Across the range of smartphones in Australia, the trend is towards lower prices for the top-tier devices, but how does this affect the pre-paid segment? Happily, while pre-paid handset prices remain fairly static, the quality of the handsets at this price point is on the up. The Galaxy Gio is an excellent example of this; for AU$149 (locked to the Optus network), you get a far better phone than the phones in this price range last Christmas.
The Gio is solidly designed, although its frame is constructed entirely from plastic, and Samsung retains the good looks of its more expensive handsets. A faux-steel rim surrounds the edge of the Gio, and we like the dimpled texture across the battery cover.
The screen doesn't sound great on paper; we've criticised other phones with 3.2-inch HVGA displays recently, but this screen appears to be noticeably easier to read than the others, and the colours looks vibrant, too. Off-axis viewing can be troublesome, but, for most daily smartphone use, this screen will do just fine.
The handset includes the range of ports and slots that we saw on phones 12 months ago, with a single micro-USB port for charging and data transfers, a dedicated 3.5mm headphone socket and a microSD card slot handily located on the right-hand side of the phone. There's no camera button (you use software buttons to take photos), and no HDMI port — but then, we wouldn't expect that in an AU$150 phone.
Probably the best part of this pre-paid package is that Samsung basically delivers the same user experience that you get in last year's top-end Galaxy S smartphone, but for a fraction of the price. Samsung's TouchWiz UI is employed here, which gives you seven home screens to customise with widgets and a clean, horizontally scrolling apps drawer, which is really easy to navigate quickly.
When you're browsing pre-paid smartphones, it's common to wonder, "what doesn't this phone have?" rather than looking for what's included. Impressively, this list is rather short. The Gio supports 3G browsing on the Optus network (900 and 2100Mhz UMTS frequencies), Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth. Samsung includes social networking apps and Navigon maps out of the box, plus DLNA media sharing, so you can share pictures, music and video with a compatible TV or Blu-Ray/DVD player over Wi-Fi.