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Samsung Wave II Review

Jonathan Morris
March 16, 2011

There’s something to be said about Samsung’s persistence in continuing to release phones based on the bada OS, given how far Android has come since the first Wave handset was released.

The second model has now arrived, and it’s fair to say that the smartphone market has changed quite a bit. With almost every handset reviewed now running on one version of Android or another, it’s actually quite refreshing to see something that is different.

But is being different good or bad? While being too conformist might appear to be a bad thing, there’s an argument for going with the flow, considering the Wave II can only run apps designed for bada OS, which means this is never going to win against the big boys.

However, most of the things you’re likely to want to do are covered. Given how many people own, or owned, a Nokia phone that ran Symbian and never even realised or knew how to download an app, the Wave II might be just fine for many people.

Not everyone cares about whether there are 100,000 or 300,000 apps to download.

Samsung has built a very nice looking handset here, with a larger screen than the first model, although the design also mimics the original design that might be seen as dated. On the back is two diamond shaped openings for the 5-megapixel camera sensor and its associated LED flash.

It may not be a brand new design, but it very different to the Android offerings or the iPhone. The screen is also an improvement on the AM-OLED screen used first time around. The Super Clear LCD display is sharper, and little has been lost from the slightly reduced contrast ratio. Black is still very black, but the colours are more accurate. It’s bright too, and matches the resolution of most high-end Android phones at an impressive 480×800 pixels.

Continued…

Samsung has also developed a new text entry system, with a similar system to the Swype keyboard that has appeared on some Samsung handsets and the Motorola DEFY. Here you drag your fingers over the letters of a word in one continuous motion. It is quicker, but takes a bit of getting used to and a fair degree of accuracy. A dictionary works out the possible words and allows for the odd mistake, but the success rate depends on the length of the word and the possible alternatives.

For the most part, it works just fine. You can also use character recognition, using your finger to draw letters either on the full screen, or within a window. The virtual QWERTY keyboard is the one you’ll probably use most, either entering characters individually or dragging your finger.

The camera also benefits from a dedicated camera button on the side (remember when such a button was standard on nearly every phone?) with a fast start-up time that could have you taking a picture in just three seconds. Digital cameras might be quicker, but it’s no slouch.

Unfortunately, Samsung hasn’t opted to copy Microsoft’s excellent feature on Windows Phone 7 that lets you fire  the camera up from standby mode. If the Wave II is in standby, a lot of time is wasted tapping the lock key, swiping away the keylock and then holding the camera button. The only thing that stops this being a real downside is the fact that most other phones are even worse.

Despite being a non-standard and totally proprietary operating system, Samsung has worked hard on creating a user experience that is simple and very innovative. Everything is controlled through one main key that takes you to the menu, with a call and end key that really helps when you’re using it as a phone (the end key also takes you back to the homescreen at any time).

If you can remember a time that you used a mobile phone to make calls as against send texts, emails or play Angry Birds, you’ll get on with this phone. Unfortunately, mentioning Angry Birds was probably a mistake as it’s one of the many games you won’t be able to enjoy with the Wave II.

Rovio has covered most of the operating system platforms, but not this. In fact, the choice of games is minimal, so this is a phone you shouldn’t buy if you want to waste hours looking through thousands of apps.

If you want apps, get a Galaxy S or one of the other Galaxy smartphones on the market. But, if you can’t think of any apps you’d want to download, let alone pay for, this is one of the nicer operating systems for a ‘feature phone’. Don’t assume this means you can’t look at the web, send emails or use social networking. The phone has apps for Facebook and Twitter, plus YouTube and Samsung’s own navigation software (based on Route 66).

The browser can’t handle Flash content, but you can open multiple windows and zoom in by pinching on the screen. The Wave II also covers a range of video codecs so you watch movies, and to add storage just buy a microSDHC memory card.

With its 1,500mAh battery, the Wave II will probably outperform most other smartphones, with the standby time helped by the fact you won’t be playing with the phone every minute of the day.

I’m still not sure how much of a future Samsung’s proprietary operating system has, but as long as you don’t buy this phone thinking it will one day render Android obsolete, you can’t be disappointed. And if you’re really not a big fan of smartphones, but do like touchscreens, the Wave II is actually a great phone.

Verdict

What’s this, a phone that isn’t running Android? It’s good to see Samsung willing to continue development of the bada OS, even if it is unlikely to gain much traction, if only because it’s a fast, efficient and very user-friendly system that gives a nice alternative to customers who aren’t really bothered about thousands of apps and games. If you want a good, solid, phone with smartphone-like features but built around a decent phone experience, plus good battery life, the Wave II could prove to be a good choice. Just don’t be under any illusion that this will ever become anything more than it is.

Ratings (out of 5)

Performance: 5
Features: 4
Usability: 5

OVERALL: 4

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