Samsung Wave 3

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/ Updated: 1 September 2011 4:33 pm BST

Wave hello to the Samsung Wave 3, a powerful smart phone that makes an excellent first impression with its gorgeous screen. It's powered by Bada software -- which controls how the phone looks, and how you control it through the touchscreen -- which looks strangely familiar... Let's hit the beach and find out if the Wave 3 makes a splash or leaves us all at sea.

Features and Chat

The Wave 3 boasts an eye-scorchingly crisp 4-inch Super AMOLED touchscreen, packed with vibrant colours. Inside the phone is a meaty 1.4GHz processor. All this is encased in a gorgeous 9.9mm thick brushed-metal case -- an anodised aluminum unibody, to be precise, which means it's carved from a single piece of aluminium.

You can chat to friends with the ChatON instant messaging service, which lets you send free messages to other phones, similar to the wildly popular BlackBerry Messenger service for BlackBerry phones, or the instant messaging services on your computer such as Facebook Chat, Yahoo Messenger or GChat.

Samsung Wave 3 ChatON
The Wave 3's new ChatON app lets you conduct scintillating conversations like this.

ChatON lets you store pictures for friends to look at, and chat with more than one person in group chats, send your location, or even add animated messages. Fortunately you can also turn all that guff off.

If you want to chat the old-fashioned way using your vocal chords and looking your friend in the eye, you can now do so without having to be in the same room, thanks to a video-calling camera on the front. The main camera is round the back, packing 5 megapixels and an LED flash to shed a little light on darker situations.

The camera also records 720p high-definition video at 30 frames per second.

The Wave has oceans of storage for pictures, music and movies with space for up to 32GB microSD card, and 3GB built-in to the phone.

Bada interface

The Wave 3 is at the head of a new trio of Wave smart phones powered by Bada software: the Wave 3, the Wave M and Wave Y. Bada has its advantages and disadvantages, especially when it comes to apps.

Bada is now on its second generation, Bada 2.0. In the way you tap and swipe and in the way it looks, Bada looks and feels a lot like Samsung's Android phones -- they use the same front end, Samsung's own TouchWiz interface. That means if you're used to swiping and tapping your way round a Samsung Android phone then the switch to the Wave 3 shouldn't be too hard, as features like copy and paste look similar.

Samsung Wave 3 Bada
Bada has plenty of Samsung's custom widgets, pulling in data and presenting it smartly.

In fact, there's so much similar you might wonder why you bothered to switch at all. You can see what's going on with your phone by dragging down a bar from the top, to tap shortcuts, quickly do admin things like turning Wi-Fi on or off, and see notifications about new messages -- just like Android.

The animations are slick and bouncy, so you get the same slick smart phone experience we're used to seeing on other phones. You swipe between home screens, which you can fill with apps, shortcuts and widgets that display up-to-date information like the weather, news headlines, or your calendar or messages -- again, just like Android.

You may really start to wonder why you'd pick the Wave 3 over an Android phone when it comes to apps.

No apps

The Wave 3 just wouldn't be a smart phone without apps, those little bits of software you download to customise your phone. Enter Samsung Apps, an app store that lets you browse and download apps especially designed for Samsung and Bada.

Which is the biggest problem with the Wave 3: as there's only a handful of phones that use Bada, there aren't many apps yet. There certainly isn't the choice you get from the hundreds of thousands of apps available for the iPhone and iPad or Android phones and tablets. That may change in future, but it depends on whether Samsung sells enough phones for app builders to take an interest. If you're an app-aholic, it's too big a gamble.

Samsung Wave 3 Bada
The interface is strongly reminiscent of Android, but it lacks Google's app-filled Market.

There are a number of apps built-in, but they're nothing unique as they also appear on other Samsung blowers.

You can keep up with friends, family and frienemies with the Social Hub app, which pulls together messages and social network updates from your contacts all in one place.

Music Hub lets you buy and download music wirelessly over-the-air when you have an Internet connection. Or you can also listen to music without an Internet connection with the built-in MP3 player or go proper old-school with an FM radio.

If you have no time for such fripperies as social networking and listening to music because there's work to be done, then you can get it done using Polaris Office, built-in work software. It lets you open and edit Word documents and other Microsoft files, like spreadsheets and presentations.

Outlook

Let's be clear: the Samsung Wave 3 is a very classy piece of work. It's fast and responsive and has a great screen, it's easy to use and personalise, and it looks rather lovely. If that's what you look for in a phone and wouldn't know an app from a hole in the ground then you could do much worse than the Wave 3.

But when we put the phone down and walked away, we found ourselves scratching our heads about what the point is of the Wave 3 -- or more specifically, of its Bada software. In our admittedly brief time using the phone, we struggled to find any features that were distinctive or unique to Bada that are worth getting excited about.

When we get to spend some time with the phone and update this preview to a proper, in-depth review, perhaps features will emerge from the Wave like treasure washed up on the beach.

But for now the Wave 3 looks and feels like an Android phone only without the vast wealth of apps. If you have even a passing interest in apps -- and you should, otherwise you're not making the most of your phone -- then the Wave could leave you all washed up.

Edited by Nick Hide

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