Samsumg Galaxy Spica Review

3 Jan 2010

If there’s one manufacturer that has come from seemingly nowhere and injected life into the mobile market with a plethora of different products in the past year alone it has to be Samsung.

From the Gossip Girl-esque Ping to the James Bond-style S9110 watch phone, Samsung has shown imagination and vigour. It occurred to me the inroads the company is making when I recently had a serious discussion with two teenagers about the Genio Touch smart phone that allows users to change the colour of the back cover. They were aghast, yes aghast, that some wily phone store owner was trying to fob them off with a maroonish cover for their Genios when what they wanted was hot pink. They got their hot pink covers one way or another and realised that in shops we do service with snarl here in Ireland.

Samsung have come a long way in a relatively short period of time. Three years ago they had token efforts that were cheap plastic clamshell affairs. Then Samsung disappeared from the mobile space there was nothing to be heard from them for some time. Clearly they went away, saw what was happening in the market and decided to apply muscle to their future phone strategy.

All of a sudden Samsung were back in the market with devices like the Tocco, the Jet and Solid Extreme, all of which were novel, imaginative and clever. Another virtue of Samsung’s strategy is that as well as its own operating system (OS) strategy with the Bada platform, it has brought out at least three Google Android based devices and is even planning sleek Windows Mobile 6.5 smart phone products.

This adaptability is an indicator of what is needed in 2010 which is shaping up to be the year of the smart phone. What I mean by that is that is the internet connectivity that most business users and people who use devices like the iPhone take for granted is set to become a mass market affair.

When I look at the new Galaxy Spica device that Samsung are selling through O2 I see how mass consumerisation of smart phones is possible. Not only mass consumerisation, consider massive personalisation.

The device comes in a very attractive, rugged but comfortable enclosure, trimmed in red. A touch screen phone, it still carries the usual call and hang up buttons traditional phone users would expect on their devices but as a reminder that this is an internet phone too, it features a ‘home’ key, a ‘browser’ key and a ‘back’ button. Boasting a 3.2 megapixel camera, the internet connectivity of the device is clear and seamless. In one small step, from taking a photograph, all I need to do is hit a share button and I can have the photograph instantaneously on any social networking site of my choice, in this case Facebook.

While I’ve played with the occasional Android-powered device, this was the first one that I got to spend some time with and I have to say the role Android will play in putting the internet into the hands of the next 1bn people to come online cannot be underestimated.

The Galaxy Spica thanks to Android is truly a fully-fledged internet experience. One of the first things to present itself on the front page is a Google search bar. Applications like Google Maps, Facebook and Gmail are accessible either on the main menu or you can drag them to the front page to keep an eye on new messages or status updates. Google Maps in particular proved to be a reliable, solid affair and we even used it to plan in detail a recent roadtrip. Maps on the Spica is intuitive and fast.

One of my first ports of call when I started using the device was to go to the Android Market and my first impression of the Market are that is very well structured for finding the tools you need whether its software for health, finance or entertainment. In mere seconds I had found the app I was looking for – an app called ‘Hi MSN’ which allowed me to keep an eye on my Windows Live messages as well as Gmail.

Android’s ability to allow you to expand your home screen beyond a single page is also something that must be considered ground-breaking and for consumers who believe their phone says as much about them as the clothes they wear, this will allow for greater personalisation.

The Samsung Galaxy Spica to my mind marks a turning point in the relationship between ordinary individuals and their mobile device. Pure internet-powered smart phone experiences are no longer just for affluent geeks but every man, woman and child. With this device, Samsung have sparked something very important.

The device is priced €99 for O2 contract customers and €299 on Prepay. It is also available for purchase online from as well as Carphone Warehouse stores.

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years