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With Google’s mobile operating system Android now being available in phones of varying price ranges, we have quite a few options to choose from. Samsung’s Galaxy S is a good flagship phone by the Korean company. But what Samsung has always been good at is flooding the value for money segment with a dizzying array of options. They’ve got two Android phones to cater to this segment: Galaxy 3 i5800 and the Galaxy 5 i5500. For the uninitiated, the Galaxy 3 is ironically the better one of the two. Here is a preview of these two mobile phones.

Samsung Galaxy 3 i5801

The i5800 is a distinctive touchscreen phone. It has a very utilitarian appeal and not the kind of finesse that the HTC Wildfire sports. The metallic hinge covering the front improves the phone sturdiness, but the back cover, which most of us don’t see in the press images, feels plasticky and cheap. Another irritant is the fingerprint affinity of the entire front face.

I admit that fingerprints on touchscreens are unavoidable, but on the i5800 they get a little too messy.
The i5800 has a 3.2-inch capacitive screen. The touchscreen response was pretty good and it behaved well to the softest of thumb swipes. The HTC Wildfire has a 3.2-inch display as well, but the Samsung i5800 has a widescreen aspect ratio. It also has 80 more rows of pixels in its 240 x 400 resolution (the Wildfire has 240 x 320). The higher pixel density was slightly noticeable, but definitely not as much as the quality of an HVGA (320 x 480) display.

Fonts still looked a little blurry and pixillated at some places (like the Gmail app). The clarity was fine indoors, we couldn’t take the phone outside to see how it behaves under direct sunlight. One thing though, there’s no ambient light sensor on the phone, so you’ll miss the automatic shifting of screen brightness according to the surroundings. Although the widescreen type display would serve well in watching content that is mostly encoded in the same 16:9 aspect ratio, there’s one downside to it.
Due to the higher length, the i5800 has a narrower width as compared to a Wildfire when held straight. Thus, the on-screen QWERTY keyboard in portrait mode felt a bit too small for my rather large thumb. The individual key size too was visibly smaller than the comfortable set on the Wildfire. As a possible solution, Samsung has bundled Swype for easy one handed text input. This should make text entry slightly better in portrait mode. The landscape QWERTY key arrangement is a little unusual, the space bar key is at the right corner.

The phone runs Android 2.1 and the same Samsung TouchWIZ 3.0 that we saw on the Galaxy S. Samsung says it is upgradeable to Froyo (2.2) version of Android, which is great. The ‘Menu’ and ‘Back’ keys are touch-sensitive, while the ‘Home’ key is an actual button. I don’t like this since you mostly use these buttons one after the other and it feels odd to hard-press a button, then to softly tap the button next to it. There is no camera shutter button to the side; you have to tap the on-screen one. Camera isn’t a high point of this phone anyway, since they’ve put a measly 3.2 megapixel autofocusing sensor to keep the price down. Like the Galaxy S, no LED flash light here as well.

Coming back to the interface, the system accepts multi-touch input in apps that require it (pinch-zooming in a browser, for instance). We fired up a website on the browser and then jumped to other apps; we could see a slight lag during these manuvers. As Techtree reader Kidrock of Mumbai had pointed out in the Wildfire review, the Galaxy 5’s 256MB RAM might prove a insufficient to juggle a lot of apps at the same time. But the 667 MHz processor is possibly the reason Samsung is providing DivX playback as a built-in feature on this device, unlike the Wildfire that just could not play one in our testing. The demo unit didn’t have any memory card in place, so there were no DivX videos we could try out to check this claim.

Connectivity options are fairly populated with HSDPA (3G), GPS and Wi-fi 802.11n support and Bluetooth 3.0 as well. Regarding the odd display resolution and app support on Android’s Market, after quickly glancing through the list I was relieved to know that most of the popular apps did show up. We’ll know for sure when we try out the apps in the in-depth review.

The Galaxy 3 i5800 sells for roughly Rs. 12,000, which is a great price point. My impression about the device is pretty much mixed at this point. If Video playback is on the top of your list, then the Galaxy 3 is definitely better suited than the HTC Wildfire. But then HTC’s brilliant on-screen keyboard and word prediction makes typing a real breeze. Anyway, we’ll reserve the judgement till we fully review this device.

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