Samsung Galaxy i7500

Samsung's Galaxy i7500 has already had a troubled existence and it's only just launched. While the handset has been available in Europe since June, endless delays have plagued its UK launch, as chronicled extensively on Pocket-lint.

But it's finally arrived and while on paper the Galaxy i7500 is the best Android handset around, how does it stack up in the real world? It out-specs anything else out there - but do those specs translate into a fantastic handset?

The Samsung Galaxy i7500 looks like plenty of other Samsung handsets. It could be the cousin of the company's "Jet" mobile, but instead of the weird cuboid button on the Jet, it has a directional pad and the usual Android complement of call, hang-up, menu and back buttons.

Around the sides, there's a volume rocker, camera button, and the most irritatingly placed lock button in the world. Holding the handset like a right-handed person would, it's almost impossible to prevent yourself pushing the button by accident - meaning that you'll be mid text message when the screen will suddenly go blank and the phone will lock.

To unlock it again, you have to press the button to turn the screen on, and then hold it down for another few seconds to unlock it. It's infuriating, and doesn't always work first time. Why the button couldn't have been placed on the top of the device with the USB connector and 3.5mm headphone jack, and out of the way, is absolutely beyond our comprehension.

On the back, there's a 5-megapixel autofocus camera and bright LED flash - this took reasonable images up to the standard of a low-end compact or mid-range cameraphone: not great at low light, but generally passable. Nothing really to complain about but nothing much to commend either.

On the front of the device is the real star of the show - a beautiful, glossy, 3.2-inch, 320 x 480, capacitive AMOLED touchscreen. This looks absolutely incredible - showing deep blacks and gleaming highlights, as well as pumping out plenty of brightness, even in direct sunlight.

But the beautiful screen is let down by a slight sluggishness in the performance of the OS. We've seen Android running like a dream on other handsets, but it seems a little schizophrenic on the Galaxy - sometimes it'll fly by whereas other times it'll struggle to load a simple list of options, or take nearly 10 seconds to switch from portrait to landscape mode.

It's not clear why this is - it's a standard Android build (only slightly modified with the addition of a keyboard - which we'll come to in a moment) that has the same processor as every other Android handset out there. Perhaps it'll be rectified in a future ROM update, in the same way that the HTC Hero got a recent performance boost. But for the time being, the performance of the i7500 is inadequate.

We won't go into a full review of the Android OS - that would take some time - but performance aside it fits the i7500 well. The basic functionality is exceptional - even more so if you use a Google account - and there are plenty of apps available to extend those features.

We did run into some issues with Wi-Fi on the device, though. It didn't seem to want to stay connected to the wireless network that we tested it with. It would be fine for a few minutes, then disconnect and refuse to reconnect without resetting the wireless adaptor. It might be a bug with our network, but other handsets cope with it fine.

The Wi-Fi bug became a real pain when trying to sync songs in Spotify for offline playback - something that's possible on 3G (unlike the iPhone) but that you'll only really want to do on Wi-Fi. While we're talking about Spotify, it's worth noting that you won't find it in the Android Marketplace on the i7500 - it needs you to download the app separately and allow the installation of unsigned applications. Not the one-click solution that most users will want.

Loads of storage is provided on the handset. A full 8GB of internal memory is present, and you can pump that up with a microSD card to 24GB. You're unlikely to run out of space to store music, video or images on this phone.

Text entry is accomplished via an on-screen keyboard, designed by Samsung, which is another pain point on the handset that you'll run into several times a day. While the little buzz that the handset gives when you tap a key is great, having to go through a menu to get access to numbers and symbols is exceptionally irritating, as is the software's occasional insistence on swapping the word you typed for one that it thinks (incorrectly) that you want to type.

And lastly the battery. It's a 1500 mAh Li-Ion affair which starts out appalling. We charged it three times in the first 24 hours. Over our review period it improved - though that might have also been due to considerably dialling down the background syncing and homescreen widgets.

Once we'd done that, we found that we'd get maybe 18 hours of light usage out of it - though that plummeted when we started playing games, watching video or listening to music on the device. You'll most definitely need to plug this in every night without fail, as well as tweaking the settings that it comes with by default to use less juice.

If you're planning on using it as an MP3 player, or video player, on your commute, though, then we'd advise carrying around the USB charging cable and plugging it in whenever you get the chance. It has an uncommon Micro-USB v2 connector - not proprietary, but not one that you'll find lying around on a regular basis.

Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy i7500 promised so much that we were very excited about getting our hands on it. The shock of finding out that Samsung has severely neglected some very important features and made questionable design decisions distracts from the fact that this is still a good smartphone.

But it's not the best. There's a laundry list of irritants that Samsung should have got right, and haven't. The lock button, battery, keyboard, Wi-Fi bugs and performance inconsistencies detract so much from the fantastic AMOLED, great OS and heaps of storage that we simply couldn't rate it better than the current king of the Android pile - the HTC Hero.



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