Samsung Highlight review

While the iPhone is to most, the be all and end all touchscreen smartphone, there are other devices out there that offer a full touchscreen interface.

In steps the Samsung Highlight available on T-Mobile in the US and promising to give you an alternative to the Apple machine.

Considerably smaller in both screen and physical size of the device, the result is a bright orange pocketable phone that is unlikely to bulge too much in your pocket.

The front of the handset, as you might imagine, is dominated by the 3-inch screen, although Samsung has still managed to find space for three buttons below: Call, Hang-up and a rather large back button that doesn't do anything else.

The fact that it has been designed to look like a d-pad, but doesn't offer any features, is even more confusing. They would have been better off losing it altogether.

Get past the buttons under the screen and there are plenty more around the handset to fondle.

The right-hand side sports a dedicated camera button and fiddly unlock key, while charging and headphones are connected via a standard Samsung-only socket. There is no 3.5mm jack.

The back sports a 3-megapixel camera, albeit without flash, and a speaker so you can enjoy some music without the need to use the device's dedicated headphones.

Pull off the back cover and you get access to the phone's microSD slot, however it isn't hot swappable.

The interface is regular Samsung TouchWhiz OS, which you'll either love or loathe.

What that means in reality is the homepage presents a series of shortcuts down the left-hand side to the browser, messages, music and the like, while the centre and right is for widgets giving you access to you favourite friends or whatever you happen to want. Yes you can drag shortcuts off the sidebar to the desktop and vice versa.

Interaction with the screen is easy, and the desktop, which works in a similar way to Dashboard on the Mac or Windows 7 desktop widgets gives you a chance to make the home screen a bit more useful to you.

Of course with a 3-inch screen you don't have much space to play with and things can get a bit cluttered, but it's better than not having the option at all in our mind.

You can ditch the widgets altogether and opt for the menu screen that gives you the usual grid interface to access all the phone's features. The menu is easy to understand and you are unlikely to have any issues using the phone. As we said the touchscreen is quick to respond.

Surfing the web is possible via 3G rather than Wi-Fi. As long as you are in good T-Mobile coverage it will be fast enough for general surfing, although you won't have Wi-Fi connectivity to make use of your home or office network.

While some will bemoan the lack of the technology, this isn't a device that is geared towards surfing the web or downloading content over the wires; we found the screen is just too small to do it on a regular basis.

That said you do get a landscape keyboard for typing in address details, emails and the like that automatically appears when you rotate the screen thanks to the built-in accelerometer.

Verdict

The phone performs well, the camera offers pictures, but nothing that will blow you away and there is little to complain about. It's Samsung being Samsung and therefore not really offensive in any way in terms of usability and specs.

Aside from Wi-Fi the usual tick boxes are checked. Bluetooth, GPS, 3G connectivity, and microSD card but a lack of a 3.5mm jack is frustrating, as is the small screen real estate.

What makes things worse is that at $149 this is $49 more expensive than the iPhone in the US and we therefore can't see the appeal unless you really want to avoid Apple.

The problem the Samsung Highlight suffers is not that it's a bad handset, but that it believes it's better than it really is.