Samsung Galaxy S Advance review
Samsung have been shooting out all sorts of devices since they got big with the Galaxy S2 and recently under the radar they've released the Samsung Galaxy S Advance a couple of months before the Samsung Galaxy S3. Now as I write this, everyone knows the S3 is going to be a BIG seller but i can also guarantee it is going to be one of the most expensive phones on the planet, so I'd recommend at looking at this phone if you're not ready to be spending nearly half a grand on a mobile phone! Check out my full review below:
The 10 Second review:
- Device: Samsung Galaxy S Advance
- Price: £322.80 including VAT
- Summary: Another satisfactory phone in the Samsung Line-up
- Best of: Price & Speed
- Worst of: plastic build quality no Ice Cream Sandwich
- Buy it now from Three
What's in the box?
- Samsung Galaxy S Advance
- Headphones with control/talk cable
- USB Cable
- USB to 3-pin UK Mains charger
- 1500 mAh battery
- User Documentation
Samsung Galaxy S Advance Product Specifications:
- Network: HSPA 14.4Mbps 850/900/1900/2100 EDGE/GPRS 850/900/1800/1900
- Processor: 1 GHz Dual-Core Processor
- Display: 4.0" WVGA(480x800) Super AMOLED display
- OS: Android 2.3(Gingerbread)
- Camera Main(Rear) : 5 Megapixel Auto Focus Camera with LED Flash, Sub(Front) : 1.3 Megapixel Camera
- Video Codec : MPEG4, H.263, H.264, WMV, DivX, VC-1 Recording/ Playback : 720@30fps
- AudioCodec : MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, WMA, AC3, Music Player with SoundAlive, 3.5mm Ear Jack, Stereo FM Radio with RDS
- Samsung TouchWiz/ Samsung L!ve Panel UX
- Samsung Apps
- Samsung Kies 2.0/ Samsung Kies air/ AllShare
- ChatON(Downloadable via Samsung Apps)
- Readers Hub(Downloadable via Samsung Apps)
- Music Hub
- Game Hub
- Service availability differs by region
- Google Mobile Services
- Android Market, Gmail, YouTube, Google Maps,
- Syncing with Google Calendar
- Polaris Office
- Find My Mobile
- Connectivity: Bluetooth® technology v 3.0 High Speed, USB 2.0, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n
- Sensor Proximity, Accelerometer, Geomagnetic, Light, Gyroscope
- Memory: 8/16GB User memory + 768MB(RAM), microSD (up to 32GB)
- Size: 123.2 x 63.0 x 9.69 mm, 120g
- Battery: Standard battery, Li-ion 1,500mAh
On the top of the phone we have absolutely nothing
On the bottom of the bottom of the handset we have the microUSB slot and the headphone jack
On the left hand side of the phone we have the volume control rocker
On the right we have the power/unlock button
On the back we have the 5mp camera, LED flash, speaker and the Samsung Logo in chrome
Finally, on the front we have the front-facing camera, the speaker grill, the 4" WVGA screen and the home button surrounded by two capacitive buttons for menu and back
The Samsung Galaxy S Advance phone looks like pretty much every other Samsung Galaxy phone out at the moment. Personally, I really think Samsung need to come up with an all new design for their phones as HTC have done with their One line-up. The S Advance is made of the same cheap plastic we've seen on the whole Galaxy line-up, up until the S3 that appears to be made out of some kind of higher grade plastic. However, as with most Samsung phones, the front of the phone does feel nice and solid with a firm home button and a full glass screen along with a chrome bordering. In addition, all the buttons on the phone have a chrome finish was is nice, but the simple fact that the back cover is made out of plastic will always put some people off Samsung devices.
The font of the phone as I mentioned before is surrounded in a chrome border which adds a sign of class to the phone. You've got two capacitive touch buttons at the bottom that work well and are fairly responsive. Then you've got the infamous Home Button that Samsung insist on bringing to their phones in a world where every other Android phone has moved over to the capacitive button. I personally dislike capacitive but also dislike how plasticy and clicky this button feels so I'd have preferred a capacitive home button here.
The back of the phone is where the phone is really let down in terms of build quality, up until this point the phone feels really nice. However once again, Samsung have gone with this cheap bendy plastic to cover the battery and ruin the premium feel of the phone.
I know this is really quite a trivial matter, but I like where the microUSB port is placed on this phone. I know that is a little weird thing to pick up on, but it can get really annoying if you've got a phone where when it's charging, it's next to impossible to use to the phone because the cable is in the way. Luckily, the port is on the bottom of this handset and so causes no troubles at all.
