Samsung Tocco Review

7 Aug 2008

I am tired of every touch phone that comes on the market being compared with the iPhone and touted as the next possible iPhone killer – how is an innocent phone to get a start in this world if it is ruthlessly pitched against what is seen as state-of-the-art mobile innovation? I’m outraged.

Just kiddin’. Let’s put the new Samsung Tocco head-to-head with the iPhone 3G and see how it holds up, but this time I’m shaking things up a bit. Common ground aside, what does the Tocco have that the 3G iPhone doesn’t?

As it happens – a lot. First off, the one thing most iPhone realists complain about is the lack of video and the frankly bog-standard camera.

The Tocco is not in this league at all: it has a five-megapixel camera with six different modes, including night mode, and more importantly has built-in anti-shake, face detection, white balance and all the things that used to set the actual digital camera apart from its mobile phone equivalent.

Moving on to the video function – the picture quality is not as clear as the still camera but you can edit your creations and add an audio soundtrack from your music folder – so you can essentially create mini-movies for upload directly onto YouTube.

Speaking of audio, the Samsung Tocco has something quite basic that all phones should have and yet the iPhone doesn’t – an FM radio. For one reason or another, I have never owned a phone that had this capability so it was nice to listen to Rick O’Shea on the way to work in the morning instead of the usual music collection.

However, I found the process of porting my music from the computer to the Tocco quite slow and frustrating. It felt like half an hour had passed before one album had transferred, in comparison to the iPhone’s zipper time. As with the iPhone, software needs to be installed on your desktop or laptop before you can transport over your music.

Here’s another little application the Tocco has though: music recognition. I played a snippet on my desktop from the Ting Tings’ That’s Not My Name and held up the Tocco to the speakers. Almost instantly the correct song was returned. Again, Sony Ericsson and some other mobile manufactures already have this technology but alas the iPhone does not.

These new touch phones are packing so much functionality that the home screen basically looks like a mini-desktop, and going with this analogy, Samsung has out widgets on the Tocco – little applications that can be dragged out from a hidden side menu and then put to sit anywhere on screen or dragged back again.

Another unique addition to the Tocco is it allows you to text as Gaeilge. I liked that when I turned it on it greeted me with ‘Dia Dhuit’ (‘Hello’ in Irish) and there is predictive text for those who wish to text in their native tongue – I wonder what textese in Irish looks like? Maybe ‘xMT’ would work as ‘Póg ma thóin?’

Here’s the thing though – yes, Samsung has all these great features that the 3G iPhone doesn’t, but the one thing you can be guaranteed Apple kicks its competitors’ asses with every time is the user interface. So you have touch – but how intuitive, slick and easy to use is it really?

As it happens, Samsung seems to have got it right with the Tocco. The interface is great, I was very impressed. One teensy tiny thing though – texting – I didn’t find the virtual keyboard to be as intuitive as those on the iPhones.

Then there’s the fact the Tocco doesn’t have inbuilt Wi-Fi and the surfing experience of most handsets does not seem to come even close to that of the iPhone.

As the Tocco seems to have captured the zeitgeist for slim, stylish and great touch interface so well, I think it makes a perfect compliment to the iPhone – my dream phone would basically be a hybrid of the Tocco and the iPhone 3G – good quality camera, video function, Wi-Fi, great browser, big screen.

The Tocco, it seems, is the first touch handset on the market since the iPhone that is beginning to get what it means to deliver a pure touch, highly visual experience to the end user.

Basically, it is the iPhone’s brother from another mother.

The Tocco is available in Vodafone, O2, Meteor, Carphone Warehouse and 3G stores nationwide and retails from €99 on post-pay.

By Marie Boran

Pictured: the Samsung Tocco