Samsung Galaxy Mini (GT-S5570) Review
The Samsung Galaxy Mini is yet another phone that falls under the successful Galaxy brand that started in 2010 with the Galaxy S by the Korean super giant. The Galaxy Mini is aimed at those who are new to venturing into the complicated world of smartphones and it comes armed with a 3.14" capacitive touchscreen, a 600MHz, 3 MP camera and Android 2.2 Froyo. Not scary at all for the new to the world of the smarter phone.
So should you newcomers plonk down the cash for the handset or should you take your hard earned money else where? Is it worthy to use the Galaxy moniker? It may be called mini but is it also mighty? Read on to find out!
The ten-second review:
- Device: Samsung Galaxy Mini
- Price: £89.99 on Pay as You Go with Three, free with a 24-month contract starting at £15 a month or £149.99 SIM-Free with kingofgadgets.co.uk
- Summary: A entry-level Android handset with mediocre specs that actually combine together to make a rather nice handset for kids, first time smartphone users and those with a need for a second phone. Albeit small.
- Best of: Price, Android 2.2, TouchWiz, Value for money
- Worst of: Screen, Processor
- Buy it now from Three
What is in the box?
- Samsung Galaxy Mini
- UK Three-Pin MicroUSB charger
- USB to MicroUSB sync/charge cable
- MicroSD card adaptor
- Getting started guide
- Warranty info
Samsung Galaxy Mini specification:
- 2G Network: GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
- 3G Network: HSDPA 900 / 2100
- Dimensions: 110.4 x 60.8 x 12.1 mm
- Weight: 105 g
- Display: TFT capacitive touchscreen, 256K colours, 240 x 320 pixels, 3.14 inches
- Accelerometer sensor for UI auto-rotate
- Samsung's TouchWiz UI
- Proximity sensor for auto turn-off
- 3.5mm jack
- Memory, Internal: 160 MB
- microSD, up to 32GB, 2GB included
- 3G: HSDPA, 7.2 Mbps
- WLAN: Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Wi-Fi hotspot
- Bluetooth: v2.1 with A2DP
- microUSB v2.0
- Camera: 3.15 MP, 2048x1536 pixels, check quality
- OS: Android OS, v2.2 (Froyo)
- CPU: 600 MHz processor
- Stereo FM radio with RDS
- GPS with A-GPS support
The headphone jack and the MicroUSB port are on the top of the handset with the latter being covered by a flap whereas only the microphone is on the bottom. A phone charm hole and the volume rocker are housed on the left hand side while the power/lock switch and the MicroSD card slot are on the right. Again, the latter being covered by a flap. The speaker, 3 MP camera and the Samsung logo are the only things on the back of the device. Whereas the front is almost fully taken up by the 3.14" screen. Plus there is also the earspeaker and three hardware buttons on the front as well.
If I had to quickly describe the Samsung Galaxy Mini in sentence, said sentence would be the anorexic version of Galaxy S 2: it has the same skin, has roughly the same characteristics, but it is slower, smaller but most importantly a whole lot cheaper, which makes the previous facts completely understandable and acceptable. At £89.99 on Pay as You Go from Three, it is great value for what you get: 3.14" capacitive touchscreen, 3MP camera and Android 2.2 Samsung's TouchWiz laid gracefully over the top.
When I first picked it up, I initially noticed the weight and how it wasn't representational of Samsung's usual MO because it the Galaxy Mini is quite heavy for the relative size of the device. Also, Samsung's build quality seems to have turned over a new leaf with this phone alongside it's bigger brother, the Galaxy S II having a rather solid feel in the hand. Although there are some squeaks and creaks, it doesn't scream cheapness and although plastic, it does feel full of quality. Well at least it feels good enough for the price.
On the back of the phone, there is a reverse chin, once again taking some design aspects of it's big brother, the Galaxy S II. This makes it very comfortable to hold, on top of being reassuringly solid way to hold the handset in your hand, with your pinky or ring finger resting on the little ledge.
