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Samsung Galaxy Y review: Samsung Galaxy Y

The Samsung Galaxy Y is an okay starter smart phone for kids but budget Androids are getting better so shop around before you buy.

Natasha Lomas Mobile Phones Editor, CNET UK
Natasha Lomas is the Mobile Phones Editor for CNET UK, where she writes reviews, news and features. Previously she was Senior Reporter at Silicon.com, covering mobile technology in the business sphere. She's been covering tech online since 2005.
Natasha Lomas
8 min read

'Y' stands for 'Young' in Samsung's Galaxy-branded mobile universe and this diddy handset is clearly designed to fit into tiny hands and pockets.


Samsung Galaxy Y

The Good

Cheap to buy; microSD card slot.

The Bad

Poor quality display; Low-power chip; Very small size limits its appeal.

The Bottom Line

The Samsung Galaxy Y is an okay starter smart phone for kids, but budget Androids are getting increasingly capable so your money could be better spent elsewhere.

You don't need a very big wallet to own the Samsung Galaxy Y. It sits firmly at the budget end of the Android smart phone spectrum -- it's free for around £10 a month on a two-year contract, from £60 on pay as you go or £120 SIM-free.

Should I buy the Samsung Galaxy Y?

Are you young and easily impressed? Yes? Good, you'll need to be. The Galaxy Y is so wee that only the tiniest of fingers will be happy poking its 3-inch, low-res display. Likewise, the diminutive chip means you'll need the imagination of a tech ingénue encountering the exciting world of smart phones for the first time to be wowed by all it has to offer.

Samsung Galaxy Y
The Samsung Galaxy Y looks like the kid brother of the Galaxy S2.

For kids who currently own a feature phone, the Galaxy Y would make a nice stepping stone into the brave new world of apps and the mobile web. But Android devices in this budget price bracket are generally getting more powerful and capable -- so make sure you check out the reasonably priced competition because your money may well go further elsewhere.

For example, one of the latest contenders for the budget pound, the slightly more expensive Huawei Ascend G300 -- which costs £100 on pay as you go -- has a larger screen and a more powerful chip, making it a far more usable device. Other alternative Android smart phones to consider include the HTC Wildfire S, the Orange San Francisco 2 and the T-Mobile Vivacity.

If you're not wedded to Android and just want a cheap smart phone to use mostly for messaging, you could consider getting a budget BlackBerry on contract, such as the Curve 8520. The BlackBerry operating system is not as capable as Android but it may appeal at this price point if you're after a physical Qwerty keyboard for typing.


The Galaxy Y looks like a compact and more rounded version of the Samsung Galaxy S2. It's got a simple, clean but stylish look, with an uncluttered face and smoothly curved sides and back.

Samsung Galaxy Y
Not so much a sexy back as a cheap plastic one. Still, it's pleasingly rounded.

My review sample was black with a silver back but there are white and pink versions of the Y, and different coloured back plates including white, black and silver.

Size and build quality

The Galaxy Y is about as broad as a bank card and only slightly longer so it'll easily slip into the smallest of pockets. It's also pleasingly chunky without being overly fat -- giving it a sturdy feel. It's neither too heavy nor too light. In the hand it has a satisfying heft, as if you're holding a palm-sized pebble.

Samsung Galaxy Y
The Galaxy Y comes in a very small package indeed so large-handed folk should find a bigger phone to pick on.

Build quality seems solid. It certainly appears tough enough to take a few knocks and bumps so it should be able to handle life at school -- if not a school of very hard knocks (for that you might want to save up for an even more sturdy, ruggedised handset like the Motorola Defy Mini).

The front of the Galaxy Y has a premium look, thanks to smooth chrome trim running around the edge. But turn it around and the rear half of the device is covered with cheap plastic. The back plate is textured plastic and this feels especially cheap.

Crack open the back, and you'll find a removable battery plus a microSD card slot that supports up to 32GB of extra memory. Expanding the Y's storage is not so much a handy option as a necessity since on-board storage is just 160MB. My review device, which was supplied by Carphone Warehouse, came with a 2GB microSD card in the box. So check what comes bundled with the device before buying.

There are three physical buttons on the Galaxy Y -- a power button on the right side, a volume rocker on the left, and a home key on the front. All these keys are fairly responsive. There are also two touch-keys at either side of the home key -- menu and back. These were reasonably responsive but did sometimes need a second tap to lock on.

On the top you get a 3.5mm headphone jack and micro-USB charger port that's covered by a small plastic flap that seems destined to get ripped off in a tussle with the contents of your school bag.

Samsung Galaxy Y
The micro-USB port is tucked away behind a small plastic door that will probably get ripped off in the chaos of your school bag.


The Galaxy Y's low-res LCD screen is where the budget price really bites. Not only is it very small, not very responsive, and so low-res that text and graphics look fuzzy and hazy at all times, but push down with anything more than the lightest of touches and it will flex to touch the LCD. This generates patches of discoloured pixels that track your finger movements.

It is a characteristic of cheap LCD screens -- although it can crop up on expensive ones -- so it's clearly where Samsung has shaved some money off build costs. Run your finger over the Y's screen and there's a noticeable lag of several millimetres before it responds to your touch.

