What's hot: Excellent Super AMOLED display, easy to use Widget UI with very flexible customization, lovely high end hardware.
What's not: At this point, there are virtually no apps available for download. Do we need another smartphone OS?
Reviewed July 2, 2010 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
Yes, folks! It’s yet another mobile OS, the Samsung bada is here on the Wave. Though if we didn’t tell you that the Wave is running on bada, you might not have guessed it because what you see is Samsung’s TouchWiz 3.0 and the UI works very similarly to Android. Beyond the mobile OS jargon, the Samsung Wave has top mobile phone specs: a 1GHz CPU, a Super AMOLED touch screen with 800 x 480 resolution, a 5 megapixel camera that also records 720p video, GPS, Bluetooth v3.0 and Wi-Fi 802.11n. The Samsung Wave comes with all essential applications including a full set of PIM tools, multimedia apps, social networking and the very capable Dolphin web browser that supports pinch-zoom. The Samsung Wave is currently available in the Europe and Asia and it lacks US 3G.
In this golden age of touch screen phone design, the Samsung Wave has an outstanding look with a thin (0.43 inch), sleek and tapered body highlighted by a bright Super AMOLED screen. The phone’s aesthetically pleasing, and has nice design touches including a microUSB port hidden behind a sliding door and a diamond shaped camera lens and LED flash on the back that match the diamond shaped menu button on the front. The 3.3” Super AMOLED display is only matched by other Super AMOLED phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S phones in brightness, color saturation and amazing viewing angles. The 800 x 480 screen is so bright that you will need to turn down the brightness settings before it sets your retinas on fire. Movies and photos look luscious and sharp on the Samsung Wave.
Since the Samsung Wave is a slate design without a hardware keyboard, the virtual keyboard becomes very important, and the one on the Wave doesn’t disappoint. The virtual keyboard works flawlessly in both portrait and landscape modes, and this is no small praise from a long time iPhone user. The only oddity on the virtual keyboard is the OK/Action key is the bottom left corner instead of right. For music lovers, the Samsung Wave has a 3.5mm audio jack on top for your music, video and gaming pleasure. Both the SIM card and the microSD card slots are under the battery door, and they both require you to take out the battery to gain access.
The Samsung Wave is a quad band GSM phone with WCDMA/HSPA 3G on Europe and Asia’s 900/2100MHz bands. That means no 3G on T-Mobile US or AT&T. The phone gets decent signal strength. You can turn-on Wi-Fi for high speed data when in range of an access point. Voice quality is very good on both incoming and outgoing ends.
Samsung announced bada as an open mobile platform back in December of 2009. It’s designed to provide a stable OS for Samsung’s smartphones and for developers who can bring their applications to the platform. It has its own UI, though from an end-user standpoint, it doesn’t look too different from the interface you will see on Samsung’s TouchWiz-enhanced Android phones or even some feature phones with Samsung’s TouchWiz UI. While the Samsung Wave is the first official smartphone featuring bada, it’s not the first phone that uses Samsung’s widgets. If you’ve used the Samsung Jet or the Samsung Star, you will notice many similarities among these phones.
On the Samsung Wave, you will see the new and improve TouchWiz 3.0 UI more than the bada OS underneath. Gone is the side bar that takes up precious screen space for selecting applications. You can touch the small Widget icon on the top left corner and drag and drop any widget to the home screen; and you can have as many screens as you like. Turn the Samsung Wave to landscape while in Widget mode, and all home screens will line up for easy selection. This UI is a lot easier to use than early versions of TouchWiz and it’s infinitely customizable and organized. If you are allergic to Widgets, you can replace the home screens with the icon based application menu screen.
Home screen view.
Home screen and widget customization view in landscape mode.
The bada/TouchWiz 3.0 UI looks like Android and is as easy to use as Android, maybe even easier in some cases, but what’s missing is an app store. Samsung has all the ambition to stock up on apps for bada and has released an SDK to developers, but for an end user who gets the Samsung Wave today, there isn’t a thriving app store like those behind the iPhone, Android phones and BlackBerry. So your greatest hope is that the Samsung Wave’s bundled applications will meet all your needs, therefore eliminating the need for an app store, at least temporarily. So let’s take a look at some important apps on the Samsung Wave.
Thought it doesn’t come with all the Google apps like on an Android phone, the Samsung Wave has a good number of apps to offer. PIM tools include Contacts which is easy to navigate using touch control, Calendar, Tasks, Memo, Mini Diary, Calculator, voice recorder and a clock that’s very similar to the iPhone’s clock in functionality and offers more cities than the Clock Widget and has alarms. Multimedia apps include a music player, FM radio, video player and photo viewer. There are quite a few games on the phone including Asphalt 5, Crazy Penguin, GuitarHero 5 and more. The Samsung Wave offers searches using Google, Bing and Twitter. There’s also a file manager you can use to move/copy/delete files.
