Samsung Genio Touch review

3.5 out of 5
Dependent on contract

For

Good touchscreen, incredible battery life, cheap

Against

Interface is horrible to use and there's no 3G, Wi-Fi or GPS

Samsung has hit the headlines in the mobile phone world over the last year with a number of handsets - the Jet, the Omnia and the Android-packing Galaxy i7500, most notably.

The Genio Touch hasn't been among them because it's aimed at the lower end of the market - the end that uses Pay-As-You-Go and doesn't want to splash £400 or more on a handset over its lifespan. Will those people be happy with the Genio Touch, or is it a pale imitator of its elder brothers?

The Genio Touch makes a good first impression. It bears a number of design similarities to the Palm Pre, except that it doesn't have the Pre's slide-out keyboard. The front is smooth black with three buttons at the bottom, whereas the rear is orange by default, but comes with several removable back panels to offer a little customization.

Buttons around the edges are present for "hold", camera usage and a volume rocker, as well as a panel that conceals the proprietary connection for hooking up headphones or a cable to your PC. It's worth noting that there's a rather sharp edge just where you hold it to your ear, which we found a little uncomfortable over longer calls.

The display is bright and - impressively - a capacitive touchscreen. That means it's far more responsive than many touchscreen phones on the market, which use resistive ones and often require a stylus. Unfortunately, the resolution is a little low - just 320 x 240, which leaves things looking a little fuzzy, not clear and sharp.

The operating system is Samsung's own TouchWiz, which features on the Jet and resembles Symbian quite closely. There's the same widgets and an Android-aping left-right sliding homescreen. Unfortunately, it's all rather slow - evidently the processor is one of the corners cut to get this handset cheap.

In fact, using this phone after having spent any time with Android, the iPhone or the Palm Pre is about as pleasant as being smacked in the face repeatedly with a spade. Once upon a time, you could let that slide, but now that Android is available for free to device makers, it seems ridiculous to be home-baking a phone OS unless it's genuinely brilliant.

There is one bright spot, though - the virtual keyboard is thankfully not a QWERTY - it's a traditional T9 sorta thing that we found very accurate and surprisingly easy to use, complete with vibrating haptic feedback. It doesn't have "Genio" in the dictionary, though, suggesting "Heroin" instead.

There's a 2-megapixel camera which is fine for taking pics that'll be viewed on the phone itself, but you certainly won't want to frame them and put them on your wall. Still, it's good that there's a camera present. Video capture only makes it to 320 x 240 pixels at a jerky 15fps, so only really good for sharing online.

The handset lacks connectivity regularly found on higher-end phones such as Wi-Fi, 3G and GPS, but the trade-off means that the battery life is absolutely excellent. We used it fairly regularly for about 3 days before it began to give us low battery warnings. Very impressive.

We'd be remiss not to mention the price, too. The Genio Touch can be picked up for as little as £70 on a Pay-As-You-Go contract from Orange. That's incredibly cheap to be getting a capacitive touchscreen for.

Verdict

The Samsung Genio Touch is firmly entry-level. It'll appeal to teens who want a usable phone but don't want to spend a bomb. If it had a slightly faster processor and better UI, it'd be considerably improved, but as it is, it's difficult to accept the interface, even if the battery life offered is top-notch.