Product Review: Touch-sensitive mobile phone

3 Jun 2008

Will it be heaven or hell for the Samsung Soul?

It’s all about touch these days isn’t it? The very stylish Samsung Soul mobile phone makes a good compromise with two screens: a large upper screen and a smaller, touch-sensitive one called the ‘Magic Touch’.

The main screen is a nice-sized, 2.2-inch LCD, clear and glossy with a bright display that makes colours pop, while the touch-sensitive menu or Touchpad is back-lit and makes a satisfyingly tactile buzz every time you touch it.

The special thing about the Soul is the Touchpad changes function depending on what applications you have open on the main menu.

If you are playing music it turns into play, stop and navigation buttons, while in camera mode the buttons function as a zoom or flash.

At first it took me a while to get used to the dual-function user interface, switching between touch and the slide-out part of the handset that keeps the keyboard hidden, but once you get used to it, it feels like second nature.

One thing that did bug me was the default sensitivity of the touch menu. On answering the phone, my ear would bump off the menu and loud vibrating noises would make me jump. I also once managed to hang up on someone when it pressed against my face.

However, this can easily be fixed by adjusting the sensitivity, so I couldn’t hold this against such a stylish, multi-functional phone.

The design is understated in an elegant, mocha-coloured, metallic finish that would appeal to a guy or girl. But of course, besides looks and ease of use, the main test of a good phone is all the extras on board.

What really impressed me was the five-megapixel camera. With autofocus and image stabiliser, you could easily take snapshots of good enough quality to send to family and friends.

There’s even a macro function to capture objects up close and you can do some serviceable photo editing on the go.

Our resident photographer Conor said it was the best onboard mobile camera he had tested to date.

As if the exterior of the Soul wasn’t cool enough, the MP3 player requires name dropping because the amp is powered by upscale sound experts Bang & Olufsen.

Although I didn’t spend much time playing around with the music side of this phone, I did find the sound quality top notch and the song you are currently playing is displayed discreetly along the bottom of the screen as you navigate your way around for text messaging or other activities.

Whilst the Soul is not a 3G device, web connectivity seemed good with HSDPA but the browser itself could not help but disappoint. Although it looks like a web browser from your standard handset, I have been spoiled by the looks of the iPhone browser and the Nokia N95.

I think this is one area where all mobile phone manufacturers will be changing in the next few years as mobile web browsing becomes increasingly commonplace and the user begins to expect an interface that resembles a scaled-down version of their laptop or desktop web browser.

By Marie Boran

Pros: Great camera, nice Touchpad interface
Cons: Web browser is average
Price: €99 (on contract with O2, Carphone Warehouse, Meteor, Vodafone and 3G Stores)