Review by Sunetra Chakravati,
12/12/2011 3:52:34 PM
Samsung gives Apple a run for its money and offers definite improvement, such as a great camera and 3G, all in a stylish, compact handset.
The Tocco lacks a QWERTY keyboard, and texting can be fiddly. The lack of Wi-Fi is disappointing.
Thank heavens for the new trend of giving phones a name rather than just a model number. Such is the proliferation of mobile launches of late, consumers would need Pythagoras-like numerical ability to remember the model numbers of even this year's launches.
Samsung's new touch-screen phone is called both the F480 and the Tocco, which is the Italian word for touch. Considering that Samsung has just launched a touch-phone handset called the F490, we'll close the door on a world of confusion and refer to this phone solely as the Tocco.
The handset is so named because it's a phone with few keys and a touch-sensitive interface, which is almost de rigueur for 2008.
The Tocco has certain advantages over Apple's iPhone. Firstly, it's a great size. Although there's no doubting the iPhone is a popular phone, there's no escaping that it's a big hunk of metal and glass that some people find too big. It may be unbeatable as a mobile internet browser, but if you use it mostly for calls and texts, pocket-sized it definitely isn't.
However, the Tocco is a great size. Slim at 11.6mm, it fits comfortably in the palm. Although the 2.8-inch screen is not as impressive as Apple's 3.5-inch one, it's still readable. The Tocco's screen is sharp, but the resolution isn't exceptional.
Switch on the device and the first screen reads ‘Welcome to 3G' - something the 2G iPhone can't boast. The Tocco delivers fast data connections, and 7.2Mbps HSDPA data transfer speeds. There's no Wi-Fi mind.
The last Samsung touch-screen mobile, the F490, was tricky to use; its touch-sensitive crossbar proved a hindrance when picking menu icons. On the Tocco, there's a choice of a regular screen of 12 icons or the new and highly accessible Widget interface. This is a full screen with customisable wallpaper and a dock of icons that hide off-screen. In the dock are lots of icons which you can drag on screen as you please, which means that the screen isn't too cramped.
It even includes the network's information banner so if you don't like the fact that your phone says Orange in the middle of it, you can pop it out of view easily. This is a cute, original feature that's desirable even if not especially necessary.
There are other customisable details that make the Tocco feel like a handset that has been comprehensively thought through. The touch-screen lets you know when you've touched a button by sending a brief vibration through the screen, which is a feature missing from the iPhone and other touch-screens like the HTC Touch Diamond. The Tocco even allows you to opt for gentle nudge or harsh insistence.
This haptic feedback is handy when you're typing a text message. The screen is too small for a full QWERTY keyboard, so Samsung opts for a keypad with predictive text. Our tests found it very usable except for one quibble - the space key is next to the OK button and it's too easy to press the latter, ending your text entry when you just want a space. This is annoying, and prevents speedy texting.
Although it's true that so far there isn't a camera phone that matches a decent compact digital camera for image quality, the Tocco's camera has a lot going for it, with a five-megapixel lens on board.
And there's the convenience of being able to quickly upload your images to a website through the 3G phone network. But there are photographic advantages too. An image stabiliser helps in low-light situations, face detection homes in and focuses on faces, and there's a smile shutter where you hold the camera and when your subject grins, the phone takes the picture itself. The first time you try this it's a little freaky, but it is a neat addition to the camera's features. Add in scene modes and camcorder functions, and the Tocco has a lot going for it as a capable camera phone.
Similar to Sony Ericsson's TrackID, which identifies the mystery tune on the radio, the Tocco boasts Shazam, which is as handy and fun as ever, even showing the album artwork on screen.
Samsung's music player software is no iTunes, but it's highly usable and although the phone only has 232MB of music storage available, memory cards can offer more space. The Tocco also includes an FM radio (with RDS) that works well.
There are things that the Tocco lacks, of course. The widgets are a bonus but they're still not as effortlessly enjoyable as the iPhone's operating system. And features like muting the ringtone if you turn the phone face down, which can be found on Nokia's 8800 Sapphire and the HTC Touch Diamond, are unfortunately absent.
These are small prices to pay for what is surely the most successfully realised touch-screen phone after Apple's. Even though iPhone users will find it hard to adjust to the user interface (scrolling down a screen is the opposite of the flicking upwards movement Apple uses), they will be glad of the smaller size and 3G connection.
Although by the time you read this, Cupertino will likely have put its answer on the table.