Samsung Galaxy Portal review
Smartphones running the Android platform are popping up thick and fast now, and it is becoming increasingly important for them to have an angle, something special, different, alluring to draw you to them
Smartphones running the Android platform are popping up thick and fast now, and it is becoming increasingly important for them to have an angle, something special, different, alluring to draw you to them. Well, Samsung’s new Galaxy Portal has a pretty large hook in the form of the Layar browser.
This is an augmented reality application. By which we mean that it uses the handset’s camera to show where you are, and, using the GPS to pinpoint your location, lays additional information on top. In this case the additional information comes from third party providers.
You can, at launch, find things like railway stations, hotels and pubs showing live football matches. You can also find properties to view in your area, restaurants, Barclaycard ATMs and shops accepting contactless payment, and more – we found the nearest postbox finder quite handy during the review period.
It is a very clever idea, and if Samsung manages to get enough partners to join up, it could all on its own be enough to make this Android handset a star.
The Galaxy Portal does, though, have other good stuff about it. The phone is a T-Mobile exclusive at launch and it is available from free on contracts of £20 a month and up. It has a superb 3.2 inch TFT screen delivering at 320 x 480 pixels, and the 800Mhz processor seems very capable. Certainly the screen flipped orientation quickly as we turned the phone in our hands, and it had no trouble running applications speedily.
The all important on-screen keyboard for tapping out emails and texts is very responsive and fast to use in wide mode, though as ever we did find it a little cramped in tall screen mode.
Samsung has not skinned Android in this handset, so that its look is very familiar. The three home screens can be flicked through with a finger-sweep, and you can drop widgets onto them as you choose. Those who don’t like the confusion of proprietary skins will be happy.
There is, though, an air of going over the top with the below-screen buttons. A huge diamond shaped D-pad sits where we’d really prefer to see a trackball, while there are no fewer than six shortcut buttons. Back, Menu, Home and Web buttons are four of these. That last one calls up a Google search box.
In addition Samsung has put Call and End buttons beneath the screen. We aren’t sure these are really necessary. You can have a link to the phone dialer on the main screen and that covers off making calls nicely.
This is a generally well specified handset with 200MB of on board memory and a microSD card slot under the backplate for adding more. It supports HSDPA with downloads to 3.6Mbps, and there is Wi-Fi and GPS on board as well as Bluetooth.
The 3.2 megapixel camera benefits from a side-mounted quicklaunch button, but annoyingly enough it won’t take a snap until you pop a microSD card into the slot. Samsung supplies a 1GB card to get you started with this.
One really irritating feature is the screen lock button. Android has a perfectly good sweep-to-unlock system which we feel is entirely adequate, and on this handset you can additionally set up a ‘screen unlock’ pattern too so that you have to draw a pattern on the screen with a finger to unlock the handset. The side button simply an annoyance.
Overall, though, we like the Samsung Galaxy Portal a lot. Its fast processor and large screen are superb, and the Layars system has potential to blow the competition out of the water in terms of location based services.
Price: dependent on contract
Value for Money: 9/10
Overall score: 9/10
Written by Sandra Vogel. Originally published in Smartphone Essentials magazine.
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