With a low price and relatively basic spec list, the Samsung Galaxy Mini GT-S5570 is firmly aimed at first-time smartphone users. There's no denying that the pint-sized handset is cheap and cheerful, but is it any good? We took it through its paces to find out.
At first glance, the plastic finish of the handset doesn't look too solid but it feels sturdier than it looks. In fact the design means that it fits very comfortably in the palm of the hand. Measuring just 110.4 x 60.6mm, the Mini is pretty small and and just 12.1mm thick, it's pleasingly svelte too. The slightly short and wide design almost makes it feel a little like a BlackBerry, while the textured finish on the back of the phone is not only feel nice to touch it also gives you an extra bit of grip.
The Samsung Galaxy Mini comes in various colours including black with a green strip down the sides and black with silver, while our review sample was white. Most of the phone's fascia is taken up by the 3.14-inch screen which has just three buttons beneath it - a central "home" key along with buttons for menus and "back". Down the left-hand edge of the phone you'll find the logically placed volume control, while the right-hand side is home to the power button and the microSD card slot. On the top of the handset there's a Micro-USB port along with a 3.5mm jack for hooking your headphones or portable speakers.
The Mini runs on Android 2.2 (Froyo) which while not the newest version of Google's OS, is perfectly capable of coping with the Mini's features. However, the handset's modest 600Hz processor could well struggle with some of the more power-hungry apps but you should be ok with most. We didn't have any problems with the selection of apps that we downloaded, but you'll find it falls below the specs for the Flash support that Froyo offers.
The screen measures in at 3.14 inches, so while it's not quite as big those on the latest flagship smartphones is still a decent size and bigger than those on many similarly priced rivals. The large screen is well suited to web browsing, although the slightly square aspect ratio means that it's not that well set up for widescreen videos. Despite the relatively generous screen size, the Mini is rather let down by its 240 x 320 (QVGA) screen resolution which made text on websites quite tricky to read without zooming right in.
Video playback was also rather disappointing due to the mediocre screen resolution with the images taking on a rather soft appearance. Likewise, colours are lacking in vibrancy and any even vaguely fast-paced motion is all but lost in a blur. The lame screen is also a bit of pain when you're taking snaps with the on-board camera and it's difficult to see if your shots are any good until you upload them to a device with a decent display.
The capacative touchscreen was pretty responsive, although operation didn't feel quite as instant as it does or top-tier smartphones. Web browsing was generally nice and fluid, and the the inclusion of multi-touch support means that you can pinch-zoom to get a closer look at things.
The virtual keyboard on the web browser and texting function is just about big enough to use easily, although those with big, man-sized hands might it to be a tad on the dainty side. It may sound like a rather insignificant point, but we found it really annoying that the comma doesn't appear on the primary keyboard, instead you have to tap through to the secondary selection (where the numbers and other punctuation marks are). It would have been nice to put it next to the full stop where it would've saved us a lot of time while texting. You're not restricted to the stock keyboard, of course and you can download others from Android Market which may well enhance the text-entry experience.
The built-in 3.2-megapixel camera with 3x digital zoom isn't up to the standards of those found on top-of-the range smartphones, but it's decent enough for capturing the odd snap. As is fairly standard nowadays, you can opt for a monochrome, sepia or negative finish for your pictures, or just roll with the standard colour mode. The camera has no flash, so you're limited to daytime shots only and it's also a fixed focus unit, which is a bit disappointing, but not really a surprise for a phone in this price range. Despite a couple of niggles the camera has some interesting features including the Add Me which enables you to make unusual compositions by combining two shots together. You can also turn on a grid so that you can use the guidlines to compose your shots properly.
You'll also find a panorama mode for stitching shots together to make an wide-angle panoramic image and there's also a continuous shot mode that lets you take up to nine shots with one touch of the on-screen button. There's also a basic video capture mode, but the results aren't great quality. Pictures can be Bluetoothed, emailed, sent by SMS or uploaded directly to Picasa.
Despite a relatively wide range of features, the Galaxy Mini's actual phone function isn't brilliant. On voice calls to both landlines and other mobiles we found the sound quality to be rather lacking and not terribly clear. It was by no means inaudible, but we did struggle when using the phone outside in a busy street. As you'd expect the built-in speaker is pretty weak and sounds quite tinny, but it certainly goes up loud enough for surly teenagers to annoy people on the bus with their tunes.
In terms of memory, the Mini has a built-in capacity of just 164MB, along with an microSD card slot for expanding up to 32GB. The on-board memory could run out pretty quickly if you intend to download a lot of apps, but then if you want more memory then you'll just have to shell out for a more expensive phone.
The Mini has a 1200mAh battery which is quoted as offering up to 570 minutes of talk time (or 380 minutes on 3G) and a standby time of 570 hours (or 440 hours on 3G). We certainly found that we didn't need to charge the Mini too often, even after hours of playing around with its various features.
The Mini is certainly competetively priced - you can get it for as little as £15 a month on a contract or £139.95 for a PAYG handset. If you'd rather buy it SIM free, then it will set you back £133.95
The Samsung Galaxy Mini is pitched at a certain market - mainly those who want a modest smartphone that they don't have to spend too much of their hard-earned cash on. Going by that premise - the phone delivers what it promises. It's very affordable and the slick design makes it look more expensive than it actually is. The touchscreen is responsive and also pretty large. However, the phone falls down in a few places - mainly when it comes to the rather mediocre audio quality on voice calls and the annoyingly low resolution of the screen. This is an incredibly competitive end of the market, with the likes of the INQ Cloud Touch or the HTC Wildfire S offering affordable alternatives.
The call quality certainly doesn't make the phone unusable, it just makes things sound a little muffled. If you intend to watch a lot of video or do a lot of web browsing then you're probably better off looking for a handset with a better screen, but if you're simply after a basic browser for occasional use, then the Mini could well be the budget option that you're looking for.