Samsung Wave S8500

Style & Handling Summary for Samsung Wave S8500
The look of the Wave is Samsung through and through, from the aluminium casing to the impressive screen. Luckily, TouchWiz has undergone an upgrade, which makes it far less clunky than it once was.
Samsung Wave S8500

User Friendliness Summary for Samsung Wave S8500
It’s easy to set up all your social networking and email accounts but while Samsung regulars will have no problem picking up the new user interface, newcomers may find the widget-only home screens and non-customisable apps menu frustrating.

Feature Set Summary for Samsung Wave S8500
The Wave has an impressive array of features: the fantastic super-AMOLED display, a 1Ghz processor and a five megapixel camera join forces with the social networking aggregator Social Hub.

Performance Summary for Samsung Wave S8500
Occasional freezing and automatic shutdown of applications mar an otherwise impeccable performance.

Battery Power Summary for Samsung Wave S8500
No smartphone has a very long battery life. The Wave will last about a day, less if you listen to lots of music or watch videos.

Full Review and Specification for the Samsung Wave S8500

The Samsung Wave is full of contradictions. As the flagship smartphone for the manufacturer’s bada open-source operating system it has a few teething problems, but nevertheless it’s a powerful, good-looking device with top-notch social networking features.
Style and handling on the Samsung Wave S8500

When it comes to appearance, the Samsung Wave has lots to recommend it. You can’t fail to notice its ‘super-AMOLED’ display: a clean, bright screen that looks amazing. The ‘super’ is put into AMOLED by using fewer layers of glass and bringing the LED lights closer to the surface of the screen, meaning that reflection and glare are reduced significantly, even in direct sunlight.

The 3.3-inch screen – which sits well in the slim, aluminium alloy and plastic device, is made of tempered glass and feels smooth when you swipe it. In fact, it’s Samsung’s best capacitive screen so far: quick, accurate and responsive. Even the keyboard, traditionally a sticking point with Samsung phones, feels superb. Auto-correct works well, although more obscure words will need a little more clicking as you cannot insert a new word without adding it to the dictionary first. Annoyingly, you have to switch over to a symbols screen even to add a full stop, and pressing the space bar doesn’t automatically take you back to the main keyboard.

Multi-touch support makes zooming a smooth, intuitive process. Our favourite little extra is the puzzle-themed unlock screen. Your missed calls and messages display as a jigsaw piece that you move to the hole in the puzzle to unlock the phone and go straight to that call or text.

Thanks to the 1Ghz processor, you can run around eight programs simultaneously without really slowing doesn’t, although running a lot of data-heavy programs can make it lag a bit. And if it gets too much, the phone automatically shuts down widgets running in the background, which is annoying. Usually, though, it gives you the option of ending programs manually, which you do by holding down the central button to see all running apps.

At the top of the device are a microSD card slot, protected by a sliding cover, and a 3.5mm audio jack. On the sides sit dedicated buttons for the camera and for locking the phone.
TouchWiz on the Samsung Wave S8500

Despite the shiny newness of the hardware and OS, Samsung’s creaky old TouchWiz interface makes its appearance – fortunately it’s a v3.0 upgrade, which hides the toolbar discreetly so you no longer get accidental instructions. Drag and drop is more fluid and you can add up to ten home screens that you can customise with widgets. You can’t add app shortcuts – it goes into an all programs menu that spreads over several screens, although you can’t change the order of the apps like you can on an iPhone.

Despite the upgrade, TouchWiz still feels restrictive. But there’s a new range of widgets including news from the BBC, FT and The Register, a birthday reminder that feeds from your contacts book and Facebook, and a great little widget called Days, that aggregates information from the Diary, Task and Memo apps into a single view of one day.
Social networking on the Samsung Wave S8500

The Samsung Wave’s big selling point is Social Hub, a social integration app that is the most fully-featured social networking feature anywhere. It lets you add phonebook contacts over the air from Microsoft Exchange, Gmail and Yahoo! as well as adding and syncing contacts from Facebook, Twitter and Windows Live. The phone will then match up contacts with your phone book if they have the same email address – although not from Facebook or Twitter, oddly. And unlike HTC’s Sense phones, the Wave won’t match contacts based on name alone so you have to manually sync those contacts for whom you don’t have email addresses to avoid having the same person in three times.

We like the feature that allows you to text a contact by sliding your finger to the right of the name or call them by sliding left. There’s also the Buddies Now widget, that puts your favourite contacts on the home screen with a picture and their latest status update. From there you can comment on the status or call the contact.

There are bada-specific Twitter and Facebook apps preloaded, which are fully featured, although an annoying glitch in Facebook means event invitations only display as Yes/No/Maybe buttons, giving you no clue as to what the events actually are.

The universal calendar syncs your Facebook and Microsoft Exchange calendars into a handy single view. And when you create an event, you can invite friends from any of your contact books, which is so far a unique feature.

Of course, we expect Push notifications, but what’s really amazing is being able to view your communication history with each contact from their entry in your contacts book. Text, email, Facebook and instant messaging are all listed, as well as status updates and posted albums.

One problem that seems to beset social networking smartphones is simply making a phone call, and the Wave is no different. To make a call you have to hit the phonebook icon, press search to find the person and tap again. Messaging is easier: you can send a message directly from the keypad.
Navigation on the Samsung Wave S8500

Where the Samsung Wave falls down is on navigation. You have to pay for routes and directions from Samsung’s preloaded maps application and can’t even get Google Maps. The Samsung maps are not as detailed as Google or Ovi maps, and look cartoonish. Really it’s only good for use when you’re in a new place and need to find your bearings – you can search for addresses, there are points of interest icons you tap for more details, and you can search using keywords or points of interest. One good feature is the integration with the calendar, meaning you can map any address in an event profile.

Getting a fix on your location is quick and accurate, but the map interface is data heavy and is one of the first apps to freeze when the Wave started to become overwhelmed.

Pinch your fingers together to zoom in the maps and the HTML web browser, which gives you a desktop-like view. Pages loaded in less than five seconds over Wi-Fi, and pictures rendered beautifully, and autofit means all your text fits on the page even when you zoom in. There’s also copy and paste, like you see on the iPhone and HTC Desire, but not as well implemented and takes some time to use smoothly.
Camera on the Samsung Wave S8500

The five-megapixel camera produces vivid, clear pictures with nice warm colours. There are lots of different modes including night and portrait modes, all with explanations and tips on how to use them. Pictures taken in low light conditions have good colour, but are slightly fuzzy once you zoom in. The flash is prone to overexposure, although this is true of most camera phones.

You can record and play back high-definition video, which delivers surprisingly impressive results, although the framerate decreases in low light. The video player has support for both DivX and Xvid, which makes for crisp, vivid movie watching on that super-AMOLED display.

For downloading apps, Samsung Apps marketplace is preloaded, although as yet there’s not much choice. With the exception of YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, which are also preloaded, nearly every big-name app is missing from the App Store, although companies such as EA Mobile are starting to get on board with bada, so this will hopefully change very soon.
The verdict on the Samsung Wave S8500

The Samsung Wave certainly has a lot going for it: your contacts pulled together into one place, different apps working together – and that beautiful, responsive touch-screen. There are flaws – even upgraded, TouchWiz is clunky, and the customisation options could be better, but there are an impressive number of preloaded widgets. All in all it’s a very useable and fun phone. You just need to get to grips with its quirks.