Samsung Galaxy Y
The screen is very low-res so reading websites means a lot of squinting and possibly a headache.

Other budget blowers at this price bracket pack higher resolution screens so if having a crystal-clear display is really important to you, then the Galaxy Y is best avoided. Its resolution is just 240x320 pixels -- adding up to a density of a mere 133 pixels per inch density.

This low resolution, coupled with the small physical size of the screen, makes the device very cramped for web browsing and composing texts and emails. At times it really struggles to fit important content on the screen.

Lack of display space is a particular problem when replying to a text and wanting to see the previous messages in the thread. In portrait mode, with the keyboard displayed, you get less than half a centimetre of screen space to peek at past missives. In landscape mode with the keyboard on screen, you can't see any previous texts at all.

Web browsing can also be a squeeze unless you stick with mobile versions of websites, rather than attempting to digest full-fat sites, piece by low-res piece.


The Galaxy Y runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread, skinned with Samsung's TouchWiz software, which serves up as many as seven home screens to fill with apps and widgets. With so few pixels to play with though, space for widgets is pretty limited.

Samsung Galaxy Y
The Galaxy Y sports a home button, much like other Samsung Android phones such as the S2.

Google's Android OS gives you a free pass for stacks of apps on Google's Play store. The Galaxy Y can happily handle graphically light games and apps such as Angry Birds, YouTube and Twitter. But be prepared for some Android apps to be off-limits -- owing to the Y's small screen and relatively small engine.

In portrait mode, the software keyboard is terribly cramped on the Y's teeny screen, making typo-free typing tricky. The landscape keyboard is better but the best option is to switch on the Swype input method in the settings.

Swype lets you swipe across keys to form words rather than tapping each individual letter. Using Swype resolved most of my typo issues with the Y, although entering complex strings such as usernames, passwords, email addresses and URLs remained annoyingly fiddly.


The Galaxy Y isn't the fastest budget phone around but for basic tasks it's got your back. The chip is actually slightly beefier than the physically larger T-Mobile Vivacity -- 832MHz vs 800MHz -- so for lightweight use such as swiping around home screens, typing messages, using apps such as the camera, the Y is perfectly serviceable.

Samsung Galaxy Y
On the back there's a 2-megapixel snapper that isn't as terrible as it could have been.

In some scenarios it can even be nippier than budget rivals, such as the Orange San Francisco 2 -- which appears more premium on the surface, thanks to its higher resolution screen, but actually has a slightly smaller chip. The Galaxy Y is quickest off the mark to snap a photo, for example. It takes just under a second, while the San Francisco 2 and the Vivacity take around twice as long.

However, put some more load on the Y's engines and it starts to chug. Rendering full-fat web pages or scaling and viewing maps certainly taxes the phone, so prepare to be patient to get your digital fix. Graphically rich apps can also take some time to load so expect to be eyeballing a fair few loading screens.

The Y is also being challenged afresh by a newcomer to the budget end of Androidland. Huawei's Ascend G300 has a 1GHz chip and is noticeably nippier than the Y. Its 4-inch display is also bigger, higher res and generally far easier on the eye. If you can afford to splash a little more cash, you'll be rewarded with a far richer smart phone experience with the G300.


Although audio clarity isn't amazing on the Y, this is Budgetville, so that's to be expected. The phone can still double as a cheap MP3 player, using Samsung's basic music player app, or downloading a third-party app from Google Play.

Call quality was also serviceable in my experience, if not especially clear. I didn't experience any dropped calls during testing.


The Galaxy Y has a 2-megapixel snapper on the back so my expectations weren't high. And yes, it's certainly not going to turn you into Annie Leibovitz. That said, it delivered more than I was expecting -- producing shots of people and things that you could upload to Facebook and have your buddies recognise what's in them.

Samsung Galaxy Y camera test
Southwark's Boris bikes have looked lovelier -- but the Y's lens manages a better snap than some budget blowers (click image to enlarge).

Colours tend to be washed out and bright shades tend to bleed out in an eerie halo effect, but for quick snaps of your mates, the Y ticks the box.

Samsung Galaxy Y camera test
These flowers look washed out and have a halo ghosting their petals (click image to enlarge).

Video footage was less impressive -- very fuzzy with audio that was a tad distorted. It'll serve for making a quick YouTube clip but nothing more fancy than that.


Battery life is very good, as you'd expect from a phone with such a small screen and engine. You'll easily get through a day's use without needing to charge and maybe even two. With light use, the Galaxy Y might even see you through a few days before demanding you plug it in.

Samsung Galaxy Y
The Galaxy Y had plentiful battery stamina when I tested it. With modest use, it could go for days without needing a charge.


The Y in Galaxy Y stands for 'young' and that's exactly what this phone delivers -- a starter smart phone for kids. Its budget screen probably won't even impress the under 10s, but for playing Angry Birds, checking Facebook and ignoring phone calls from parents, this device can suffice.

However, if you want something that does more than that, the Huawei Ascend G300 provides 4 inches of screen and a 1GHz chip for roughly the same pay-as-you-go price. The G300 is a newcomer to the UK market but its presence is a sign that budget Android handsets are becoming ever more capable -- which means kids can pester their parents to get them a 'proper phone' for around the same price as a 'kids phone'.