Here are some essential applications that come with the Samsung Wave:
The Samsung Wave comes with the Samsung Dolphin Browser v2.0 web kit based web browser. It has very good speed via Wi-Fi, and supports the accelerometer and pinch zoom smoothly. Though it offers an option to run Flash, most embedded Flash videos failed to play including the ones on NY Times. But some of the gaming videos in MobileTechReview’s game reviews did play though at very slow speed.
The Samsung Wave supports web-based email such as gmail and Yahoo and since this is an international phone, it has some popular POP3 mail services from overseas. There is also support for Exchange ActiveSync. The Samsung Wave has an app that helps you to set up and sign in to all your accounts including email, IM and social networking (Facebook and Twitter), all in one place. The app is called My Accounts.
Google Maps works well on the Samsung Wave, getting correct and fast fixes. It looks almost undistinguishable from the Android version as it has layers (Satellite, Traffic, Latitude and Google Buzz) as well as getting turn-by-turn directions. The POI database seems up to date and local searches work well.
The Samsung Wave comes with a mobile YouTube player that does a very good job of playing mobile YouTube video. It doesn’t have HD mode though, but videos play very smoothly in full screen mode. The full screen frame rate is 20 fps.
Photos and Videos
With a Super AMOLED display, Samsung naturally wants to show off photos and videos. As with the Samsung Jet, the photo viewer has slide show mode, send via various methods and upload to sites like Flickr, Facebook and more. The viewer also has a simple photo editor and support for gesture control: tilt the phone to slide the photos. Videos ripped in mobile formats played very smoothly with no noticeable frame drops, look brilliant,e and have audio in sync with video.
Android users and especially HTC Android phone users are spoiled by the rich information that’s pushed directly to the home screens without having to launch any application. The Samsung Wave has its own set of apps that provide info including world time, weather, stock prices and news. The world clock widget only has two cities (not all world cities are included) listed; if you need more you will need to launch the Clock application. The rest of the info comes through the Daily Briefing app. It’s a composite of local weather from AccuWeather, stock quotes from Yahoo! Finance and news from AP Mobile. If you have any appointments today, they will show up in the Daily Briefing as well. As the screen is small for each section, stock quotes and news rotate with each item; and if you want to read more, tap on that item, it will take you to the web site for further info.
The Samsung Wave has a 5 megapixel auto focus camera with an LED flash. Still images have great details and good color balance. They look great on the big screen and are good enough for prints. The camera software offers a full set of shooting modes including panorama, Smile, Face/Blink detection and Geo-tagging. The usual white balance, color settings and resolution selector are also included. The camera phone can also record video at 720p resolution. Videos look smooth with good color and brightness even indoors. The audio is in sync with video. There is also a simple video editor.
The Samsung Wave comes with a 1500mAh rechargeable battery. It’s a decent sized battery if you just make phone calls, check email, surf the web a few times a day, listen to music or take some pictures. But if you turn the built-in Wi-Fi on and watch YouTube videos, the Samsung Wave drains the battery quickly. Our tests were done in GSM/EDGE mode since the Wave lacks US 3G. When using 3G, battery life takes a hit, and we'd expect the Wave would require daily charging with moderate to heavy use that didn't involve lots of streaming video.
The Samsung Wave is an excellent test bed for Samsung’s new smartphone platform. With TouchWiz 3.0 lending a strong hand, bada shows great promise. The hardware design is elegant and modern, and the display is outstanding. The biggest obstacle for the Samsung Wave is the new OS that needs not only to be fortified but elevated by a strong app store and a thriving development community that Apple and Google are so enjoying. We certainly wish that bada and its app store take shape, but we also don’t naively believe it’s going to be an easy task. If you find the bundled applications adequate, the Samsung Wave should be a strong competitor against most high-end feature phones on the US market.
Pro: Excellent Super AMOLED display, easy to use Widget UI with very flexible customization.
Con: No downloadable apps yet, OS doesn't set itself ahead of the smartphone pack.
Camera: 5.0 Megapixel camera with LED Flash, auto focus. Face/Blink Detection, Lomo Shot, Vintage Shot, Beauty Shot, Smile Shot, Panorama Shot and Geo-tagging Image Editor included. Video HD (720p) video playing & recording, 5.1ch Mobile Theater. MPEG4, H.263, H.264, WMV, DivX and XviD. Video Editor included.
Audio: Built-in speaker, 3.5mm stereo jack. Music Player with SoundAlive, Music Recognition, Music Recommendation, DISK UI, FM Radio and voice recorder.
GPS: Built-in aGPS. Google Maps and Route 66 Navigation included.
Networking: Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n. Bluetooth v3.0. BPP(Basic Printing Profile), OPP(Object Push Profile),
PictBridge (USB Printing), HSFP, HSP, A2DP and AVRCP.
Software: Samsung bada OS with TouchWiz 3.0 UI. Dolphin web browser, SMS/MMS/email/Exchange ActiveSync/Video messaging supported. Full PIM tools. Video and music players included. Mobile YouTube player onboard.