Samsung had a rough start to its entry into the world of Android. Handsets were either uninspired or underpowered, however with the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S earlier in the year the Korean company managed to change all that producing a handset worthy to take on the likes of the HTC Desire.
We were told the Samsung GT-i5500 would be known as the Galaxy Apollo when we saw it on display at IFA, although we're not certain this is going to be the case. The new smartphone might not have the flat minimalist styling of the Galaxy S, but it's got something else you might want: a QWERTY keyboard.
Described by Samsung as a "sexy slider", the i5510 will come with what looks like a 3.2-inch screen, 5-megapixel camera, that ever handy QWERTY keyboard and a the usual connectivity options of Wi-Fi, 3G, HSDPA, and Bluetooth.
On the processor front you'll get a 1GHz Snapdragon chip from Qualcomm (the same as the Galaxy S) while software is Android 2.2 (Froyo). The phone features the same TouchWiz interface as the Galaxy S, which we've found to be surprisingly good when we've seen it on other devices.
Beside the capacitive touchscreen display, you'll get an optical trackpad benath the screen, as well as a menu and back key. Around the edge are the standard volume keys and a 3.5mm headphone socket.
Slide out that QWERTY keyboard, which has a strong, solid, action to it, and you reveal a large keyboard that has surprisingly big buttons well spaced out. Samsung has opted for a four-row configuration with numbers and symbols accessible via a function key. We found this phone on the Vodafone.de stand at the and the highlighted keys were red, which could be a Vodafone branding thing, or just the colour you get.
Tucked in amongst the letters are four arrow keys and these can help you navigate around individual apps or the menu interface. Typing is easy with the keys offering plenty of movement (but not overly so) and the design offering plenty of space for you to work, unlike the Palm Pre for example.
When closed the keyboard doesn't add too much to the overall thickness of the design, however it's no way near as thin as the Samsung Galaxy S.
Our play was brief, but the performance certainly lived up to expectations, apps were quick to load, the browser zippy, however we couldn't play Flash videos suggesting that the pre-production prototype hadn't got that far down the production line to have Flash player 10.1 added yet. Adobe has said that not all smartphones running Android 2.2 will be getting the player so if that's important you'll have to double check nearer the time of release as to whether this model is getting it.
Overall the web experience is good though with and thankfully it does have multi-touch support.
While it doesn't have the excitement that the Samsung Galaxy S has at first glance, the tech specs under the hood certainly look to make up for it, suggesting this should become one of those solid performers for Samsung.
We look forward to giving it a proper run for its money when it hits the UK later this year.
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