Gadget Review: Samsung Galaxy 5

A couple of weeks ago, I started using the Samsung Galaxy 5 for work, as I showed in my previous post. Why? Because my work relies a lot on Google, so it was natural for us to use an Android phone. Why Galaxy 5? Because we really didn’t need all the other features other phones like the Galaxy S or the HTC Desire has. Now, how does it fare…

I’ve been very comfortable with having an Android 2.1 phone with using the Samsung Galaxy Spica for a few months, and I really got the hang of it. So when the office offered to make me use another phone, well, it was an opportunity that I didn’t want to pass. So here it is, the Galaxy 5, which is recently has been released by Samsung.

Okay, first thing’s first, in comparison with the Spica, this phone does feel more light. In a way it feels like a toy, but not a bad looking phone though. At first, I thought it was a Samsung Corby, and you can really mistake the phone for one. The body is very identical, the only difference is the additional buttons that are standard for Android Phones. When I tried looking for a screen protector, because it was new, it was hard to find one. I then said to the sales lady to look for a screen protector for a Corby, and she was surprised to see that the top portion fits exactly and the Corby screen was only a few millimeters longer.

I did enjoy setting up the phone since this is the first time I saw Live Wallpaper working. I played around the main launcher which was the TouchWiz and it worked great, and I do like it better the one installed in Spica. My only problem with the TouchWiz is that I couldn’t figure out how to set the main window since it seems like it’s set to the left most as the default, but I like it because it was so easy to remove and add screens without guessing what will be deleted.

The screen is pretty okay, not as big as the Spica and the resolution is pretty much half of that phone too. Trying to view the screen at 240×320 can make you squint a little. It took me a while to adjust, since I got used to looking at the Spica at 320×480 resolution. But what stood out on the phone is that the 3D graphics are a lot smoother. I was even able to run Live Wallpaper which was impossible with the Spica. Even the default image gallery was in 3D.

The small screen is a challenge, since there are lesser details that you can see and because of this it may get a little harder to use the virtual keyboard. The saving grace for this is the Swype virtual keyboard. This system has been incorporated with only a few phones and as of this writing, you can’t download it for other Android phones. Swype is very interesting and it does make it easier to use than just pressing letters. Swype makes writing effective by pressing the first letter and sliding your thumb on the letters you need. It then tries to predict what you are typing. At first it might seem complicated, but after some practice you do get to understand that it’s a very effective system. You don’t even have to be exact, if you do make a mistake, well a few delete keys aren’t too complicated to press. Also Swype makes more sense when using the phone on a vertical position than what I do on Spica which I always have to position the phone horizontally to type properly. To read more about Swype check out their official site.

Taking calls is pretty easy, I think it generally still functions just like the Android, but the different look is nice. Having big thumbs isn’t a problem with this thing. Typing each number will try to search the closest name and number possible, which is very convenient indeed. If you don’t want to dial and you want to check the contact list, it’s pretty easy too. What surprised me is that it also tries to link similar contacts. You do have the option to remove or add linked contact details. What I didn’t like is that I didn’t have much of a choice when I got a contact from another android phone and tried to sync is with Google, it won’t let me. The contact is stuck in the Phone memory, although you can link it, but no way to copy it, unless I missed it.

Gps takes a while longer to lock in your position compared to the Spica. At first I even thought that the gps wasn’t working, but maybe it was just bad weather conditions. But I have tried using both phones at the same time using the same map program called MapDroid and the Spica locked in after a minute or 2, while the Galaxy 5 took a while longer than that.

Wifi is very buggy. I’m not sure if it’s a problem with the phone itself but even when I turn the phone on and off for several times, wifi only works maybe 1 out of 5 times. The problem I encountered gives me a sign that it was working since it was detecting all nearby wifi signals, but it was strange that whatever I do, it just won’t switch from gprs/3g/hsdpa to wifi. I even tried disabling the mobile network internet so there won’t be any alternative except for wifi, but to no avail. Strangely.  Once I do get the wifi working, the mobile network won’t start. It’s a frustrating bug. Considering I never had a problem with Spica means I do have some knowledge on using an Android 2.1 phone. I have been to Samsung Mobile Center at Mall of Asia and they did get it running without a problem, but as I tried it here at home, I still got the same problem. So, it might be some other issue like the router settings and such, but since it not a easy fix, this will be a nagging problem for me.

Because of this, I wasn’t able to test their DNLA software called AllShare which could /should be able to stream music and video from the phone to the computer and vice versa. I should have been a great software to use since I love listening to my music around the house.

Well, since Wifi doesn’t work for me, it’s great that I was able to test the internet connection using gprs/3G/hsdpa. And from my point of view, it works great. Although it can get expensive in terms of your data plan unless you have an unlimited internet plan with your mobile network. I was able to download a lot of applications and it was pretty fast when the connection is clear.

Another feature I liked was the camera, generally, it still looks like the same camera as the basic one installed with the Android and the image resolution isn’t particularly outstanding, but what stood out for me was the ability to do panoramic shots. On the Spica, I still had to download a program called AndroPan to add this feature, on the Galaxy 5, it’s a standard feature. I like it a lot, the problem is that you do have a very limited control over it. Once it starts shooting, you don’t have any control over the settings, it just shoots and shoots depending on how you move, then it stitches the image automatically. So, it’s convenient, but if you are looking for quality, this ain’t the best one. Another thing I liked about the camera is that it’s faster to adjust in certain lighting conditions compared to the Spica. But since the device itself doesn’t have a flash, getting pictures on this thing is surely not a priority.

Another thing I liked is the radio, I tried it when I was going to a meeting. It worked flawlessly. I loved it, although I don’t usually listen to radio stations unless I need it. If you do like listening to radio, this works great. No worries with functionality and the sound quality is quite clear too. I also tried the video player, I miss that this phone can’t use DivX/Xvid out of the box. It’s something I loved with Spica. But playing MP4 files, worked great too. Placed some Gametrailer videos and it was smooth playing. I also added a few music files to test since I play a lot of music on the Spica, and the basic player works wonderfully too. The only thing I found strange is that the video and music player runs fine with using the phone speakers but the FM radio tuner needs the earphones to work. It kinda doesn’t make sense to me.

Overall, I have a few disappointments and those few are major. I’d love to recommend the phone really, it runs smoothly, a lot more than the Spica and the features are amazing, but because of the faulty GPS and Wifi, it’s not something I highly recommend outright. To tell you the truth that it might be just a minor glitch with my wifi router, but if that glitch is very specific to the i5503, changing the entire router setup just for the phone is a bit inconvenient for me. Which is ironic because convenience is the main reason we got the Galaxy 5 in the first place. But if the GPS and Wifi works on the phone you got, then it’s really a highly recommended phone. I love the camera, yeah, the quality isn’t great, but if it’s just for quick family shots, its fine.

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