Product Type: Samsung Smartphone
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From A Galaxy Far, Far, Away
Samsung GT i5500 Galaxy 5
Member Name: sandemp
Samsung GT i5500 Galaxy 5
Advantages: Cheap, full range of features, looks good, Android, Kindle
Disadvantages: Battery life, earphones
Following the candy bar styling, the Europa is a beautifully glossy black with silver detail, and a fairly large 2.8 inch touch screen display. Now I know that is in no way the biggest touch screen on the market, in fact it's actually slightly smaller than the screen on my old Monte, but it is just about big enough, very clear and suffers from very little glare or reflection. The 16 million colours means that photos and pictures are vividly displayed, I really can't say that I've noticed any pixilation. Being a touch screen phone, there are a minimal number of actual buttons, although as it's a smart phone there are more than there were on my Monte. There's a central select button, which is surrounded by four other function buttons, including the answer and end call buttons. The minimalist feel is continued around the sides of the phone, with there being a shared USB/power connection hidden behind a flap, rocker volume button and 3mm headphone jack, while the rear of the Europa simply features a lens and the words Samsung and 'with Google".
All in all the Europa looks pretty smart, 108mm x 56mm x 12.3mm it's small enough to slip into a pocket and yet not so small as to be uncomfortable to use. And at 102g it's feel reassuring weighty and well-balanced in my hand. Although I really like the glossy black finish, I do find that it really attracts fingerprints and smudges, which can detract from the look. So if you're planning on buying this phone I would suggest also investing in a glasses cloth to keep it smudge free.
My Europa did come with a few welcome accessories, but I'm not sure if they were all standard or not. A 1GB micro SD card was supplied along with an adapter, I don't know about you, but I think this was a nice touch, as it's not often that a memory card is supplied with a phone. I've not actually used the supplied memory card though, as I already had an 8GB card, with music, photos and videos on it, but I the adapter really does come in handy. Obviously a power adapter is supplied, and what I really like is that this is identical to the adapter on my two previous Samsungs meaning that if I should ever lose or break one I have replacements available. Along with the power adapter, there is a USB cable, that is a reasonable length and as well as enabling quick and easy transfer of files, it also allows the phone to be charged from any computer. The supplied earphones/hands free kit, is rather disappointing, my Monte was supplied with really comfortable earphones, but the one's with this don't even fit in my ears, so it's lucky that I can use any earphones with a 3mm plug.
Although you do receive an instruction booklet with the Europa, you do not get an installation disc. I have installed this on a Windows 7 laptop though, and the whole process was quick, painless and completely automated. The instruction booklet, is fairly comprehensive and covers all of the Europa's functions in a way that is easy to read and follow, even though I've mostly worked out how the phone works by messing about with it.
Preparing the Europa for first use, was fairly simple, although I did find it a little difficult to remove the back cover. The indent for lifting the cover is quite small and even with my long, strong nails I struggled, in fact I eventually resorted to used a pair of tweezers. I'm not sure I like the fact that the Micro SD slot is beneath this cover, as it makes changing cards quite awkward. Once the memory card, SIM card and battery are in place, the cover is a lot easier to replace than it was to remove and the only thing left to do is switch on.
Switching the Europa on is not just a case of pressing the power button and being instantly able to make calls, it takes a good couple of minutes for the phone to boot up and be ready to use, especially if you have a lot of files on your SD card. Powering down is a lot quicker though, not quite instantaneous, but nearly.
==The Touch Screen, Menu System, Calling and Texting==
No matter how fancy a phone, for me the most important aspects are still how easy it is to use and how good a job it does at the most basic of tasks. The capacitive touch screen is a delight to use, it's sensitive and gives reassuring feedback as I work my way through the menu options. Although the screen is a little smaller than I am used to, I have no trouble selecting the various options and the phone responds to the lightest of touches as I swipe between screens. The menu system is logical, with there being a total of seven home screen, each of which can be filled with widgets or icons allowing instant access to most commonly used applications and even folders. On entering the actual menu, there are another two pages of icons to take you to even more options. Although I do like the addition of a home button, that immediately returns me to the primary screen, I still find that I try to press the end call to close an application only to realise that all this does is lock the screen. I must say that I find this a little annoying and more than a little frustrating at times.
