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Phone Review: Samsung Wave


Samsung Wave was the first phone to be released with the Samsungs’s new BADA OS (which apparently means ocean in Korean). In a time when the mobile OS’s are consolidating around 3 or 4 major platforms Samsung was bold enough to put their money on a completely new OS. To add muscle to their effort they threw in a developer challenge worth US$ 2.7 million and managed to get major online players like Twitter, EA, Gameloft, Blockbuster to develop for Bada platform.

Bada is designed to be a platform that can be used for both Smart phones and non smart phones alike. With this middle of the road path, Bada incorporates a lot of smart phone and conventional phone features.

The first thing that strikes you about the Wave is its super crisp AMOLED screen. It is just a pleasure in your eyes and was the crispiest display I laid my eyes on. My old iPhone 3G’s screen was pale compared to the screen on the Wave. Just slide your fingers across the lock screen and you are taken to the home screen with your widgets. The unlock action is swift and it feels like sliding a glass door.

It is a powerful phone with a 1 GHz processor which is a step ahead of many smart phones in the market. Multi-touch is another feature that making the user experience on the phone a breeze. The phone features just three buttons on the front panel: Call, End and Menu which seems to be the common defacto standard on smart phones these days, apart from Apple. Then apart from that your get the volume up/down buttons on the left hand side, a camera button the right hand side and the 3.5mm audio jack and Micro USB port on the top which comes with a sliding cover, which I thought was neat.

You can add widgets to your home screen and you can go up to a maximum of 10, in case you are a widget freak. Its a breeze to add a widget, its all drag and drop. And the screens slide nicely under the touch. You can organize the widgets according to your preference and bring the ones you use most.

The top of the screen sports the quick menu and notifications. The quick menu gives you access to three of the most frequently used features: WiFi, Bluetooth and Silent. Below that you get the list of notifications for your email accounts, Twitter and Facebook ets, which shows how many new messages there are in each. This notification screen is pretty neat, giving you a dashboard view of notifications, which I found to be very helpful.

I managed to sync up the contacts with my Google Contacts account, along with mail and calendar for my primary mail account. And you can also sync up the contacts with your social networks where the phone can then start showing you contact’s pictures picked from Facebook, etc. However this integration with social networks doesn’t happen right out of the box.

But when I tried to sync it up with my other email accounts, all of which are Google apps hosted accounts, it didn’t allow me to sync the calendars, which I found to be disappointing. Apart from that, multiple email accounts can be configured. The messaging screen on the Wave was well thought out as it gives you an access to all your email accounts along with Facebook in-box and your Twitter account, all in one place.

The call quality was pretty good. I didn’t get to test it in very noisy surroundings to test its noise cancellation features. While you are on a call, Wave offers you six options in all: Keypad, Contacts, Mute, Speaker, Headset and End. The speaker phone was also pretty loud, and can be heard over the radio in a car.

One area that I was not very happy with was the Keyboard. In portrait mode, in which I tend to use the phone more often, the keys were a tad bit too small for my fingers. And I didn’t see any predictive typing kicking in and the spell checker was limited in terms of not allowing me to type in words that are not in the dictionary. Apart from that it is standard keyboard which gives you contextual keys, such as @ and .com when you are entering email addresses etc.

Also the menu was a bit complicated. I was given the phones without the user guides, so I was left to configure it on intuition. While I pride myself in being able to configure most gadgets without reading the user guide, Wave made me hit the Internet to figure a few things out.

The first issue was in configuring a data connection on the phone. While the connectivity menu showed me that there were no configured connections, it didn’t allow me to add a connection from there. The connection needs to be defined someplace else. Also, even with just one connection defined on the phone, you need to select the connection to use for each service. I think Bada can become a bit more intuitive in this department.

One area that the Wave shines on is the Camera and Video recording. The camera is pretty sharp and the images are a pleasure to look at on its AMOLED screen. Another nifty feature is the ability to select the focus point in the picture with a touch on the screen. Wave supports HD video recording. This was another cool feature I loved, coming from an iPhone 3G, which does not support any video recording, the HD video on wave is something I can get used to. Also the ability to plug-in a micro SD card, is a boon to the video and photo snappers.

The media player on the Wave is also boosted by its super display. Everything on the Wave, be it a picture or a video, is a pleasure to look at. The music playback was also pretty good, though I am not a heavy user of music, I did try out the radio and it gave me pretty good quality playback, something close to what I get on my HiFi.

The foam factor of the phone was ideal. It was pretty slim and light weight. With its curved edges, it fits nicely in your palm. And it was a nice fit in your pants and even in jeans pockets.

It is a major move to introduce a new phone OS as it stands today, it is the developer/application eco- system that will determine the success of a mobile platform. It is questionable whether the Samsung’s app store will ever reach the volume and diversity of Apple’s App Store or Android Market place. And the applications currently on offer were somewhat limited. Apart from an app for Twitter and some games I was not able to find any apps that can bring the Wave closer to the diverse applications that I use on the iPhone.

I would give a thumbs up for the Wave as a phone, for messaging, camera, HD video and above all for the screen.

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Author: Sampath Dassanayake
Sampath is a Sri Lankan entrepreneur and a software engineer by profession. He is currently building a world-class development team in Sri Lanka to prove that Sri Lankans posses the talent and the skill to build world-class IT solutions. Prior to founding his company Sampath worked in the several IT companies building and managing web applications. He has a BSc from University of Colombo, a MSc in IT from University of Keele and an unfinished MBA from University of Colombo. He is also a Project Management Professional (PMP)




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