Samsung Wave GT-S8500 - black review: Samsung Wave GT-S8500 - black

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The Good The Samsung Wave has a gorgeous, crystal-clear Super AMOLED touch screen. The 1GHz processor keeps the phone running smoothly, and the Wave has great call quality. The Wave also has a 5-megapixel camera and can capture HD video.

The Bad Samsung's TouchWiz 3.0 user interface is much improved over its previous versions; however, it is not as intuitive as others are, particularly as you get deeper into apps. It doesn't merge contact information from various accounts together and the Samsung App store is not available in U.S.

The Bottom Line For international markets, the Samsung Wave is a nice, budget-friendly foray into the world of smartphones, but there are more affordable and more full-featured options for the U.S.

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7.3 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 8

Samsung unveiled the Wave at Mobile World Congress 2010 and it is the first phone to run Samsung's Bada mobile operating system. Samsung didn't design the OS to compete with Apple's iOS and Google's Android, but to bring the smartphone experience, regardless of cost or geographic location. As such, the Wave and Bada particularly affect markets where smartphones aren't normally subsidized by carriers and thus cost a premium to own, so it won't really affect the U.S. market. According to Samsung USA, it's still very much committed to Android and Windows Phone, as evidenced by the Galaxy S series. Still, we'd thought it'd be cool to check out the Wave. The Samsung Wave is available unlocked for about $370 to $400, but if you're in the market for a smartphone and don't want to break the bank, check out some of these affordable models.

In a lineup of touch-screen phones, the Samsung Wave might not be the flashiest or rock a large display like the HTC Evo 4G or Droid X, but its compact size is sure to attract some buyers. At 4.6 inches tall by 2.2 inches wide by 0.4 inch thick, the Wave is ultrathin and feels comfortable to hold as a phone. Samsungs use of an aluminum body gives the handset a very solid and high-quality construction.

The Wave features Samsung's Super AMOLED touch screen, measuring 3.3 inches diagonally and supporting 16 million colors at a WVGA resolution. There are a number of advantages to the Super AMOLED display, including wider viewing angles and improved responsiveness, but more than anything, it's the screen's sharpness and vibrancy that's truly impressive. To be honest, it's difficult to even describe in words just how crisp and rich the screen is and video really doesn't do it just either. It was as colors practically jumped off the screen and even though the screen is on the smaller side, we could still make out fine details because of the clarity of the display, and it was also viewable in bright sunlight.

Pictures don't do justice to the Samsung Wave's vibrant Super AMOLED screen.

The touch screen is quite responsive and provides a smooth swiping and scrolling experience. Pinch-to-zoom support is also available, and it, too, was very smooth. The built-in accelerometer is quick to change screen orientation. However, the virtual keyboard is a little problematic. First, the portrait keyboard is extremely cramped and the letter keys are already tiny, which isn't a good combo. It definitely slowed us down and even then we had some mispresses. The keyboard's better in landscape mode but even then, it's still not the most spacious and users with larger fingers might have some problems with it.

Below the display, there are several physical buttons, including Talk and End/Power keys and a menu button. On the left side, you will find a volume rocker and on the right, there's a lock button and a camera activation/capture button. In addition to the 5-megapixeal camera and LED flash on back, you get a front-facing camera for video calls. Finally, the Micro-USB port, which is protected by a sliding cover, and 3.5mm headphone jack are located on top.

Though you'll mostly use the touch screen, there are several physical buttons on the Wave.

Our Samsung Wave came packaged with a travel charger, a USB cable, a wired stereo headset, a 1GB microSD card, and reference material. Being a phone for the international market, the charger isn't compatible with U.S. outlets but since the Wave is equipped with a Micro-USB port, you can use most any charger with a Micro-USB connector. For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ring tones, and help page.

User interface and software
The Samsung Wave is the first device to run on the company's Bada mobile operating system. Bada, which means ocean in Korea and is meant to represent the "limitless variety" of the platform, isn't so much an OS to take over the Androids and iPhones, of the smarphone world. It's more of an evolution of the middleware that's been on Samsung's phones all along and was created to bring that smartphone experience to everyone, more specifically to those in emerging markets.

As such, you'll find many of the same features on Bada as you will on other platforms, such as a unified in-box, a push calendar, and a focus on social networking. In addition, Samsung now offers its own app store. We'll talk more about some of these capabilities in the Features section below.

Running on top of Bada is Samsung's TouchWiz 3.0 user interface. It's definitely improved from previous versions, with some enhanced functionality and a more polished look. You have more widgets to choose from now, including a Feeds & Update one for getting all social network updates, most visited Web sites, and favorite contacts (called Buddies now). You can add widgets on up to 10 home screen panels by pressing small widget button on the upper left side of the screen, and then dragging and dropping the desired widget. To remove one, you have to open the menu again and drag it back into the tray.

The added widgets are certainly nice and mostly useful, but we wish you could add app shortcuts as well, though there is a toolbar along the bottom with quick-launch buttons for the phone, contacts, and messages. There's also a pull-down tray on top where you can manage your wireless connections, sound profile, and notifications, much like Android. The main menu is laid out in a nice grid view with attractive icons, and all your apps spread out over several pages, which you can swipe from side to side.

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