Samsung Wave S8500 User Review

Announced in Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last year (2010), Samsung Wave S8500 is the first Samsung bada OS phone. Bada OS is Samsung’s own operating system. It’s not iOS, Android or Symbian. It’s their very own operating system that’s been garnering huge reviews and hype.

I have always wanted to play around with the bada OS but didn’t want to spend money on a Samsung phone just for this. Thankfully, Advertlets was kind enough to contact me with a review unit of this bada powered Samsung Wave.

As mentioned, the phone runs on Samsung’s very own bada OS. Here’s a quick overview of the phone’s specifications:-

  • 3.3″ WVGA Super AMOLED capacitive multi-touch screen
  • Back 5 MP camera with Flash
  • Improved TouchWiz 3.0 User Interface (aka skin)
  • 1GB internal storage (microSD external storage, up to 32GB)
  • HD Video Player & Recording

For more information, check out their official product page on the Samsung Malaysia site.

Please note that this is NOT a paid review, but this is a Review Phone. Click on to read more about the phone from a pure user review point-of-view.


Hardware Overview

The Samsung Wave hardware is great. First thing you’ll notice is the build quality (metal body) and how solid the phone feels in your hands. Very much like a high end phone indeed – unlike the plasticky phone you get in most smartphones today.

Awesome 3.3″ Super AMOLED screen
(Left) Answer call button. (Right) End call / Power on-off button. (Middle) Menu button.

Because I have been so used to using an Android phone, the lack of a “Back” button seems weird to me. Pressing the “End Call” button brings you back to Home menu though. 
The back 5MP camera has an LED flash

Please pardon the “Not For Sale” print on the back of the phone. As I mentioned, this is a review unit. So, obviously your actual unit doesn’t have this imprint. *DUH*

The front camera allowing 3G Video calls

The front camera that enables 3G video call is something that has been omitted from a lot of powerful smartphones these days. Nevermind that video calls are not a huge service, it is still crucial to have the front facing camera.

The buttons and ports

At the top of the phone, you’d get a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, a micro-USB charging and sync port. On the left side of the phone, you’d see a volume rocker. On the left side, you’d see a “Lock” button and a “Camera” button.

I can’t tell you how much I love the physicality of the phone. It fits so perfectly in my hands. It’s so slim (11mm thick), so naturally very light and easy to hold and use with one hand. Very solid build indeed.

Super AMOLED screen & Camera

The Super AMOLED screen on Samsung phones are no doubt the biggest selling point. You can see it VERY CLEARLY with this phone. Sitting next to my HTC Desire, the display comparison shows a clear winner in the Samsung phone.

The phone has a capacitive multi-touch screen.

  • Capacitive = finger touch (no fingernails or stylus). 
  • Multi-touch = pinch and zoom when you browse the web / documents.

The image and the picture captured by the camera is crispy clear. Hard to express in words how awesome this display really is.

The back camera is really good

Samsung’s Super AMOLED for the win!!!

Setting up the phone

I find this step rather disappointing for a smartphone. Probably because I’m used to Windows Mobile or Android where cloud syncing is the norm. With Android, I only need to setup my Gmail username and password and everything is synced – my contacts, calendar, email, etc.

This is not the same with this phone. I setup my Gmail (it syncs email & calendar) – my Gmail contacts, however is not synced (???). The only way I can sync this is to use a micro-USB sync cable, Samsung Kies sync software and sync it with my desktop computer.

This I find a little troublesome, in today’s cloud syncing and backup days.
My Account setup

Other than Google setup, the phone also supports other webmails such as Yahoo and Windows Live. You can also setup your company email if it’s running on Exchange ActiveSync. Other POP3 and IMAP email accounts are also supported.

Software & User Interface

I don’t know whether it’s getting used to the bada OS or the TouchWiz 3.0 user interface that is a little cumbersome for me. Having used TouchWiz on my Samsung Galaxy Tab (check out my user review here), the UI was easy to understand and adapt.

Lock screen

All you need to do is to slide the screen to unlock the phone. Pretty standard with all touch screen smartphones you have out there.

Slide down notification shade

Similar to their Android phone (I’m guessing this is their TouchWiz interface at work), you can slide down the top bar that shows you quick shortcuts and any notifications you have, such as missed calls, new messages, etc. This is another implementation of background notification like Android OS.

*Apple’s iOS does an intrusive pop-up notification that interrupts your usage.

True mutli-tasking is supported here as well. All you need to do is click and hold the hardware “Menu” middle button. After 3 seconds, you will see a menu of last opened applications.

Generally, the user interface is quite easy to use. Without a User Manual, I am able to play around with it and get myself familiarised quite easily. But then again, I am a a geek and a mobile guru. For an Average Joe (say, someone like my dad who is not too tech savvy), it might take some time to get used to and several references to the User Manual to get adjusted.

Touch screen Keyboard

Personally, I am not used to the qwerty keyboard. Samsung has decided to include additional functions (ie. Send, Options and Back touch button) at the bottom of the keyboard. I feel these buttons took up space on the screen, making it a little difficult for me to adjust.
Touch keyboard

I end up making many mistakes on this screen, which could be attributable to the 3.3″ screen size. Additionally, the Predictive Text T9 function is not exactly very accurate. I don’t seem to think that it’s learning my typing style and texts very well, too.