Making calls with the Europa, is a fairly standard affair, it's easy enough to add contacts to the address book and then make calls from here. What I especially like, is that if I look up a phone number on the internet browser, then I can call that number directly from that page. Much cheaper than using a 118 service and quicker too, especially if you need a taxi in a hurry. Once in a call, as long as I have reasonable reception, everything is loud and clear, even when using the loud speaker. I've never had a problem being heard at the other end either and this phone is as good at picking up signal as any other I have owned. I do not like using the supplied hands-free kit though, I'm sure my ears aren't any smaller than average, but the ear buds simply to not fit in my ear holes.
Texting with the Europa is definitely something that takes a while to get used to. There are various input methods available, including the standard multi-tap. When using the standard keyboard, the different keys are well spaced and the touch screen perfectly responsive, but there are much easier methods available. Firstly, there's the standard qwerty keyboard, that is definitely easier to use in landscape, in portrait the keys are just too close together. The T9 dictionary is reasonable, although as always there are words it will need to be taught, especially if you like to use profanity.
But my favourite method of typing texts is to use the new Swype function. With this method, you don't exactly type so much as swipe your fingers between the letters. Although this takes a little while to get used to and it is advisable to follow the built-in tutorial, once you do get used to it, you'll wonder how you managed to text without it. I love that I don't have to be particularly accurate, and yet 99% of the time the phone recognises what I want to say and it is so much quicker. I'm not sure about the way the texts are organised though, instead of being organised by date and time, they are organised by contact. Yes this does make it easier to find a particular conversation, but at the same time it makes it harder to find a specific text message.
===Android, Internet and Connectivity==
Now I've never owned an iPhone, iPod or iPad, so I have no idea how Android compares to these, or how the Android store compares to iTunes apps, so I'm going to be tackling these aspects solely as a newcomer to smart phone technology. The Europa's processor is in no way the most powerful available at 600MHz, but it's no slouch either. What really amazes me, is that my first real home PC only had a 700MHz processor and that was only ten years ago, and now there are mobile phones available with the same sort of power. I find that as long as I don't have too many applications open, the Europa copes pretty well with everything I throw at it, whether it be games, mobile television or Facebook.
I've no idea what the most up-to-date version of the Android operating system is, but this phone runs Android 2.1, which also has the rather strange code name of Éclair (why they would name an OS after a chocolate cake is beyond me). Up until now I've not had a single problem with the phone crashing, freezing or rebooting and with it being a new toy, I have pretty much overused it.
While Apple users have the apps store, Android users have the Android market, which gives access to countless different applications and games, from the extremely useful to the banal. While some of these apps do incur a small fee, the majority are absolutely free. I will say though that you need a gmail account to use this service, but I really would recommend that you open one anyway if you buy this phone, as Google and Gmail are so well integrated into many of the functions.
So far I've not really downloaded and installed too many apps, but those I have are pretty good. One of the most important apps I've installed is Advanced Task Manager, which is pretty invaluable for ensuring that other apps are properly closed after use. Another fantastic app is Kindle for Android, I absolutely love this as it allows me to read books on my phone. The print is surprisingly easy to read and I can bookmark exactly where I've got to, but even more impressively there are literally hundreds of free books to choose from all of which are almost instantly delivered to my phone. In fact this is an app that I would recommend to anyone who has an Android phone, it's brilliant. One thing that has disappointed me, is that this phone is not compatable with iPlayer, my Monte had iPlayer installed, but I can't even use the website with this phone. Which is particularly strange considering I have installed another app that allows me to watch ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5.
The supplied browser is perfectly workable, I have no trouble accessing any sites, and speeds while using wi-fi are almost instantaneous. It's extremely easy to zoom in on pages and so far I've had no problem accessing most sites, although I must admit I've not really attempted everything. As far as I'm concerned, as long as I can access Dooyoo, Ciao and my bank then I'm fine. So I've no attempted any browser games, but I have accessed secure pages and some online shops without issue along with general searches.
Talking about searches, there's also a voice search function on the phone, I'm not sure who thought that it would be easier to search the internet by simply saying what we're looking for, but obviously someone did. Unfortunately, while this sounds as if it could be a good feature, in reality it's poorly executed. I've tried it a few times, and it's really a bit hit and miss. Yes it does occasionally bring up my search and even rarer it appears in the top three of the search options, but more often than not it gets it completely wrong and now I've come to the conclusion that it's easier to just type in my search.
Along with the actual internet and the Android market, the Europa gives instant access to Gmail, other email accounts, Facebook and other networking sites. Personally, I only have this set up with my Gmail and Facebook accounts and am more than pleased with how easy it is to access these. With my Gmail, I get instant notification of any new emails and can easily send emails from my phone even attaching photos. It's the same with Facebook, it's so well integrated that I can take a photo and then immediately upload it to my Facebook account. I love how easy this all is.