The screen will be without a shadow of a doubt the top most thing you would be looking at when using the Galaxy Mini. At 3.14", it is not the biggest in the world, but neither is it the smallest. As I assume that this phone will be mostly used by kids and teenagers who normally have smaller hands, it will probably be in perfect proportion with the vast majority of the users of this handset. But for those who do have larger extremities, you shouldn't feel like a giant holding the Galaxy Mini; No matter how cool that would be!
At 240 x 320 (which is QVGA), the resolution does not blow me away. I have a very critical eye when looking at screens and when I look at the one of the Galaxy Mini, it occasionally discomforting to me to do so but this is only because I am so used to 480 x 800 and above resolutions. Text is readable but it is not smooth and not crystal clear, pictures are detailed but not detailed enough to show holiday pics to the family and icons are sometimes hard to understand what they are meant to represent. However, this is to be expected for a device with such a low price point and taking this into account, I have no problems with it and I am extremely happy with the resolution of the screen on the Samsung Galaxy Mini. Albeit slightly painful for those who are used to screens with higher resolutions.
Colours are far from eye popping not vibrant enough and this is especially clear when looking at colourful wallpapers but once again, I feel like this is acceptable because of the low price of the handset and I think it is also acceptable because most of the owners of this device will be first time smartphone users, most likely transferring from feature phones who will be used to the lack of vibrant colours.
Beneath the screen, there are 3 hardware buttons, that are the three required buttons for operating Android: Menu, Home and Back. They are decent but it does need more force than you would expect to press them down.
Normally I would look at a 600MHz processor and glaze over it, completely ignoring it and then I would go back to the faster dual-core phones in my possession, but the Samsung Galaxy Mini is the first phone that has made me stop and realise speed and power aren't the most important spec. There is no doubt that it is slow, even by 2010 standards let alone 2011, however, it is a little powerhouse, making switching between homepages smooth and making multitasking nearly seamless but only as long as you don't use more than 4 processor heavy apps or functions at the the same time. I have noticed it lag when moving very quickly from the Browser to the Camera app or when moving very quickly between 3 or 4 apps but coming back to a continuing trend with this handset, it can get away with it because of the lack of a huge price tag. Although, it is unclear whether it is down to the 600MHz processor inside the Galaxy Mini or down to a well-coded skin by Samsung.
The benchmark scores seem to be representational of the processor's performance with a Quadrant score of only 558 which may seem bad, but this is just above the score of the Nexus One; Arguably the top performing Android smartphone from 2010. But remember, benchmarks, are just an indication of speed and not necessarily representational of real world performance.
Samsung's poison when it comes to Android skin's is called TouchWiz and while not as full featured as the version on the Galaxy S II, the one featured on the Mini is a more than capable skin and one of the closest skin's to the version that comes straight from Google and the Open Handset Alliance; A welcome addition to vanilla Android.
Unlocking the device is done by the standard way for Android 2.2 Froyo: sliding your finger from left to right while touching the little icon on the lock screen.
From there you are greeted by the first homescreen which is the most unusual in the TouchWiz skin in my opinion because it is all the way to the left (in the style of the iPhone or iOS). Traditionally, the main homescreen on vanilla Android is in the middle with either 1, 2 or 3 homescreens to either side where you can place apps, widgets, shortcuts and folders onto any of them.
You can adjust the order of screens by entering the so-called helicopter view which is practically the same as HTC's Leap feature where you can view a miniaturised view of all of the homescreens, enabling the user quick access to any of the other homescreens. Although you can order them how you like, I have a nasty habit of pressing the home button to go back to the main homescreen and if I change the order, it will automatically send me to the homescreen that is all the way to the left. I'd really like Samsung implement a way to map which homescreen is the default one and change what happens when the user presses the home button.
At the bottom of every homescreen there are 4 icons: The first three you can change and the fourth is the icon to access the app drawer. For those unfamiliar with Android, this is the location where you can access all of the apps installed or pre-installed on the device. Here is also where you can edit the three icons on the dock: Menu button > edit > drag you desired app icon to the bottom of the screen.
