First Look: Samsung Wave

Samsung spared no expense in launching the Samsung Wave at Mobile World Congress 2010 in Barcelona this week. From the billboard advertising that leaked the new phone before the formal event, to the event itself and the magnitude of the showfloor stand, Samsung certainly wants people to know about the Wave. Fortunately we were on hand to tell you all about the new phone.

There's a good reason why Samsung is making a big deal out of the Wave: it's the company's first handset that runs on its new Bada platform. Creating an ecosystem to surround your mobile phone handsets is serious business and with a growing interest in mobile gaming and applications, this is potentially what will define the success of the handset. Longevity will depend on providing the flexibilities and freedom of choice that smartphone users demand.

But the Samsung Wave isn't just about the Bada platform. A big part of it is about the hardware. It seems a fitting follow-on to some of the praise we lauded on the Omnia HD/i8910 last year - that screen was sensational, and the Wave is even better. The new Super AMOLED display is staggeringly sharp, with bags of contrast and deep blacks that really give your content definition.

It has a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels, which on a 3.3-inch screen is very impressive. The display also offers wide viewing angles and isn't prone to the high degree of reflections that some screens are. It incorporates some of the technology that Samsung are putting into their televisions. It certainly sets the bar high for others to follow.

Samsung have also opted for a "onebody" design, as did HTC with the Legend, meaning the phone can be compact but solid. It looks good and feels good in the hand.

The phone itself meets all your normal connectivity expectations and then some, with HSDPA/CDMA, Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0, GPS, digital compass, motion sensor and proximity sensors. This all sits on a 1GHz processor, making this a fully-fledged smartphone with some real power.

That processor and sharp screen means video content looks sensational and watching HD content at 720p poses it no problems. Format support looks good on paper too, with MPEG4, H.263, H.264, WMV, Divx and XviD so it look like a mobile entertainment centre. We checked out some 720p demo content on the phone and it was staggering.

Around the back is a 5-megapixel camera with LED flash. It will also let you capture video at 720p, so you could potentially fill the 2GB memory fairly quickly. Expansion is possible through the microSD card slot.

The OS might be new, but users of Samsung devices in the past will recognise some of the menus as you move around the phone. The TouchWiz 3 interface provides widgets and shortcuts that can be dropped onto the side-scrolling homepages, with an icon-based menu and pull-down area at the top of the screen. There is more than a dab of Android in the look and feel, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Samsung has also taken note of the growth in demand for integration of social networks. Like HTC have done with Sense and Motorola with MotoBlur, Samsung offers to bring in all your contacts, giving you a "social hub" where the experience is centred around the person. It's great to see this level of integration, and something we'll be looking at in detail when we get a handset in to review in full.

The application offering looks fairly comprehensive too. There are all sorts of applications and features that are loaded into the device, with Samsung providing the framework for more. Again, we couldn't settle down to see exactly what was on offer, so we'll be seeing how competitive the app offering is in the future. Check out the Samsung Apps website, or take a look at the Chelsea FC app being shown off on the stand.

Samsung were showing off a wide selection of applications and functions of the phone at Mobile World Congress, from gaming to navigation, to its multimedia skills. The range certainly looked impressive, but we'll be looking to see whether we can do everything we want when we get it in for review.

 

Verdict

Samsung is treading a new path with the Wave: the phone showcases the new operating system well, but ultimately, the success of the phone will depend on how well supported it is by Bada developers. If you are locked into an 18- or 24-month contract, you don't want to find yourself unable to get the latest and greatest apps a year down the line.

The screen though is a triumph and one that, like the Omnia HD, will draw many to the phone. It looks fantastic and seems to be off to a strong start. Of course, we'll be putting it through its paces in the near future. The Wave will be hitting the shelves in April worldwide.

 



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