As I'm sure you've gathered by now, the Europa features a wi-fi internet connection, and this connection is extremely easy to set and offers speedy data transfer. It's easy to search for wi-fi hotspots and then connect to them, it took me a matter of seconds to connect to my home network. Once connected to a network, working on the internet is a delight, and all networks are remembered for another time. Along with wi-fi, the Europa can also be used to connect to the WWW via 3G, which I wouldn't really recommend for extended periods, as not only is it slower but it can also end up costing a small fortune.
If it's transferring files between phones that you're after, Bluetooth is available with all the standard features of pairing, etc. I love that multiple files can be sent or received along with larger files, with the largest file I've received being 200MB. The Europa can also be connected to a PC via USB, when it works as a mass storage device, which enables files to be transferred much quicker.
==Camera, Music and Multimedia==
If you're buying a phone for it's camera, then this really isn't the phone for you. The Europa's camera is a measly 2MP, but it still produces some pretty good pictures as long as the lighting is reasonable. Ok, so the pictures aren't at a quality where you can blow them up to A4 and put them on the wall, but they are good enough for posting on Facebook and to keep for memories. There are also a couple of special effects available, I especially like the panoramic function, which is great for taking pictures of the countryside about where we live. There isn't a flash though so pictures taken in low light aren't particularly brilliant, and there's only a 3x digital zoom. So not the best camera in a phone, but as I have a 10MP digital camera, that's not a problem for me. Along with still photos, the Europa also has a video function which is again great for off the cuff memories but doesn't produce anything you're going to want to put onto DVD.
Along with the camera, the Europa does offer a few options for watching and listening to multimedia. The music player is reasonable, with MP3s sounding pretty good through the speakers and even better with a decent set of headphones. Photos and pictures are beautifully displayed and the Europa will even play videos in the MP4/3gp format. I do like to occasionally watch films or TV episodes on this phone while on long journeys and although the screen is relatively small, it's still big enough to be able to view these videos without straining my eyes. Ok, it's not an iPod, but the multimedia capabilities are more than good enough for me. Videos play smoothly, MP3s sound good and there's even a radio.
The Europa is also GPS enabled, meaning that it can be used as a sat nav, but I must say that I've never used it for this, not having a car.
==The Battery And Durability==
So far I've been nothing but complementary about the Europa, but nothing's perfect and the Europa's big downfall is it's battery life. Although the battery does charge quickly, it also runs down quite quickly too. If the Europa is only used as a phone for making calls and sending texts then it can easily last two to three days. But how likely is it that you are going to buy a smart phone and then not use any of the smart features?
With the way I use the phone, which is to make occasional calls, send lots of texts, check my emails at least once an hour, surf the web for up to an hour, play games, listen to music, watch videos and read books, the battery lasts me a day, if I'm lucky. Ok so this isn't long, but I do use the phone a lot during the day, so it's hardly surprising that I run the battery down so fast. But before I downloaded the task manager, the battery wasn't even lasting a day, so it's definitely worth making sure that applications are closed after you've finished using them.
As for the durability, well I've had this phone for just under a month, and have taken really good care of it, ensuring that it doesn't come into contact with anything that might scratch it, so I'm perhaps not the best person to tell you whether it will survive being thrown across the room. But I can tell you that the glossy black surface is very difficult to keep clean and it positively attracts fingerprints and smudges. Although I have only had the phone for a relatively short period, I have used it extensively in that timeframe, as fingers crossed, nothing has actually gone wrong with either the hardware or software.
==Price And Availability==
The Samsung Galaxy Europa is available on both PAYG and contract, costing approximately £100 for PAYG, which I personally feel is an exceptional price for a smart phone, that does so much. I received my Europa free as an upgrade on a £20/month contract with Vodafone.
The Samsung Galaxy Europa is an excellent budget smart phone, which would make great introduction into the world of this advanced technology. But, I wouldn't say this is a phone that would appeal to technophobes, it does take a while to get used to. Personally, I love this phone and wouldn't change it for the world, well not until next upgrade anyway. Considering it's capabilities, the Europa is available for a ridiculously low price, and while it's not the fastest, most full featured smart phone with the biggest screen, it more than holds it's own. So taking everything into account I'm perfectly happy to give this phone five stars out of five and recommend it to anyone who is looking to dip their toes into the world of smart phones but not yet ready to spend a small fortune.
Summary: Brilliant budget smart phone
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