I have always said that the way Google has implemented notifications on Android is one of the best in the vast sea of mobile operating systems and you do so by dragging your finger down from the top of the screen. Samsung has slightly changed the notification bar for the better with the addition of certain toggles at the top of the notification bar: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, ringer volume and auto rotation. Also, when there is music playing, a little bar pops up giving you play/pause and skip controls from anywhere on the device.
The dialer on the Samsung Galaxy Mini has undertaken a slight makeover, making it slightly more squarish and colourful than the standard Android 2.2 Froyo dialer. As for it's operation, it is fairly self explanatory, but Samsung have included what I like to call, predictive dialing (I don't even know if there is a name for it) and what this does is as you dial the number into the keypad, it displays people in your contacts that have the entered numbers in their phone numbers.
Android 2.2 has been, in my opinion, blessed with the addition of Touchwiz on the Galaxy Mini. Samsung has cast some magic making it work smoothly with seemingly less than capable 600MHz processor inside. TouchWiz has be adapted to work well with the smaller form factor and it has been well implemented on the device, albeit slightly slower than you would expect at times.
Even though the Samsung Galaxy Mini is an entry level handset, it does have all of the aspects of a fully fledged high-end Android device, the first being the many ways of text entering text. There are several ways and the first is the standard portrait QWERTY keyboard supplied by Samsung. This is an okay keyboard, it is responsive but because it is such a small screen, the keys are rather small, making it rather difficult for those with large fingers to use this keyboard. It does have predictive text but you do have to turn this on manually in the settings which seems pointless because most people will not know you can do this and most people, myself included spel thinsg rong alot.
There also is a landscape variant of this keyboard, but as with most of them in this orientation, it is just wider which means it is slightly easier to hit the correct keys.
Samsung has also pre-installed the Galaxy Mini with the Swype keyboard. For those unfamiliar with it, this keyboard is supposed to be one of the fastest text entry methods around because you enter words by swiping your finger around the screen, passing quickly over the letters in the word you are trying to spell. For some people this makes complete sense but my brain just gets confused by it as after you finish spelling the word, you have to lift your finger off the screen and press the space bar to continue with the sentence. However in my mind, it's like patting your head while rubbing your stomach, though that could just be me. But if you are a fan of this keyboard, you don't have to download it from the Android market, which means you will be able to save around 30 seconds of your life.
The browser on the Galaxy Mini is just the standard Android browser, which means that the browsing experience on this phone is unobtrusive, fast and smooth. Well that is when you aren't on a web page fulled with flash because as you may already be aware that on mobile phones, Adobe's creation really bogs down the already taxed processor.
As I mentioned earlier, the lack luster screen resolution makes it impossible to read text when fully zoomed out and when you do go in for a closer look, it is just about legible.
While pinch-to-zoom is present in this browser, text re-flow isn't which makes reading articles extremely tedious as you have to scroll around the page to read it. Normally this wouldn't be that much of an issue, except for what I mentioned previously; You cannot easily read text unless you are nearly zoomed in all of the way.
One of the best things about Android in my opinion, is it's integration with Google services. Everything from email to calendar through to contacts have all been natively built into the phone on a OS level and they work with our an issue.
Like most Android handsets, the Galaxy Mini comes with two email clients. The first is Samsung's own that works with services such as Microsoft Exchange or any other IMAP or POP email service as long as you have all the required details like the port number and the incoming and outgoing server addresses. So if for some reason you are still using Yahoo! mail or Hotmail, you are covered. This client is actually quite good which is a change from other handsets but I still prefer the other client installed on the Galaxy Mini; the Gmail client from Google. This has always been my favourite and it works really well. I would personally recommend Gmail but the Samsung client comes really close, so if you do plan to own this handset, you have two really great options.
The calendar on the Galaxy Mini is yet another app straight from Google and untouched by Apple but that doesn't mean it is any less effective. You can either view appointments in an agenda, day, week or month view. This can sync with your Gmail account for ease of use and just in case the worst happens, all of your appointments are stored in the cloud so you will not lose them.
Contact syncing is one of the all time great things to have come out of Google. Those who have read my other reviews, will know that I have lost/broken/smashed many phones and I have lost all of my contacts way too many times. So with Google to the rescue, it doesn't matter if you drop this off a cliff, you will still have your contacts saved with Google.
