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Samsung F480 TouchWiz
I’ve often hailed Samsung's F480 TouchWiz as being a sure contender for the role of 'i-Killer'. Having had an opportunity to test it over the last week or so, here’s my opinion on whether or not it’s the best candidate yet. However, please understand that this is a standalone review and I’m not comparing it to the iPhone in any way; at least, not yet. That said, let's take a look at this TouchWiz.
The design is one of the things I quite liked about the handset when I first saw it. It’s a sleek, balanced handset that won’t protrude out of your pocket and elicit witticisms such as “Is that your mobile or are you just happy to see me?” The steel and black finish impart an air or class and refinement.
One minor drawback is the 2.8" TFT touchscreen. I’m sure it wouldn't have made Samsung bankrupt to take it up a notch to 3 inches. The resolution is 240 x 320 pixels with 256K colors. The speaker and secondary cam (which is well concealed) are located above the display. The F480 has a simple three-button control below the display. All you see are Call and End keys, and a shortcut key in between.
The handset weighs a scant 100g, so needless to say it’s quite comfortable to tote around. On one of the slim sides you’ll find the volume control for everything, including the touch feedback from the Haptics to the sound. Just below that is a microSD card slot. A dedicated camera key is locted on the other side, below where Samsung has placed its proprietary USB/ charging/ earphone socket. A small screen lock switch is located on the top.
Sometimes it was a bit confusing which side of the handset was up, considering the speaker could be construed as an iPhone-like singular key and the main keys as the speaker portion to hear though.
Features and Performance
Interface and Navigation
The large and clear display makes everything come to life. The small section called Widgets (a way of saying shortcuts) is a tap away on the main screen. It folds neatly to the side when you don’t need it. It has a set list of shortcuts you can access from that section. You can’t add any shortcuts other than those pre-selected, but you can choose the ones you’d like to have previewed. I liked the smooth slide-out feature for dropping those Widgets on to the desktop for easy access.
The moment you start the F480 TouchWiz, I'd recommend that you immediately shut off the annoying key sound vibration feedback. Not only does it drain the battery; I also noticed it made character input rather sluggish. My initial response was that feedback was horribly sluggish till I changed this setting. Oddly, you wont find a setting for this in the Phone Setting option; just a sound change from annoying beeps to an annoying xylophone style. This can be controlled by using the volume keys on the side. Two options become available – one for controlling key sounds and the other for vibration feedback. This setting can ONLY be accessed when you’re on the desktop.
The OS itself is nothing different from what you'd have seen in other Samsung handsets. It was a little colorful for my taste. Sub-menus were easy to navigate, and finger-touch operation was smooth and easy. After the key sounds and vibration were shut off, typing messages and emails was a cinch. It’s all very clearly defined, and the keypad was large enough even for my stubby fingers.
I’m happy to report that this has by far the best sound I’ve heard in any Samsung model that I’ve reviewed. The earphones are still annoyingly wrong for my ears though, and Samsung has not made any provision for using our own earphones. Nevertheless the music player interface is superb, with keys to activate EQ presets with a simple one-touch selection, and everything else you need at your fingertips, quite literally. These presets also include a Surround setting that I found to be really good for those songs that included a melodic beat with a lot of orchestra.
Even creating playlists is easy. You can also play your files directly from the card; only you won’t be able to do anything else, such as change EQ settings etc. I wish Samsung had thought of incorporating a manually adjustable EQ though. When talking about the overall quality of the player, let me just say this audio player will allow you uninterrupted peace even in a noisy commuter train. ‘Nuff said.
Just like Sony Ericsson’s TrackID and Motorola’s MusicID feature for recognizing music, Samsung has loaded the F480 with its own version, a feature simply called Music Recognition. Unfortunately it doesn’t work too well. This is just one of those extra preloaded features that are redundant. I’ll get to the others as we proceed.
I absolutely loved viewing videos on the F480. In fact I watched almost five movies on it. One problem is that the file name will continue to float across the top of the screen. This is not that big a pain, but I’m a bit particular that I should have the option to shut the feature off. It’s okay when you’re watching a video in 16:9 ratio, which by the way is still really good, but if 4:3 in full screen it can make a difference (a small one, but a difference nonetheless).
The bundled video editor is quite a lot fun to use. You can take snapshots, edit files and even add background music to your videos. You cant use MP3s to provide background sounds, so you’ll have record tunes. It does take a little long to create a preview of a file or export it, but it’s easy once you get the hang of it.
The media capabilities of this phone alone are one of the main reasons I’d recommend purchasing it, even with its (at the moment) hefty price tag. The F480’s FM radio may not be brilliant, but it’s quite good. Although reception was not crystal-clear on my commute, it had a lot less static than some other handsets I’ve tested. There's also an FM recording feature as well as a separate voice recorder.
The reason I’ve decided called this section "Mundane" is simply because the features mentioned here are just that. There are very few handsets that WON’T have these features present, even among the lower-end models. However it’s the handset’s own capability as to how these features are presented and tweaked that make it stand out.
With the F480 you have all the things you’d need like a Calendar for scheduling meetings, an Alarm clock (you can use the FM radio as a wake-up sound; just make sure the earphones are inserted before you doze off), Calculator, World Clock, Converter, Timer, and a Stopwatch. It also comes with a Tasks and Memo feature.
