Samsung Galaxy Gio

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/ Updated: 17 February 2011 11:35 am GMT

In Italian, the final element of the Samsung Galaxy Gio's name translates as 'jewel', and, indeed, this phone does look small and perfectly formed. With an impressively sharp screen that's tiny enough to keep the smart phone portable, the Gio could be a good option if the rest of the Android pack strikes you as excessively hefty.

We expect to see the Gio in shops in April, although we don't yet know how much it will cost.

One-carat Gio

The Gio is on the small side, measuring a mere 58 by 111 by 12mm. Its 3.2-inch screen is also smaller than average, so this phone may suit you if you're looking for something more pocket-friendly than the big-boned Samsung Galaxy S .

The Android Market is packed full of free apps that will help you procrastinate, no matter where you are.

The Gio is also likely to be cheaper than the Galaxy S, since it only has an 800MHz processor. That should still be sufficient to power most apps and games, while helping to keep the cost down.

The same principle applies to the Gio's 320x480-pixel screen. It's sharp and vivid, offering a good compromise between quality and price.

We were impressed by the Gio's design. A glossy case and textured back cover combine to make for a solid-feeling, classy phone that we'd be more than happy to flash in front of our friends.

Gio in the crown

Under the hood, the Gio runs Google's mobile software, Android 2.2 Froyo . It's not quite the latest version of Android -- phones with version 2.4 will be arriving in shops around the same time as the Gio. But version 2.2 includes almost all of the best features of Android, and we don't think you'll miss the SIP calling and NFC support that's available in the newer versions.

After all, you'll still get one of the best mobile browsers around, so you can surf the Web with sites appearing just as they would on a full-sized computer. The browser even supports Flash, unlike the  iPhone  browser, which means you won't miss out on videos, photo slideshows and other media on the Web.

Android has a well-stocked app store, the Android Market, which is second only to the iPhone App Store in terms of choice and quality. You also tend to get more creative apps in the Android Market, since it's less controlled than Apple's store. Much of the best stuff is free too.

Samsung doesn't tend to mess too much with Android's default settings, but it has added a gaggle of pre-loaded apps and widgets in the Gio's case. Widgets are live icons that you can scatter over your home screens, so you can keep abreast of everything from your Facebook updates to the weather, without having to open an app. 

Samsung's widgets aren't quite as pretty as the ones HTC puts on its phones, but some of them are very handy. For example, we like the combined clock and weather widget that shows how cold it feels outside with the wind-chill factor taken into account.

The Gio comes with Swype , which is a great alternative to Android's virtual keyboard. With Swype, instead of tapping the on-screen keys one by one, you run your finger over all the keys that make up the word you want to type, and an algorithm guesses what you intended to write. It's not hard to get used to this system, and it's insanely fast. 

We found Samsung's Android tweaks made the software unreliable on phones like the Galaxy S. The Galaxy S improved after a software update, but we've got our fingers crossed that the Gio will work smoothly right out of the box. The Gio's software looked promising in our early hands-on session but come back to read our full review after we've had the chance to test the phone properly.

Caught in the Web

Most of Android's features work best when you're connected to the Internet, so we're happy to see that the Gio offers good connectivity options. It's got 7.2Mbps HSDPA for fast downloads over 3G, and it also supports the latest 802.11n Wi-Fi standard.

Here's the Gio in landscape mode, showing... a landscape. How very appropriate.

Good connectivity and a great virtual keyboard should make the Gio a sound choice for social-networking addicts, but it may not be as tempting for shutterbugs. A 3-megapixel camera isn't likely to help you win any photography awards, but at least Android makes it easy to share your snaps with your Facebook and Twitter friends. 

The Gio will come with a 2GB microSD memory card, which will be enough to store a smattering of photos and music. If you need more space, you can swap it for a memory card of up to 32GB.

Outlook

The Samsung Galaxy Gio is a good-looking, medium-sized alternative to the current crop of monolithic, pocket-bursting smart phones. With a sharp screen and plenty of features, we have high hopes for this handset.

Edited by Charles Kloet 

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Samsung Galaxy Gio

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