The Samsung Galaxy Mini comes pre-installed with the standard Android 2.2 Froyo music player which by all accounts is mediocre at best. You can view your music by Artist, Song, Album or you can look at your playlists. The player itself is okay but even after all this time, Google still hasn't made it anything close to the iPod app on the iPhone.
An FM Radio has also been included in the Galaxy Mini. As with every phone I can think of, you do need to plug in earphones to use it as the cable acts as an antenna but as for the radio itself it is fairly simple. You use the arrows or the wheel in the middle of the screen to find the right frequency and that is about it other than you can store up to 4 stations for quick switching between them.
The Samsung Galaxy Mini comes pre-installed with the YouTube app that is exactly the same as any other Android device. You can browse through videos in a number of different categories such as most popular, discussed and most featured. You can also navigate to specific YouTube channels or videos by using the search bar. In terms of video quality, you can either choose between HQ (which is the default when viewing videos on Wi-Fi) and standard quality (which is the default when viewing videos on 3G) but they do playback smoothly most of the time on both of the Internet connection types.
You can either view the videos in portrait or landscape. In portrait, the video is at the top and the video information such as the description; comments and related videos are at the bottom of the screen. But landscape is focused on just watching the video. In this orientation, the video fills the entire screen with no disturbances or distractions. You can go between these modes by either turning the handset in the desired orientation or by double tapping the video itself.
The camera UI on the Galaxy Mini is one of the few that have gone under Samsung's knife. When compared with the standard Android 2.2 Froyo camera app, Samsung's version is much more crowded. On the left, there are all of the camera settings including shooting modes, scene modes, brightness toggles and resolution settings. Whereas on the right there is just the toggle for switching between the camera and camcorder, the shutter button and the button to access the gallery. As far as I can tell, you cannot change the point of focus, which can be awkward for close ups.
The 3 MP camera on the Galaxy Mini is yet another mediocre aspect of the handset. I cannot possibly recommended it as a replacement for a dedicated camera by any stretch of the imagination, but it is good enough to be used if there are no other cameras present. Check out some samples below:
Carriers and Networks
Our review unit comes from Three and you can get one of your own for £89.99 on Pay as You Go or you can get one of their smartphone plans ranging from £15 to £25 a month with a 24-month contract. But Three isn't just the only carrier you can get the Galaxy Mini from, O2 is also offering it but for 10 quid more expensive on Pay as You Go at £99.99 and some more expensive contract deals that range from £10.50 to over £60 a month on contract. But if you don't want to be tied to a network or a contract, you can buy the Samsung Galaxy Mini SIM-Free at kingofgadgets.co.uk but you will need to pay a cool £149.99 for the privilege to change SIMs and networks at a whim.
The battery that resides just under the plastic back cover is 1200mAh which means that it is more than enough to get through the day for this little handset. While testing it, I have used the Galaxy Mini as my main phone for 3 days and I am pleased to report that with average use, I managed to get through an 7-8 hour day and returning to the charger with about 20% of the battery remaining. Of course, this is just the results I got from my use and it will obviously vary from user to user.
There is no doubt that the Samsung Galaxy Mini is great value for money. It has all the features of a high end smartphone as it is running Android 2.2. Froyo but just in a smaller package and from £89.99 on Pay as You Go. I see this as one of the best selling entry level handsets mainly because of the Galaxy brand that holds such quality in the eyes of the consumer. Designed for kids, first time smartphone owners and those who are in need of a second phone, I predict that this will be one of the top selling handsets for a while and one of the most popular. But I do recommend that you look at other alternatives other than this before you plonk down the cash, you may find that some more expensive models from other manufacturers are more worthy of your money.
The screen may be bad quality, the processor may be barely able to power the phone and it may be running a software version from last year, but all of this comes together into one of the best entry level handsets I have ever used. When you look into whether you are going to purchase, do not look at the specs, they are irrelevant, look into what you are getting for the money you are spending.
Review by: Patrick