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Review of Samsung Galaxy 550 (i5500, Galaxy 5, Corby Smartphone) GSM/UMTS
Live Images of the Samsung Galaxy 550
In the box:
It is obvious from the title that the model has many names for different markets. In Russia it is marketed as Galaxy 550, in Europe as Galaxy 5, while in selected countries you should look for Corby Smartphone if you like the model. Different names were chosen depending upon the intended positioning of the handset. On the one hand it can be the top offering in the Corby range and it has the appropriate design. On the other hand, it can be treated as the cheapest Galaxy smartphone. So the question of positioning is a bit complicated. Nevertheless, we have one of the most accessible Android smartphones and Samsung does not offer cheaper smartphones at all.
Cost cutting is the most obvious in the screen. The model is a strange Android hybrid customized for low resolution. It is logical to see WildFire from HTC as the key rival. On the other hand the low resolution makes the handset unattractive for those who need a fully fledged smartphone. The device cannot be viewed as an ordinary phone for calls either. Galaxy 550 is a funny mixture with enhanced phone features, an opportunity (with some reservations) to install many apps, but boasting the small size and standard controls.
Taken together these parameters indicate that this phone is the first Android for the youth, when the price matters and the screen can be sacrificed. The design also caters for the young generation. At the same time the sales will not be huge, because it competes with Corby as a touchscreen solution. I do not think that consumers unaware of Android will pay the premium for the model. Those in the know have alternative models to choose from – Motorola Quench XT5, HTC WildFire and Samsung i5800 (Galaxy 3).
The handset will not sell easily and requires advertisement, advice of sales assistants, etc. It is unlikely to become a conscious choice for the masses. It has some allure and I understood that during several weeks of testing. Unfortunately, its market niche is slightly blurred due to abovementioned reasons.
The looks are pure Corby with black face, chrome like elements on the side. The back cover is glossy all over and can be easily soiled. The build quality is good, there is no squeaking or looseness here. The memory card slot is under the back cover.
The dimensions are 108 x 56 x 12.3 mm and it weighs 102 g. It fits the hands well and does not threaten to slip out. The big advantage in comparison with other Android models is the presence of hardware start and end call buttons together with four additional keys. Sadly, these keys have no backlight, so they are not convenient to use in the dark, especially if you do not remember their location.
Samsung Galaxy 550 and Motorola Quench XT5
The left side features a paired volume rocker and the microUSB jack covered by a plastic cap. The top hosts a 3.5 mm audio jack.
The model boasts a capacitive screen, which does not support multitouch due to its tiny 2.8″ size. The resolution of 240х320 is the absolute minimum for any Android device. We can say that initially Android was never meant to be used with this kind of resolution. Later on we will discuss how the UI was customized to fit this screen. Engineers did a good job and the phone is easy to use in everyday life.
Its TFT screen has up to 262000 colors. In the sun the screen fades because of the small size and the display itself is not very bright. Indoors the picture is decent, but nothing else can be said about it. The matrix is cheap and you cannot expect stunning brightness and excellent color reproduction. It definitely loses out both to Motorola Quench XT5 and HTC WildFire. To my mind this screen can be used in Corby lineup, but against the backdrop of Android models it looks archaic. Here lies the weakest point of the handset.
The screen fits up to 12 text lines and several service lines. The fonts are normal and during the kinetic or any other scrolling they merge into one picture. The screen resolution is too low.
The handset has a 1299 mAh Li-Ion battery. In standard conditions (30-40 minutes of talktime and 10-15 text messages a day together with customized Gmail account for automatic mail check and delivery) our test sample worked during 24 hours. Less intensive use will give you around 2 or 3 days. The result is quite impressive for an Android phone.
The manufacturer claims up to 9.5 hours of talktime in 2G (6.5 hour in 3G) and 521 hours on standby (375 for 3G).
The phone has an ordinary 2 MP camera without the flash. Remember that a small spot or particles of dirt on the lens turn photos into a messy blur. You can judge for yourself by looking at samples below. The camera is below average. It is a very low cost solution.
Video is recorded in 3gpp (кодек h.263) format and has the speed of 15 frames per second. The sound recording is carried out with the help of amr. codec. Video resolution is 320x240. Photo and video settings are absent.
