When the first version of the Samsung Wave smartphone was launched last year, it did create quite a bit of confusion. The issue being that despite churning out Android-based smartphones as well, Samsung had spent a lot of money on developing a smartphone operating system that essentially ended up competing with Android. The big question was whether Bada will survive as an OS and how patient will Samsung be in terms of developing the OS and the entire apps ecosystem around it.
Some of those questions may have been answered with the launch of the Wave-II, given the model number S8530. The smartphone comes loaded with the updated Bada OS version- 1.2 to be precise. This update, in simpler terms, can be considered a major update. Let’s find out how good the new phone with the new software actually is.
Look and Feel: Similar to the first Wave
When you take the phone out of the box, we won’t think you are wrong if you say that this looks very similar to the first edition of the Wave. The slightly bigger screen (3.3 inches on the Wave as compared to 3.7 inches on the Wave-II) is coupled with the similar looking menu, calls connect and calls disconnect buttons. The keys have a touch of chrome on them, which lends a bit of shine to the otherwise black front panel. The left panel has the volume control buttons. The right panel has the screen lock button as well as the key to access the camera instantly. The top panel is where the microUSB port, the 3.5mm audio jack and the tiny speaker are located. The battery panel on the rear has a nice brushed aluminum finish to it. The 5MP camera is located near the top left of the panel. Lacking any brash design or colour combination, the Wave-II has a sleek and minimalist look.
The phone feels very solid to hold, and the extremely slim body lets it sit comfortably in the hand, despite the fact that it has a large 3.7-inch screen. Anyone with slightly short fingers may have a problem using the phone with the same hand in which they are holding it, but anyone who can reach the other edge of the screen with the thumb won’t have any issue. Given the popularity of touch controls, and the possibility of saving space, we found it odd that Samsung persists with hardware keys on the front of the phone.
Moving beyond the world of AMOLED screens, we have some smartphones coming with the Super LCD display, also known as the S-LCD. Straightaway, without looking into the specifications of the screen, let us just say that we are in awe of the S-LCD displays! The richness of the colour and the amazing black levels are just unmatched, even by most AMOLED screens. The more than enough 480×800 resolution is something which definitely helps with the excellent on-screen display quality. The touchscreen works brilliantly, to put it in a nutshell. The response is sure and consistent. Typing out mails and SMS won’t be a problem. The slightly bigger screen this time around also means that the real estate space on the screen can fit in a slightly better spaced out keypad for comfortable typing. There are 10 home screens for the user to utilise with widgets. Quite a few widgets are available on the phone itself, and more can be downloaded from the app store.
Features: Carving out its own niche
The Wave-II has something going for it that the other smartphone platforms don’t have – freshness. This is an OS that is still very new, and is dependent on Samsung for its development, both in terms of features and pace of updates.
However, the current version, Bada 1.2 does feel a lot more polished than the previous version. Samsung has wrapped the OS with the TouchWiz user interface, very similar to one seen on its Android phones. This one gives it a very Android-ish feel. The menu layout, dropdown from the top of the home screen and even the message app feel very similar to some Android phones, which are also wrapped in some skin or the other!
In terms of hardware specs, the 1 GHz processor is extremely powerful. The Bada OS, particularly because it is not very loaded by customisations, is very zippy in this setup. The 2 GB built-in user memory is clearly subdivided – 1 GB for apps, 400 MB for media files and 600 MB for messages. Memory can be expanded with a microSD card, up to 32GB. The 5MP camera is capable of recording 720p HD videos, and the image quality is much better than even some higher spec cameras out there, on rival smartphones.
Having said that, the Wave-II does not have the ability to adjust screen brightness on its own! There is no option in the menu that allows that, and seems like a glaring omission.
Performance: Finding any faults would amount to knit picking
The Social Hub app on the Wave-II makes accessing contacts from multiple platforms a lot easier. Sync all contacts from Facebook or Twitter and they will show up in the contacts list. What we expected was more intelligent syncing/pairing of the social networking contacts with those in the phone, but that doesn’t happen. If you have the patience to manually tag each contact, what you will get as a reward is find all updates from the contacts at one place, along with their images tagged in the phonebook! Even Android users have to follow a similar method, or rely on some auto-tagging apps to do most of the donkey work for them. However, Bada is still not as advanced in terms of the variety of apps.
The call quality offered by the Wave-II is absolutely superb, and most ambient disturbances were well filtered out. The in-ear speaker is loud enough in most noisy situations. The hands-free speaker is quite tiny to look at, but still manages to pack quite a punch. Another very critical element of a phone is the quality of the keypad, and has utmost importance for anyone who SMSes a lot. The on screen keypad of the Wave-II is extremely comfortable to use, in its full QWERTY layout, both in portrait and landscape mode. That says quite a lot about the phone, since most phones struggle to cram in a QWERTY layout in the portrait mode.
Battery life of the Wave-II is miles ahead of Android based smartphones. The 1500 mAh battery lasted 2 days from full charge to full discharge, which consisted of a bit of voice calls, lots of SMS-ing and apps pulling in data from the web.
The 5MP camera is extremely good when it comes to taking shots during the day and in brightly lit conditions. However, in low light conditions, the pixilation does start to show up. 720P HD video recording is very smooth, even though we would have liked a bit more colour depth – colours seem a bit washed out.
Our take: Excellent phone, with its share of shortcomings
The Wave-II retails for Rs 17,000 in the market. It has powerful hardware and offers very good performance for its price-point. The large 3.7-inch S-LCD display is brilliant, and the 720p HD video recording capabilities of the 5MP camera are real value additions.
However, the operating system is a bit of a question mark, still. How long will Samsung persist with developing an OS to compete against the ever rising popularity of Android? How quickly will we see future updates roll out? When will the Bada apps ecosystem come close to the Android Market, in terms of sheer numbers and variety? These are some questions that may put off some potential buyers, particularly when they are spending a considerable amount on a smartphone. However, if you aren’t particular about the OS ecosystem that you are buying into, and would rather have better hardware, bigger screen and longer battery-life, the Wave-II is a very good option. The HTC Desire and the Nokia C7 are two devices that compete with the Samsung Wave-II. The Desire is slightly on the expensive side and the Nokia C7 (review and head-to-head comparison coming soon) is an option for users who prefer the Symbian OS.
For close to Rs. 20,000 (MRP), the Wave-2 feels like a costlier device, with a great touch experience and a very good display. A good camera and battery life rounds off, what is an appealing package. However, in an increasingly competitive segment, with the likes of Samsung’s own S-LCD Galaxy S (priced at 20K or so) and the Nokia C7 (Symbian 3), the Wave-2 definitely has a tougher way ahead than its predecessor did, especially given that the platform (Bada OS) is yet to garner love from app-developers.
Quad-band GSM smartphone; 3G capable; 1GHz processor; 2GB on board memory; Expandable memory up to 32GB; 3.7-inch touchscreen; Super Clear LCD type; 480×800 pixels resolution; 5 megapixel camera; Bada OS 1.2; Touchwiz UI; 1500mAh battery