The S Advance feels fairly cheap in the hand, but it is fairly skinny which is nice to see. It doesn't protrude in your pocket at all and in general does feel pretty lightweight too which is nice.
The 4" WVGA Super amoled screen is rather nice to see on a mid-range handset; usually Samsung has held out it's Super Amoled displays for the Flagship devices. What interested me was that this phone has a 4" display which is the same size as that which we saw on the Original Galaxy S when that first came out and I feel like a lot of people would like a phone this size. It isn't the best for video and pictures, but in terms of one-hand texting and dialling it is very easy to use. Personally, I stand by the fact that 4.3" is the perfect screen size, but this is also one of the better sizes too.
The Samsung S Advance has a dual-core 1Ghz processor which helped the phone run at a reasonably smooth pace. Now in the "10 Second review" I've noted that I found the speed a "Best of" due to the simple fact the phone felt really smooth when using it. Which surprised me due to the fact it's running Android 2.3 and not 4.0 with 4.0 being the more smoother OS. The phone felt nice and snappy when opening and closing apps and I did a comparison between this and my One X and it even beat the One X at opening some apps on the rare occasion.
Unfortunately, the Samsung Galaxy S Advance is only running Android 2.3 which is the older form of Android which is very disappointing to see. Now whether this phone will get updated to Ice Cream Sandwich, I cannot confirm, but if it does, I can see it being rather popular. Anyway, despite the fact it is running an old iteration of Android, the phone still feels rather smooth and snappy and does (at times) feel like an Ice Cream Sandwich device, which is nice to see.
Running on top of Android 2.3 is Samsung's very own TouchWiz 4.0 which we've seen on all of their latest editions of Galaxy devices. It's a smooth skin and works well, but is nowhere near as pretty as some of the other skins out there such as Sense and MotoBlur. You get up to seven screens which you can add widgets and apps to (same as every Android device.) However, with Samsung devices, you get the home screen on the far left instead of the centre so it feels more like an iPhone.
With TouchWiz there are some nice features than most other 2.3 Android phones don't offer. One of these is the ability to create folders within the apps draw, something I personally wouldn't use but it's a nice feature for those who like to be organised. As we know, within Ice Cream Sandwich (android 4.0) they introduced the ability to have folders on your home screen by simply dragging one app to another. You can actually have folders on your home screen on this phone, but it involved going into a menu and then adding one (nowhere near as simple as dragging one app onto another.) To add widgets on the S Advance, you simply hold onto the page you want the widget on and then you get a little bar pop up at the bottom where you can choose what you want to add on.
To unlock the Samsung Galaxy S Advance, it is the same unlock screen that the majority of TouchWiz 4.0 phones use. You can set a single wallpaper as the lock screen and then you use your finger to simply drag on the screen and when your finger leaves a small circle, the phone is unlocked. Nothing special or fancy or any fun lock screen functionalities like on HTC phones.
We're all fairly used to Android 2.3 now and this phone doesn't really offer anything software-wise to get too excited about. It all works really nicely and smoothly and is nice and quick when opening and closing applications. I think this is about a polished an Android 2.3 device you're going to find!
However, throughout using this phone I couldn't help feel that this device would have felt a lot nicer if they'd just put ICS on it. The menu system felt out-dated, the animations felt out-dated and just in general it didn't feel like a current-gen smartphone, it felt last generation. On the other hand, as I mentioned earlier, Samsung have done really well implementing TouchWiz so that it works as nicely as possible on this older version of Android.
The Galaxy S Advance had a fairly mediocre browser, it wasn't the fastest but it definitely wasn't the slowest. If you were to buy this phone, I would possibly recommend looking at getting a third party browser such as the new Firefox Beta browser or maybe the Opera Mini browser as these both performed better than the stock Samsung-skinned Android browser. However on the stock browser, the pages loaded relatively quickly and were fairly consistent; what I find with some Android phones is that pages don't consistently load and sometimes you find yourself going back and clicking the link again. This browser obviously supports pinch-to-zoom as I think you'll find all browser will support now and it supports smart double-tap-to-zoom also. A neat little feature that Samsung have implemented into the browser (and the gallery app also) is the ability to hold two fingers on the page (or picture) and use the accelerometer to zoom in and out by tilting the phone back and forth; this is a feature I would never use but someone else may find a useful time to do this.
