The Galaxy Portal has a solid, attractive case though the plethora of buttons beneath the screen may look too busy for some.
Android’s operating system is pleasingly simple and enjoyable. This is maximised by Samsung through the placing of the Augmented Reality Layar on the home screen.
There are largely average features on this phone, from the display to the camera. Decent rather than outstanding at every level.
The phone speedy enough to be easy to use, though there are faster smartphones out there.
Battery life was unexceptional; needed recharging daily
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,12/12/2011 3:57:42 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
The phone is decently priced and fits the hand well
Irritating screen unlock, average camera and elderly-looking version of Android
This is Samsung’s second Android phone. The first one, the i7500, was the best-specced Android phone yet released. This model is similarly shaped and sized, with a largely identical operating system, though some of the standout specifications on the i7500 have been scaled down – so the phone is competitively priced.
The Galaxy Portal, for a touch-screen phone, has an awful lot of buttons. Apart from a large direction pad, there are six more on the front of the phone – two for starting or ending a call, Home, Back, Menu and one that Samsung calls the ‘Google Search key’, though the icon looks like it’s just for web browsing. The bottom of the screen looks pretty crowded. It’s a good size – slightly thicker than the iPhone but less wide and a little less tall. Unlike some Android handsets, there are no manufacturer or network-specific extras. The system is Android through and through. Since it comes with version 1.5, it does look a little old-fashioned compared to more recent phones with their splashier icons, though this could be upgraded. But for now, there’s no multi-touch – the cute pinch-to-zoom effect found on the iPhone, Palm Pre and the latest Google phones. Still, Samsung’s clearly taking Android seriously. Layar – the gateway to lots of augmented reality (AR) applications – is honoured with a shortcut on the home screen. In case you’re wondering, AR means the phone shows what the camera is actually seeing, but then overlays this image with extra information – the nearest branch of Barclays, for instance, taken from the bank’s pre-loaded app. AR is one of the areas Android embraced more lovingly and more quickly than Apple did, so it’s great that it’s front-and-centre here. The phone comes pre-loaded with Android programs including games, and there are thousands more ready to be downloaded.The capacitive touch-screen is reasonably responsive, though if you’ve tried the super-fast Google Nexus One with its whizzy Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, it seems comparatively sluggish.
But the worst comparisons for this phone come when you put it alongside the earlier i7500. Sure, you can manage with the downgraded camera (from five-megapixels to 3.2, and the flash has gone). The storage space is now dependent on storage cards, whereas you were given 8GB in the earlier model – again, not a deal-breaker. But the really noticeable difference is the screen, which on the i7500 was dazzling (sometimes literally) thanks to the AMOLED display with its rich, vivid colours. This screen has the same resolution but is relatively drab. Though at least the central processor is faster here than on the i7500.The Galaxy Portal also retains the worst, worst aspect of Samsung’s earlier Android handset: the screen unlock button. Touch-screens need to lock easily, of course. In your pocket, an active touch-screen could be making calls, sending texts, logging on to websites. But Samsung’s unlock system is incredibly annoying. Once the screen locks (and it does so, in default settings, after just 15 seconds) the only way to revive it is to hold the screen lock button – a side-mounted button, which is helpfully pointed out by an on-screen instruction. You need a long press and while this is only around a second, it feels like forever especially if, as you will, you start by pressing a different button first. It’s a deeply irritating system and Samsung should rethink it, or even develop an app so you can choose how you want to unlock.
Android is a great operating system and it’s the Google software that is the highpoint on this phone. The hardware is clunkily organised with so many buttons that Android’s ease of use is undermined. For all that, the phone sits well in the hand and the inclusion of Layar and pre-loaded applications makes the phone instantly very usable.