Like most mobiles available today, the F480 also has a games section for Java-based games. Sadly it comes with only one preinstalled – PhotoPuzzle. I presumed it would at the very least allow me to use my own images, but it didn’t. I tried to download games off the Net that were supposed to be compatible with the handset, or so the sites said, but none ran – the screen just froze. During the download and installing I got no warnings to inform me of the games' compatibility with the handset.
The F480 comes equipped with plenty of connectivity options, except Wi-Fi, which it could have used to boost the ratings. It’s a 3G-enabled handset capable of HSDPA speeds for browsing (oh please let 3G be here soon!). It supports EDGE/GPRS as well. I found the browser to be quite well-equipped for the most part, though it doesn’t make use of the large display too efficiently. It allows for various views from full screen (which still doesn’t use all 2.8 inches) and desktop viewing, as well as a Smart Fit view.
Navigation tends to be ‘incomplete’ when in full screen mode, as some of the options that you may require don’t show up. All you’ll see are a navigation key for moving up or down the page, a return key to go back to the previous page (no forward key), and one more to type in a desired URL.
There's a bit of bother with some sites when it comes to accessing a portion that requires you to type any information, like a login screen. Double tapping that area would normally activate the keypad, but not always. It can get a bit frustrating at times. The sensitivity does seem to be a bit off.
Video streaming seems to be another area that could do with some improvement. Considering that YouTube has made its presence quite evident on the PC and mobile and now next-gen Internet TVs, the F480 should have been better equipped to handle the site. The videos, even after buffering, look rather unwatchable. They frame and jitter so very badly it’s not worth straining your eyes. All other sites look pretty good though, and opening attachments is an easy task.
Setting up my Gmail account was simple. I was able to check my email with ease, so no issues here. However Samsung's however shown a dislike for Google. I know others who haven’t had a problem, yet the handsets I receive for testing tell a different story. I downloaded Gmail for Mobile and after signing in all I got was a screen showing "0KB Loading…" for an indefinite period of time. Ten minutes was all I was willing to wait before I gave up. I also downloaded Google Maps for Mobile, but for some reason that got stuck at 30%.
The F480 comes with an RSS reader and considering it has a 5MP camera I was hoping to download Shozu to upload images. Thankfully it was preloaded, but unfortunately it was absolutely useless. It took forever to try and connect, only to give a reason for failing to do so (Network Unavailable). I had the same issue with another Samsung handset. I wonder what the reason could be. I could access and log into my Shozu account easily enough via the browser, so I fail to see why the network should be unavailable.
The Opera browser that also comes preloaded had some problem. I double-checked and triple-checked the settings and still nothing happened. It would seem that although the F480 is Java-compliant, it’s not compliant enough.
Other connectivity options include Bluetooth with A2DP and of course proprietary USB v2.0.
Having a 5 megapixel camera in a mobile is not a big deal in this day and age. It’s the features in that camera that are the clincher. The F480 has a lot to offer in this regard, with features such as include face detection technology (that works quite well) and anti-shake.
I wasn’t too impressed with the colors, but on the whole the images do look quite good. I would have liked easier access to various settings like white balance etc., and a preview of the selected features before I took a picture. One would think this handset is only for those who are already good enough photographers who merely needed to know what settings to choose in any given situation.
My Night Mode test is to place the camera absolutely still and mounted and set a timer so as not to shake it before the shutter is released. The images looked too blurry and were not to my liking at all. The single LED flash did not help in any circumstances, and was barely noticeable in dark areas.
The lack of a Macro Mode made the camera a little less appealing. However let me say this – in normal point-and-shoot mode with decent lighting or in broad daylight, the image reproduction isn’t bad at all. At least the face detection works fine, so portraits look pretty good.
The F480 really came through with the battery life. Although it wasn’t extraordinary it was more than merely adequate. On a single charge I was able to get a full two days of usage with calls, messages, net usage as well as a full a little bit of video. With regard to talktime I squeezed out about 3 hours. Not bad at all. The phone can be charged via USB as well.
The F480 TouchWiz had every potential to be a superb touchscreen handset, if it weren’t for the Java-related issues and unusable preloaded applications and oddities. Unfortunately, till these issues are worked out, it’s running a little low in my list of i-Killers. Perhaps it could be a glitch in the handset I received, but it would be foolish to think Samsung would provide me with a tester that wasn’t fully functional.
At a price at Rs 20,899, this would have been a great phone if it weren’t for those silly issues. All I can say is I hope some of the features that didn’t work for me work for you.
GSM /900/1800/1900, EDGE, 3G
|Physical||98.4 x 55 x 11.6 mm, 100g|
|Display||240 x 320, 256k colors, TFT, 2.8 inch |
|Memory||232MB internal, MicroSD for external|
|Media||AAC+, MP3, 3GP, Voice Recorder, FM radio with RDS|
|Camera||5 megapixel, auto-focus, Face detection, anti-shake, LED flash, secondary camera for video calling|
|Connectivity||USB v2.0, Bluetooth with A2DP |
|Battery||250 hrs standby, 3 hours talktime |
|Street Price ||Rs 20,899|