As most other browsers do, this browser supports tabbed browsing and it works relatively well. You have a tabs button when you open the menu bar and this means you get the ability to browse through multiple windows.
Media on smartphones has become a second-nature to the thought process when purchasing one these days; everybody knows that when they buy a smartphone they're going to have the ability to play MP3s, Videos and view as many pictures as they'd like. The S Advance does this just as well as any other phone with the stock Android Gallery, a Samsung customised Music player and a Samsung Customised Video player too.
The display on the Samsung Galaxy S Advance is an 800x480 4" Super AmoLED one that is a fairly mid-range display in today's comparisons. It is nice to view photos on it and it is okay to watch movies and videos on, but I wouldn't recommend this phone if you were planning on watching a full-length movie as your eyes may suffer from the smaller screen-size.
The Music Player on the Samsung Galaxy S Advance is the same that I reviewed on the Samsung Galaxy Wonder that I reviewed some time ago; it shows the basics: songs, playlists, artists etc.. It also features the option to listen to your music in 5.1 surround sound which I personally found it to just lower the bass and make it sound like the music is being sung further away from you. if that makes sense. The music player in general all runs really smoothly with the song list sliding up from the bottom when the "List" button is clicked; all-in-all once again another nice and smooth application from Samsung.
The gallery on the Galaxy S Advance is also another important feature as many people these days are shooting snaps with their phones whether it's using the front-facing camera for vanity shots or the rear-facing camera for other shots. The gallery is the stock Android 2.3 gallery which is a little disappointing to see that Samsung haven't customised it, however, saying that, this gallery is very nice taking advantage of the accelerometer to tilt the albums. It uses simple swipe gestures to switch between pictures and has pinch-to-zoom and double-tap-to-zoom too which has again, become standard in smartphone galleries these days.
This phone supports a 5mp megapixel shooter on the back that's capable of recording up to 720p at 30 frames per second. We have smartphones that can record 1080p these days and so this was a little let down, but this is a phone that's aimed as a mid-range rather than high end, so it's a little more understandable. Unfortunately, I have often talked about how Samsung produce some of the best cameras on smartphones, but with this handset I have to admit, I was a little let-down. I'm used to Samsung cameras having plenty of saturation with the right levels of contrast but this camera felt kind of bland to me.
Here's some of the shots that were taken from the camera, as you can see in some shots it produces colours well whereas in others it doesn't do so well. It does rather well at macro shots though which was a pleasant surprise, but once again the colours seemed a little washed in some of these pictures:
The actual application the expected options when taking a picture, you can edit saturation levels and contrast levels and such, so there's plenty of ways to change up your picture if you're looking for a different effect on your picture. You get an equal amount of settings when recording a video too which is nice to see. The layout is fairly simple and easy to navigate too so you won't have any problems there.
The battery life on the Samsung Galaxy S Advance really impressed me which appears to be the case for most Samsung phones these days as the TouchWiz UI is so much less intrusive than other skins that it appears it also uses less battery also. I would be getting an easy day out of this phone with full use. I left it on standby for a coupe of days also just to test out to see how it did there and it lasted three whole days before I heard it tell me to plug in or it was going to die. Very impressive battery overall which would probably suit anybody, it's not the best battery however so don't go thinking you can get through a whole two days with this.
Call quality & Signal:
The call quality on the Galaxy S Advance was fairly decent, I could hear the other person on the line fairly easily and there wasn't any problems with tinniness. However, I did feel the speakerphone was a little quiet which wasn't much of a surprise as all the Samsung handsets I've used have had this same problem.
As for the signal, I was using the 3 network which isn't renowned for having the best signal quality and this phone pretty much stayed true to that factor. I would say it had a decent signal as I could get signal in all major towns and cities and would be getting either HSPA or 3g in these areas. However, unlike some other phones, I couldn't get signal around my own home.
In conclusion I would say that this phone is one of the better mid-range handsets out there. I would say it felt a little plastic and the camera wasn't really up to previous Samsung devices' standards but was sufficient. However I felt that the smoothness of the OS and the UI really made up for this and the performance of the phone overall really did impress me. I would recommend this phone to anybody who's not looking to spend more than £350 on a mobile phone as it is a really handset that can do everything you need a smartphone to do: play games, Tweet, set a status, sort out your schedule etc. However, there is the HTC One V which comes in at a cheaper price with Ice Cream Sandwich on it which may make this phone seem less interesting to you, but it's down to you.
Review by: Luke