of what it is you want. I knew a few improvements I wanted to see to my old phone, the Orange / ZTE San Fran, and the Samsung Galaxy Ace far exceeded my expectations, so I'm really happy with it.
Samsung as a whole is a well-renowned company and one which I tend to admire and trust they will provide effective products. They're quickening their pace within the mobile market more recently in terms of mobiles and tablets, and the Galaxy Ace is an entry to the more 'affordable' side of smartphones.
... What's In The Box? ...
This comes packaged in a small box that's quite cute, but it manages to fit in the essentials. You get the obvious battery included, along with a memory card, instruction leaflet, wall charger, USB cable and also some in-ear headphones.
As I bought this from phones4u on Orange, it actually came unlocked because the company sell all of their phones that way. I think that unlocking it if it's locked to a particular network will cost you as Samsung are usually pretty airtight when it comes to codes for phone unlocking, so it's unlikely there will be any free method posted online for it yet. I use a GiffGaff sim in mine and it works perfectly.
... Setting It Up ...
This is a very straightforward phone to set up, which really doesn't require much other than common sense and following the on-screen instructions. For first time use, you should always fully charge the battery before use. Once you've got your sim & battery in and it's all charged up, it's nice and quick to set it up and get going.
... Key Features? ...
Considering this is more of a mid-range smartphone, it's very well equipped with the latest features and could easily pass for a high end phone in my opinion. This is a quick run-down of the basic key features: - Android 2.2 Froyo - Samsung services, including Samsung app store access - 5mp camera with dual LED flash - Accelerometer and 3.5-inch TFT capacitive touchscreen - Swype (an easier alternative for messaging and social updates by 'sweeping' fingers over keys). I've not used this one yet so I can't really comment on it, but it sounds interesting! - Signal boost - WiFi 802.11 & 3G HSDPA 7.2, along with Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP for connectivity - 3.5mm audio jack for headphones - Loudspeaker, MP3 player and MP3 ringtones - GPRS - FM radio - Contents back-up - Video capabilities (incl. video messaging) - Tri Band
... Looks Are Everything
The first thing I thought when I saw this in store was how similar it seemed in terms of first glances to the iPhone. Whilst I've never owned an iPhone, I like the style and sense of robustness, and their ease of use thanks to a larger screen. This measures 59.9mm width, 112.4mm length and 11.5mm in depth, weighing it at 113g. It has a sleek look to it although it's not the thinnest phone; I actually like that it's not razor thin because it has a sense of sturdiness to it that makes it feel more robust.
I got mine in black, and the outer edge has dark silver detail which makes it look quite swish. The on/off button is to the right hand side, which puts the phone screen 'to sleep' also. To the left side is the sound control function, and to the top is the headphone jack and USB port, the latter of which has a slide-across cover. The slot for the SD card, which comes included, is to the right; it should be noted that this moves side-to-side, so don't attempt lifting it upwards as you may snap it off. The back is actually quite a nice cover because it's textured and not shiny so it's not the kind of surface that will get easily scratched or marked. The back also has the camera and flash, which does mean there's no video calling function for those that use it, but as I don't this hasn't bothered me.
... TouchScreen Goodness ...
The difficulty I found with my old phone was partly due to the size of the screen and its responsiveness. The Galaxy Ace boasts a decent screen at 3.5-inch, with it being a TFT capacitive touchscreen for good image quality and ease of use. It's responsive but not overly so; what you intend to do with your fingers on the screen is usually what happens because it's sensitive and quick enough to react just right. The size of the screen helps with seeing images and navigating, for instance when browsing the net, and it also makes texting easier as you have a larger area for the keyboard on the screen. As you may expect, you can turn this on its side to use it landscaped, which gives you a full keyboard that's easier to use, and may make viewing multimedia that bit more enjoyable too with a larger wide of image.
... Layout ...
The general layout of this phone also somewhat resembles the iPhone in terms of the positioning of screens and options. I find it quite ergonomic and intuitive, so once you get the hang of it navigating to where to you want to get to is pretty straightforward.
The initial layout is your main homescreen, which is actually split in to 3. You can sweep across to see the other two screens, which are empty unless you want to fill them with gadgets. This means you can select whatever options you want for the homescreen(s) if you want them to be quicker to access rather than going in to the full menu.
... Texting ...