I also notice that I always have to turn on the T9 function for different applications, again and again. For example, I turn on T9 for SMS, when I go to email app, I have to turn on T9 again there. When I go back to SMS, I noticed that T9 is turned off again (???). It could be me or this review unit.

If you’re not used to using qwerty touch keyboards, you can always choose to use other input methods such as phone keypad or handwriting input. Yes, handwriting input! If there’s no stylus and its a finger friendly touch screen phone, why would you need handwriting input? A redundant option, me thinks.

I feel that Samsung should include their famous Swype input for this phone. It worked so incredibly well on their Android phones, why not have it for bada, too?

Samsung Apps & Widgets
The application menu is accessible by clicking the middle “Menu” hardware button of the phone. See that “edit” button at the top of the screen? You click that to customise the placement order of the apps in the Application Menu.

Application Menu

Similar to many smartphones today with the success of any smartphones, you need a strong and huge App Store. Apple has it’s huge App Store, Android has their Marketplace, Nokia has their Ovi and here, Samsung has their own Samsung App Store as well.
In my personal opinion, other than Apple, Android, Windows Mobile and Blackberry, any other device’s own App Store might not succeed. Too much effort (and money) to spend to entice developers to create apps for you when they are concentrating on the bigger boys with higher traffic. Just my two cents.
Samsung App store
This doesn’t mean that the Samsung App is no good. Not comparing with the bigger OS App Store, they might not have millions of apps in the store, but have good essentials for you to choose.

Facebook Application

There is a dedicated Facebook application that’s built for this Samsung Wave. It’s a basic app that shows you your Newsfeed, your Profile and a list of your Facebook friends. This is linked to your Contact list in your phonebook. With this FB app, you can post status updates, upload pictures and comment on your friend’s updates. It’s a very basic app though, so no fancy features like Events, Groups, Facebook Chat, etc.

Twitter application

Like Facebook, there is also a dedicated Twitter application developed by Samsung. Similarly, this is a basic application that allows your Twitter timeline, another tab for @mentions and Direct Messages. One thing I can’t figure out when I was using this app, is the ability to upload images with my tweets. *scratches head*

Instant Messenger app
What I found really impressive is that Samsung bundled an integrated IM application. This is a pretty decent application that allows you to login to Windows Live, Yahoo Messenger and Google Talk for those of you who still uses IM, like me.
Additionally, Samsung also developed a good variety of widgets for your home screens. 
Samsung developed widgets
Feeds and Updates widget
This Feeds and Updates widget shows you your configured Social Network news feed. You can add your Facebook, Twitter and MySpace account. The refresh frequency can be configured accordingly. This widget is not a full app on its own, just a great widget to keep you updated on the latest news from your friends and followers.
Daily Briefing widget
This Daily Briefing widget is also a full app. Similar to what I have on the Samsung Galaxy Tab, you can configure this widget to pull updates for weather, stocks, news and highlight your next Calendar appointment in one quick overview. 

Web Browsing

Web Browsing on the Samsung Wave is good. Web pages loads quickly and thanks to the beautiful Super AMOLED screen, it looks great!
My blogsite on the browser
Flash is not supported (or has limited support), which is probably why the embedded YouTube video I have on my blog landing page is not loaded.
YouTube App that links to the Mobile site
No worries, as there is a built-in YouTube app on the Applications menu – which unfortunately, is just a link to the YouTube mobile site.
On the negative front – several times when I was trying to open some apps or browser function (ie. RSS feeds / bookmark), I came across some pop-up errors that I don’t quite understand.

Conclusion

Personally, I might recommend this phone to my friends who are not too tech savvy. If you…

  • Need a mid-range smartphone that can handle emails, calendar, messaging, browsing.
  • Are not too bothered about millions of downloadable apps, but only need functional ones
  • Great screen for multimedia (picture and video)
  • Basic social network usage (not for the Social Media managers)
I would rate this phone as a mid-range smartphone – not quite powerful enough to compete with the Apples and Androids, but a good enough device for a normal consumer and average professional.
After the successful launch of this Samsung Wave S8500, Samsung has launched several other Samsung Wave devices, running on the bada OS. Check it out here.

Mobile88.com states that this device is retailing for an average of RM 1,299. This is a healthy price, but needs to be revised to a more competitive pricing – what with so many options for smartphones in the market and massive subsidized smartphone plans by the mobile operators.

Because Samsung Galaxy S is doing so well as an Android smartphone, I personally don’t think Samsung should maintain it’s own mobile OS such as bada. I say they should just focus on coming out with entry level to high end Android phones. But then again, this is not an OS article, it’s a phone review. *sheepish grin*

Once again, as a reminder –  this is a personal user review of a loaned review phone. Everything here is my personal opinion only. If you own this phone and have different opinions, feel free to share it with a comment.

Also, if you’re looking at evaluating this phone as your next purchase and have a question of a function that I might not have covered here, drop me a comment too. 🙂

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