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Samsung Wave 2 GT-S8530 review: Samsung Wave 2 GT-S8530

The Samsung Wave 2 is the sharpest-looking dumb phone on the market. But, despite its good looks and straightforward user interface, it still makes us pine for the app-sharing community of similarly priced Android phones.

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6.5

Samsung Wave 2 GT-S8530

The Good

Gorgeous Super AMOLED screen; shoots good-quality 720p videos; handsome, solid case.

The Bad

Basic app store; similarly cheap Android phones offer more features and apps.

The Bottom Line

The Samsung Wave 2 covers the basics well and looks good doing it. Its software needs some polish, but it's suitable for anyone who prefers to keep their phone simple. Still, a similarly priced Android smart phone will serve many people better.

The Wave 2 is available now for free on a £20-per-month contract. You can also pick it up for around £280 SIM-free. Note that the Wave 2 is also known as the Wave II or GT-S8530.

New Wave

We raved about the good looks of the first Wave, and we're happy to report that the Wave 2 is also solidly built and attractive. The diamond-shaped home button on the original phone now has a fatter, more thumb-friendly, rounded shape, and the screen has been pumped up from 3.2 to 3.7 inches. Otherwise, though, the two phones look like identical twins.

The rear of the Wave 2's sleek case twinkles with diamond-shaped holes for the camera lens and LED light. But, other than those playful decorations, the phone looks sleek, minimalist and high-quality. Even the snappy catch on the back cover screams quality -- and it actually makes the cover much easier to take off than that of most other phones.

Bada up

Overall, the Wave 2's software isn't quite as slick as its hardware. But Samsung's Bada operating system is straightforward and does a good job of imitating some smart-phone features. For example, the Wave 2 has three home screens, which you can fill up with  live widgets that do everything from displaying your Facebook updates to showing you the news. It's easy to add widgets to the home screen by tapping a button in the corner of the screen.

The Wave 2's simplicity should appeal to people who aren't interested in getting stuck into a more complex smart phone, such as an Android device. But there's only a basic selection of widgets pre-loaded on the phone, and they don't always make the best use of the screen space. The BBC widget, for example, consists of two large buttons that link to the BBC news and sports websites, and a tiny text area that's barely big enough to display one headline. Happily, it's possible to download more widgets from the Samsung Apps store.

The app store is slowly but surely filling up with programs and games, but it's more like a corner shop than a supermarket. If you're keen to start playing with apps, we suggest buying an Android phone instead. In this price range, it probably won't look as good as the Wave 2, but the selection of apps is huge and there are far more people in the Android community to share app suggestions with. The iPhone App Store is even bigger than the Android Market, but that phone costs a heap more than the Wave 2.

If you're not hugely bothered about apps but still want the basics, the Wave 2 might suffice, offering a few simple built-in apps. For example, Facebook and Twitter clients are pre-installed, and you can add your various email accounts, too. But we wish the phone came with a few more media treats, like various wallpapers. We couldn't show off the gorgeous AMOLED screen at its best until we'd loaded our own videos onto the phone.

The Wave 2 has a speedy 1GHz processor, which seems to help apps launch quickly. But the software doesn't feel polished enough to capitalise on the chip's speed. For instance, transitions between the portrait and landscape modes are sluggish, and scrolling isn't always smooth.

Hide and surf

The decent browser on the Wave 2  will let you surf the Web without too much trouble, but we do have some complaints. The address bar along the top helpfully moves out of the way while you're browsing, but it reappears every time you touch the screen. Not only is this annoying, but the bar also covers the top of the page you're looking at, so you can't see or use the navigation area at the top of most websites until the bar is hidden again.

The browser also provides a good example of how the user interface can be confused and laborious in places. Just trying to search a Web page will see you tapping the screen like a woodpecker with a nasty espresso addiction. When you've finally got to the point where you can perform a search, you'll be presented with two on-screen buttons -- 'search' and 'done'. The done button isn't very accurately labelled, since pressing it actually cancels the search. This is just confusing.

The T9 Trace on-screen keyboard also shows up some software quirks. It works in the same way as the Swype app on Android devices, and we love how quickly you can type on it. But it's not used everywhere in the interface -- it's missing in the browser, for example. That makes filling out Web forms slower than it ought to be, and it's annoying to have to figure out which kind of keyboard you're using each time you have to type something.

The browser on the Wave 2 isn't a disaster. It displays Web pages quickly and accurately, so it has the basics down pat. But these little annoyances reveal how the software on the Wave 2 isn't quite up to scratch in places. 

We have to mention another flaw in the user interface too. Accustomed as we are to reading from left to right, we found it flummoxing to have the 'cancel' button displayed on the right and the 'next' button on the left, throughout the interface.

Moving pictures

Photos captured by the Wave 2's 5-megapixel camera are of average quality. But the camera's 720p high-definition video is much better. Even in low light, our movie masterpieces looked clear and bright. Photos are so yesterday, anyway.

With 2GB of built-in memory, we didn't even have to pop in a memory card before we could start filming. To get your films off the phone, you can connect it to your computer with a USB cable, upload them straight to YouTube, or play them on your telly wirelessly, courtesy of DNLA streaming technology.

Conclusion

The Samsung Wave 2 has plenty of positive points, from its gorgeous screen to its solid, handsome case. But its modest software suffers from a few irritating quirks. If you're after apps and games, you could snap up an Android phone, like the Samsung Galaxy Ace, for roughly the same price. The Ace offers more features and a far better selection of apps. You'll also have the support of a community of helpful Android users. Still, if you're looking for a phone that covers the basics and isn't too complicated, the Wave 2 delivers with style.

Edited by Charles Kloet