Average build quality combines with a low-resolution display to create a disappointing impression
Bada is easy to use but never matches the intuitiveness of any Nokia handset or many high-end smartphones
Decent specs only let down by near-empty app store
A responsive touch-screen is the stand-out feature here
Unlike pricier smartphones, the battery will last you a couple of days with ease
The Wave 723 is the latest Samsung phone to use the company's own operating system, bada. The first phone, the Samsung Wave, had a strikingly brilliant AMOLED screen and chic high-end build. This new Wave is a cut-down version, and it shows.
At first glance, it looks cheaper and less glitzy than the earlier model, even before you switch it on. The frame is dark grey plastic, though at least the back panel is metal, which feels a little classier. But the three buttons on the front of the phone are a bit too clickety for comfort. The side buttons for volume, camera and power are just where Samsung usually puts them, though the side-mounted power switch is always a slight worry. Still, the top edge is busy with a micro USB slot and sliding cover plus a 3.5mm headphone jack. Anyway, press that ill-placed power switch and the screen turns on. AMOLED it ain't. The resolution for this 3.2-inch display is quite low: 400x240 pixels. If you're used to small phones with basic screens, this may not seem too bad, but the latest phones have much higher-resolution displays so it really looks low-end. Text, especially, looks poor on this screen, which can hamper your enjoyment when surfing the net to wordy websites. Video playback is limited on this phone, and anyway the screen wouldn't show it off at its best.
The touch-screen is capacitive, that posher kind found on higher-end phones and which makes multi-touch possible. So there's no problem using the appealing pinching operation to zoom in and out. And it's a fast, responsive experience using the screen, which is great.
Since it has the same background images as on some of Samsung's pricier phones, the difference is all the more obvious. And the blocky shortcut icons don't look as snazzy as those on most smartphones. Mind you, early Android icons looked poor, too, so maybe there's a chance Samsung will improve these ones in time.
Anyway, this isn't Android, it's bada, which aims to make smartphones accessible and usable. Like Android, there are widgets you can plonk onto the multiple home screens, and bada has a degree of versatility. If you've filled the pages, adding an extra widget automatically adds an extra screen to put it on, up to a maximum of seven screens.
There's even a Samsung apps store, though it's so sparsely populated it makes Palm's app library look busy. Still, at least it includes a free version of Tetris among the titles on offer. The phone doesn't have a digital compass, so many of the apps which look so cool on the iPhone and Android blowers wouldn't work here anyway.
The Wave 723 also has a decent camera - five megapixels with a flash. Photos were sharp and effective and there was even minimal shutter lag. As always, low light results were less enjoyable, though not bad. The camera also shoots video though this is not HD as many phones now manage. As integrated memory is minimal (90MB), you'd need a memory card to store more than a few seconds' video anyway.
The phone has speedy data traffic thanks to the latest edition of Wi-Fi and HSDPA for data transfers of up to 3.6Mbps. There's also GPS, Bluetooth and a stereo FM radio among the 723's highlights. You can even record the radio, should you wish.
There are lots of things to like about the Wave 723 from its lower price point compared to the original Wave to its camera and excellent connectivity. But the truth is that the screen lets it down quite a lot and the Bada OS just doesn't have the intuitive appeal or range of apps to make it a contender in the competitive world of smartphones, even at the lower end of the scale.