Samsung Galaxy i7500: First look & unboxing

by Ben Smith on 21st September 2009

I’d been looking forward to seeing the Samsung Galaxy for some time…

Having fallen in-love with Android on my G1, but out of love with its poor build quality and chunky dimensions HTC’s Hero was looking like the only option for a better-made, better-specified device (until LG and Motorola‘s announcements last week) and even that was lacking in the camera and looks departments.

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The Galaxy immediately impresses with the beautiful screen and smart - albeit plastic - finish.

Due to be released as far back as July, the Galaxy is finally available from O2 as part of their effort to dominate the smartphone space in the UK. It looks promising too with…

  1. slim dimensions – 115 x 56 x 11.9mm (see the comparison pic with the iPhone below)
  2. a great looking 3.2″ AMOLED screen
  3. an auto-focusing 5MP camera with LED flash
  4. snappy performance from a 528MHz ARM processor
  5. a huge battery (1500mAh – the same as many of Nokia’s top-end handsets)
  6. a 3.5mm headphone jack (are you listening HTC?)
  7. 8GB of internal memory expandable with a micro-SD card

The delay in launching (not officially acknowledged) had been attributed by some to difficulties with ‘software’ that meant it hadn’t passed O2′s testing.  That’s resolved now and it’s available free on a £45 per month contract.  O2 have it exclusively for the month of September.  Elsewhere it’s available in around £430 SIM-free.

Sadly, all of these impressive stats are blown away by two major failings… but marvel at its physical loveliness before we discuss what’s inside and how that’s what counts.

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On the back: an attractive glossy finish and the 5MP camera with LED flash. The speaker at the bottom is loud and clear.

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On the top: Behind the flap is the micro-USB charging and data socket next to the 3.5mm headphone jack.

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Side view: The camera button and a dedicated screen unlock button.

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Size comparison: The Galaxy is about the same height and depth as the iPhone 3G, but is slightly narrower.

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Depth comparison: The iPhone's bevel makes it look slimmer, but there's little difference.

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OK, so it looks great and comes with a nice little slip case. What’s the problem?  In a word….

Battery.

But doesn’t it have a great big battery?

Twitter / Ben Smith: ... and with that the Sams ...

Yes it does, but something’s not right…

In testing, even with light use and data turned off for much of the day it managed 9 hours from full to shut-down. With heavier use it died even more quickly.  I’d guess this was the problem O2 were struggling with… Some of the applications, including the browser, have a setting to auto-dim the screen when they run and I can see why now after being annoyed at squinting at web-pages through the gloom.

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The battery gauge: You'll find yourself looking at this a lot. And shouting... Shouting bad, bad words.

It’s not wasting all that power though… it’s just making the handset unpleasantly warm to hold when using 3G or WiFi data.  It’ll be great in the winter.

Oh… and the camera’s rubbish.  Take a look at the sample images I snapped.

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The camera might be 5MP, but start-up time is glacial, shutter lag is epic and this kind of blurry shot is typical from even well-lit scenes.

Forget ‘capturing the moment’… camera start-up time and shutter lag (and the resulting blurry images) mean it’s static, well lit objects as photo-subjects only… At least you won’t want to waste that precious battery life uploading the results to the web.

Combined with an annoying screen-lock button on the side of the device which needs to be pressed and help for a few seconds (yawn) to unlock the device I really can’t recommend the Galaxy… even if it weren’t priced at this premium level the real-world usefulness of a device that can’t last a full working day is so terrible, the excellent screen and build count for little in the equation. And because it’s not a ‘Google Experience‘ handset you won’t be getting the inevitable firmware upgrades (which surely will be needed to sort this mess out) over the air as with the G1 either.

What a horrendous disappointment – aside from these two flaws it’s really quite good in every other respect.

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