This was an issue for me on other phones that didn't give you enough choice of what format you wanted to use or give you enough responsiveness to text quickly and keep up. The Ace is again very user-friendly in this respect. You can easily go to functions within the text screen to change how you want to text (ie automatic capitalization at sentence start, predictive). You can turn the phone horizontally too in order to get the larger QWERTY keyboard, but the upright version is decent enough for me to use without too much hassle. Larger hands may find it more fiddly, but as I've said, it's responsive and quite accurate so I don't find incorrect letters keep getting inputted at all.
Options for adding media (ie photo, link, video etc) are available and easy to use. Messages are also stored in the flowing link-type way; rather than having individual messages in an inbox and outbox, messages are put in to a thread for each individual you text/has texted you. This makes for a conversation feel to the messages, as it becoming popular with smartphones and I like this because it does make remembering what's already been said far easier when it's all there in one thread.
... An 'Appy Life ...
The apps that come with the phone, and that can be downloaded, work very well on the Ace, and I've had no problems so far with any freezing or slowness. Thanks to the size of the screen and accuracy of the touchscreen, using apps such as for casual gaming is fun to do and easy to use. The various options when using the internet as well very well laid out and allow for various things to be done quickly and easily, whether you want to copy/paste, email a link, save to your phone etc it's all quite swift and simple to do.
... Battery Life ...
The estimated battery life when on standby is 17.5 days and 6.5 hours for talk time. Obviously battery life is a big issue for smartphones and a bit of a bone of contention for many users. Use of apps and the internet really does suck away the battery life like a vampire, but I've been able to get good use out of it during the day fiddling around with it like a child having got a new play toy and only needing to charge it the next day. Without the constant use of apps and such, the life is reasonable given that no smartphone yet seems to have overcome this obstacle.
... Picture Perfect ...
One bugbear from my old phone was how slow the camera was to load and the lack of flash. The Galaxy Ace has a 5 MP camera for photos and video, along with a dual LED flash. I've found the camera to work pretty smoothly, and it gives plenty of options for using the flash and various other settings so you can take a decent picture even in low lighting. The end result is that the camera is more versatile to use wherever, whenever, and the photos turn out more than reasonable providing you've chosen the right conditions under which to use the flash. 5MP is also quite good for a camera phone as many only have around 3MP, so you're getting good quality resolution and detail from the photos taken.
... Usability ...
I find this phone really easy to use in the sense that it's quite practical and self-explanatory once you know the basic way around it. The responsiveness of the screen makes moving around and doing things on this phone easier also, which I'm really happy with. To hold, it feels just right in my tiny hands (which are apparently 'strangely small like a child's hands), and it doesn't feel tacky or fiddly to use.
... Connectivity ...
A USB cable comes included in the box to be able to up/download via your PC or laptop, and luckily it's a simple drag & drop jobby (unlike the iPhone, it's really quick and easy to use without having to go through stupid software that makes the easiest of things incredibly difficult!). I'm a big fan of drag and drop, so this gets a big thumbs up from me. Moving files to and from the phone is quick and easy to do, for instance if you want to move some music across from your laptop to your phone, or upload photos from the phone to the laptop. Alternatively, there's bluetooth connectivity or just use the internet to do other sharing.
The internet comes in the form of wifi and 3G. It depends upon your network provider as to how good your connection, and overall signal, will be, but so far I've found this phone to pick up signal well and it connects quickly without problem. Selecting the connectivity is easy enough to do under the 'settings' menu, which is again laid out in an understandable way and cuts out confusion.
... Downsides ...
So far I'm struggling to pinpoint any difficulties or niggles I have with this phone. For those who use a smartphone for more entertainment/multimedia purposes, the lack of flash player might be an issue, but as I don't need that for watching videos etc it hasn't affected me. You can't truly compare this to an iPhone because it's not in the same grade and it can be bought for a fraction of the price, so don't expect to get the same level of quality. Having said that, I'm quite surprised at just how good this phone is and would definitely recommend it as a strong smartphone contender at a better price than the ever-popular iPhone (plus it's easier to move things about without having to go through iTunes!).
... Overalll ...
I can't fault this phone, at least not yet, unless you want to count battery life as a downside. But considering most smartphones have this dilemma it's unfair to knock it for dying quickly when you use lots of apps and such. It's a good price for a mid-range phone that's packed with useful features whilst being easy to use and looking good as it works, which is pretty good in my opinion!
Retails around £140.00 (Phones4u)
Overalll... A fantastic phone for the price that I'd recommend without hestitation. [Also reviewed by me, Cazkins, on DooYoo]