Samsung has a Galaxy smartphone to suit every budget, and at the lower end of the scale is the Galaxy Fit. We’re not sure where the ‘fit’ comes from, as it’s not particularly sporty, rugged or equipped with tools to keep you fit, but it sounds impressive. But is it?
At the lower end of the Android smartphone market last year, there was a Samsung phone called the Europa that we quite liked for its simplicity and ease-of-use. Despite a low-resolution screen and relatively slow processor, it had real buttons to make and end calls, as well as a D-pad to aid navigation around the screen.
Now Samsung has introduced another affordable offering, but with a much larger screen size. At 3.31-inches, it’s pretty impressive – at least until you turn it on and see that it still has the same 240×320 pixel resolution. It’s really not sufficient to compete against other low-end contenders like the HTC Wildfire S, or the forthcoming Xperia mini from Sony Ericsson, which is a rather big problem given everything about the phone hinges on the screen.
However, it does support multi-touch, which is an improvement over the Europa, allowing you to play Angry Birds without having to guess where you’re aiming!
The call and end buttons have also disappeared, along with the D-pad and search key. The phone has opted to mimic the higher end models, with a single home key and touch-sensitive buttons for menu and back. While this keeps things simple and improves the look of the phone, it does come at the expense of usability.
While making a call must now be done exclusively via the touchscreen, Android OS does now have a feature that lets you hang-up a call by pressing the power button. There’s nothing more reassuring than pressing a physical button to end a call, even if it’s only psychological. However, having a button to end calls also works when you’ve moved away from the call screen, so it does have a real benefit.
Being stuck with a QVGA-resolution screen means you’re going to have to put up with quite large and blocky text, with the obvious impact on photos and videos too. Nor will you be able to install the Adobe Flash player.
However, not everything has been cut to the bone. Although there’s no light on the back, Samsung has included an impressive five-megapixel autofocus sensor on the back. Even if you can’t view photos in all their glory on the handset display, you can at least take great photos that will look fine when shared with your PC or favourite social networking site.
On the video side, things aren’t quite so good. There are two resolutions on offer, with QVGA being top and 176×144 below, presumably for recording short clips that can be sent via picture messaging.
Other camera features are lacking too, including a button to activate the camera, with the only good feature being geo-tagging. If Google didn’t require all Android 2.x devices to come with a minimum set of features, such as GPS and Wi-Fi, there’s every chance this would have been missing too.
Luckily there is a minimum spec, and besides GPS and Wi-Fi (including 802.11n support), the phone also works with both 2G and 3G and offers data downloading at up to 7.2Mbps.
Samsung also bundles its devices with the SWYPE on-screen keyboard, which speeds up text entry by allowing you to drag, or swipe, your finger over the letters you want to enter. Once mastered, it does speed up text entry but does rely on accurately guessing the words when multiple options exist. Despite the blocky text, the larger screen does make it easy to enter text using SWYPE or the native Android virtual keyboard.
Besides Samsung’s own TouchWiz UI front-end, which is included here in its most minimalist form, there aren’t many pre-loaded apps that differ from any standard, unbranded, Google phone. Samsung has added its own app store (but, don’t worry, you still get Android Market access), Social Hub (that combines texts, Facebook, Twitter and MySpace updates in a single unified inbox), along with a self-explanatory file manager and Memo app.
With a newer version of the OS, there are improvements to the core Google apps but the low-grade screen may soon limit the choice of apps as some developers move towards using 320×480-pixel screens as the minimum level they’ll support. This is partly down to the difficulties in creating apps that offer the same look and feel across a very large, and increasing, spectrum.
It’s not all bad though. The battery (1,350mAh) is powerful enough to make the Galaxy Fit more than able to last a few days, while the easily accessable memory card slot comes with a 2GB card already installed out of the box. If you need more, it takes cards of any size up to 32GB. Chuck on some music and connect some ‘phones via the 3.5mm headphone jack on the top and away you go. There’s an FM radio included too.
Software updates must be carried out using Samsung’s PC software, and an update to Android 2.3 should be released soon giving the phone some future proofing and a few battery optimisations.
As a no-frills phone that sells on prepay for under £100, compared to a Galaxy S II that will cost almost £500, it is vital to maintain some sense of perspective, but even at nearly a fifth of the price, the screen can’t be ignored. There’s the Orange San Francisco with a 480×800 pixel display for one, or HTC’s Wildfire S for around £50 more, which adds both an improved screen and an LED flash for the camera, plus better video recording.
Sadly, this leaves the Galaxy Fit as a handset that isn’t bad, with a boost from the surprisingly high-quality camera, but still decidedly average and looking like it will have a rather short shelf life before being rendered completely obsolete.
The Galaxy Europa was good for its time, but QVGA-screens are really not up to the task of coping with the growing number of Android apps entering the market. The Galaxy Fit gains a multi-touch screen, but hasn’t gained any more pixels despite the jump from 2.8 to 3.3-inches. Now the pixels are even more pronounced, which doesn’t do much to the user experience. However, it’s not a Galaxy S II, nor is it trying to be. It has a very decent camera (for stills at least) and good performance from both the battery and processor. The problem for Samsung is that you now have handsets like the HTC Wildfire S, making this a choice only for people on the most limited of budgets.
Ratings (out of 5)
- GSM Quad-Band, 3G/HSDPA (7.2) Dual-Band
- Android 2.2 (Froyo)
- 3.31-inch 240Ã320 pixels QVGA TFT-LCD
- 600MHz Processor
- 5-megapixel autofocus (no flash), QVGA-res video
- 110.2 x 61.2 x 12.6 mm
- 1,350mAh battery
Quadrant Benchmarking Score: 553
Neocore Graphic Test: 45.0 frames per second