Product Type: Samsung Smartphone
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Samsung Galaxy Ace
Member Name: eilidhcatriona
Samsung Galaxy Ace
Advantages: Attractive, easy to use, no upfront cost on contract, purple
Disadvantages: Problems hanging up calls, camera resolution
So, I headed off to the O2 shop planning to get myself a smartphone which would be included in the cost of my contract. Having read an excellent review here, and spoken with the reviewer, I was fairly sure that I would choose the Samsung Galaxy Ace, but wanted to see the phone first. As it turned out, there were no other smartphones I liked, so I was very quickly the proud owner of a Galaxy Ace with a nice cheap monthly contract of £15.50 plus data cost.
Call me fickle, but the first thing which I liked about the Samsung Galaxy Ace was its colour - O2 offered it in black or purple. My favourite colour is purple. I also liked the shape - it is not an angular phone, but has a nice curved back which is pleasing to hold. It is a sensible size, nothing like the Galaxy S2 which is halfway to being a tablet - the Galaxy Ace is comparable in size to the iPhone, and is not too heavy. The Galaxy Ace fits easily into jacket or jean pockets, and doesn't take up too much space in my handbag.
The Galaxy Ace is a smartphone with a touchscreen. It has one single button on the front; pressing this wakes the phone up and you can unlock the screen with a swipe action. It is possible to set a PIN or password, but I find that annoying. The homescreen of the phone can be customised with news and weather alerts, clock, apps, etc, and there is an icon to tap to take you into the full menu screens. Despite this being my first smartphone, I found it was easy to navigate the menus from the start, as the style is very easy to understand.
First things first, how does the Galaxy Ace function as a phone? This is, after all, a smartphones primary purpose, although you wouldn't know it by reading some reviews. The Galaxy Ace is easy to make calls from - there is a button to tap on the home screen, which takes you into the call function. From there you have the option of opening an onscreen keypad to enter a number, and viewing your call log or contacts to choose a contact from there. Call quality is good, and the volume can be controlled using a button on the side of the phone, which you can use without having to take the phone away from your ear.
Where the call function does let the phone down however, is on hanging up. It took me some time to get the hang of this. The Galaxy Ace has one single "real" button on the front of it, and when ending a call it was automatic for me to press this to hang up. But pressing this button actually sent the phone back to the homescreen, with the call remaining active. It is then very difficult to reopen the call screen, which is done by pulling down a window from the top of the homescreen - but for some reason this window does not stay down when there is an active call. Now, the call should be ended by pressing a large red button on the call screen which says "End Call" - sounds easy, you say. Not exactly, at least not until you figure it out; because once you are in a call the screen goes black, and you have to tap it to get the call screen back up. This may all sound a bit detailed and complex, but this issue I had with ending calls is actually one of the few drawbacks of this phone, so I feel it is important.
Another primary function of mobile phones is texting. This is something I always found easy on old style phones with keypads, but I wasn't sure I would fare with a touchscreen. The onscreen keyboard of the Galaxy Ace is a QWERTY one, that is a full keyboard. I find it fairly easy to use, the keys are a touch smaller than those of the onscreen keyboard of my iPod Touch, but it is actually easier to be accurate in typing. I've even managed to start using my thumbs to type instead of one finger. Texts are stored in conversations, meaning that you can easily scroll through all texts between you and whoever you are texting.
So, those are the primary functions of a mobile phone, but how does the Galaxy Ace fare when it comes to the more advanced functions? It seems to me that you name it and the Galaxy Ace can do it - internet, apps, games, camera, email, music. In fact it can probably do a lot more than I know - there are things on the menu that I still haven't explored.
The internet browser is quite easy to use. The size of the screen means that you can view non-mobile websites with ease. You can store favourites which are easily accessed - very handy for me, as I use Transport for London's bus stop departures page several times a day, to find out how long I will have to stand in the rain waiting for my bus. I find that internet speed is usually very good, although of course this depends on the strength of your 3G or wifi signal - the Galaxy Ace can connect to wifi networks.
The Galaxy Ace is an Android phone, and so apps are downloaded from the Google Play Store (recently renamed from the Android Market). I had never used the Play Store before, and I found it unfamiliar the first few times. I think the main problem I had was actually that there are less apps on it that on the iTunes store, which I had used with my iPod Touch. I find that when searching for an app, an awful lot of the search results are unfamiliar looking amateur apps. For example the National Lottery - there is an official app on iTunes but not on Android (or if there is I can't find it!), and the search results bring up a lot of strange results. Saying that though, once I had downloaded a few apps I was getting used to the Play Store, and know my way around it now. Apps on the Galaxy Ace download fairly quickly (again dependent on your connection) and in fact I find that when you have an update notification for one, it updates considerably quicker than on the iPod Touch. Apps are easy to store and use; they are all visible in the menu screen of the Galaxy Ace, but can also be added to the home screen for quicker access.
The camera is quite easy to use, and produces good quality pictures, but if you have the photo resolution on the highest setting, you can't use the zoom. The lower the screen, the more you can zoom in. This annoys me, as I want high quality photos with the ability to zoom. It is also inconvenient, as if I have had the camera on high resolution for a close shot, the next time I use it I may forget this and try to zoom - and then find I have to adjust the settings before I can take the photo. The camera is billed as 5MP, but this is only on the highest resolution setting.
The Galaxy Ace takes a microSD memory card, which is essential if you are going to store photos or music on it, as it does not have a lot of internal memory. The memory card is easy to insert and is securely enclosed in the side of the phone. Currently I only have a 1GB memory card in my phone, as I am not yet using it as an mp3 player, but you can use a card up to 16GB.
The other main function which I use on the Galaxy Ace is the alarm clock. This is easy to set, you can have a number of different alarms, for different times or days, and you have a choice of sounds. It took me some time to get used to turning off or snoozing the alarm while half asleep - much like hanging up calls, my instinct was to press the button on the front of the phone, but what I needed to do was choose from buttons which pop up on the screen.
On a practical note, the battery life of the Galaxy Ace is not bad. This is my first smartphone, and I am aware I am not using it to its full potential (no music, limited apps, etc), so perhaps battery life would be shorter for a heavier user, but I generally find that I need to charge it every two days, more if I have made more calls or used more data than average.
Durability of the Galaxy Ace is something which concerns me. I don't mean that I think it will die before my two year contract is up, but rather that I think it might scratch very easily. I'm quite protective of my gadgets, I don't like them to get scratched so I tend not to have them rattling around unprotected in the bottom of my handbag. However I kept my phone in a pocket of my bag with a few other bits and pieces (lipbalm, hotel keycard, etc - nothing metal) on a recent trip, and I noticed afterwards that the corners of the back cover had some light scratches, as did the button on the front. The screen itself was fine, however I will definitely be more careful in future.
I'm very happy with the Samsung Galaxy Ace, as it does what I need from a phone and more. I am very glad I did not pay out for an iPhone, as the cost really is unnecessary. The Galaxy Ace is an attractive and practical phone, and I expect to be happy with it until my contract is up.
Summary: An excellent smartphone which proves you don't need to spend a fortune on an iPhone
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