The handset works in GSM (850/900/1800/1900) networks.
PC synchronization and data transfer use microUSB cable. USB is represented by 2.0 HS. There are two operation modes: KIES and Mass Storage. Bluetooth 2.1 supports the following profiles:
The most popular multimedia profiles are also supported, but there is no objects (contacts cards) transfer via Bluetooth or access to file systems of other devices. The use of the stereo headset was fine, but the sound is average.
WiFi 802.11 b/g is supported without problems.
The phone has about 170 MB of the built-in memory available to users. microSD memory cards are on the side under the back cover. They are hot swappable and you can easily use cards of up to 16 GB. The processor of 600 MHz allows this small screen smartphone to work fast.
The phone utilizes Android Éclair (2.1), but this version was thoroughly reworked to fit the screen size, which is visible in virtually every app and menu. TouchWiz 3 is used here. I do not want to repeat the description of every feature, for example, the browser, but would rather highlight the differences together with screenshots to judge the results at the low resolution screen.
In the standby mode you select “live” wallpapers or widgets: system ones and developed by Samsung. Due to small screen size all widgets are small, but even in this case they are fully functional. They do not contain much info though.
In Accounts you can enter the details of your Facebook or Twitter accounts, but do not look for separate apps for these web services, as they are not here. In Contacts you have the tab Activities with the events bar. It is not very convenient, especially taking into account that you can view messages from two bars only or disable one of them in turn. It is not very easy to use. The proprietary widget does not solve the problem and the desktop hosts only two messages and you have to scroll the text down all the time.
Messages are created by Write and Go: you write the text and send it to the selected social network. Everything is in different places, which makes it difficult to use. I handled the issue by installing Twidroyd, but this app did not react to the status bar pressings. The point is that it is optimized for higher resolutions. Quick test of apps from the Android Market revealed similar behavior of around 50% of applications. I had no aim to check all apps, but the problem does exist. Screen resolution makes this gamble necessary.
The keypad features a pre installed Swype for horizontal and vertical orientations. The text input is fast and convenient. Despite the screen size the keypad is easy to use.
Music characteristics are traditional with 5.1 mode for headphones, which adds some stereopan to the sound. Equalizers are available, but you cannot customize them. Other features are standard: the filter by performers, albums and track titles. The quality of music playback is decent. FM radio initially surprises when the device finds almost all available stations in the street (48 in my case; Nokia could find only 16 in the same location). You can listen to all of them, but the reception quality is not ideal for some radio stations. Another downside is the low quality of reception outdoors with the help of the headset as an antenna, which is a fairly standard approach. If the signal is weak, you will not hear it indoors. I do not know whether it is good or bad, but many users will complain about the radio quality. At the same time other manufacturers just do not allow receiving weak signals. You have two different approaches here, so it is up to you to decide.
When you dial the number the smart search option is available: you enter first letters of a name and the phone offers available ones with the number of calls on the right. One touch is enough to activate the necessary list. For a particular contact you can choose any number from the phonebook. It is a welcome addition to the standard feature of Android.
In SMS chats the icon of a contact is displayed only at the top of the screen and you can activate the shortcut menu from here. Due to the lack of space engineers decided to free the screen this way.
AllShare is a standard uPnP and allows sending files to PC and back through WiFi, listen or view them in both locations (if the format is supported).
The model has Samsung App Market and Android Market.
The ringtones volume is ideal courtesy of a dedicated loudspeaker at the back and nice choice of melodies. The vibro is good and has above average power. This is a typical Samsung without any speech communication problems.
It is priced at €240, which is not cheap for this model. HTC WildFire is its direct rival with better design, camera and Sense shell. The price is a bit higher. For the same amount you can get Motorola Quench XT5 with better camera and bigger high resolution screen. Do not forget a cheap LG Optimus. It happens that for the Android market this model is not a key one. The company’s lineup contains i5800 (i580) – better camera and bigger screen (240х400), and with the price difference of around €50 i550 is not competitive as well. The model has some charm, but its inflated price will not make it popular.
SAR level for this model is 0.65 W/kg.
Published 08 October 2010
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