Samsung i550/i550w review: Low-key all-in-one

GSMArena team, 09 April 2008.
Pages: 1234567

The ample display is good

As already mentioned, Samsung i550 is equipped with a generously sized 2.6" 262K-color display. The supported resolution is QVGA (320 x 240) pixels, which is about as much as most other Symbian devices will offer.

As far as picture quality is concerned, Samsung i550 is doing pretty well. It has good contrast and brightness. Although we've seen better from Samsung, the i550 is still good enough.

Samsung i550
The display has remarkable picture quality indoors

On the negative side, the i550 has the typical weak legibility under direct sunlight. On a bright sunny day it is quite a challenge to find a proper angle for working with the phone. We are starting to wonder if Samsung is ever going to do anything about this. After all, there are plenty of other manufacturers to manage displays of great picture quality and adequate sunlight legibility (Nokia and Apple come to mind straight away).

Keypad is a no-go

The alphanumeric keypad on Samsung i550 is decent, allowing quick enough typing. It might not be the best looking keypad in business but it does the job.

The keys are rather minimalist in size, the spacing between them however is enough to provide adequate touch orientation. Still with the amount of space available for the keypad we wish Samsung did a bit better. After all, business device or else, typing should not let Samsung i550 down.

Samsung i550 Samsung i550
Keypad offers decent typing

We are quite sure that a little time spent with Samsung i550 should solve the thin key problem and users will speed their way through the lines of text.

The real problem with the keypad of Samsung i550 are the six keys placed around the trackball. Those are arranged contrary to any logic and really got on our nerves during our reviewing. The problem is that the more frequently used soft keys are smaller than the dedicated web and GPS buttons. Now, don't get us wrong - having shortcuts to those two features is great but the implementation in i550 is disastrous. In addition, the shortcuts keys launch the corresponding application regardless of the currently open menu item. If the selection keys were placed at least on the same level as the shortcuts a lot of wrong presses would have been avoided. Instead, the elevation of the shortcut keys really makes it as bad as it can get.

Samsung i550 Samsung i550
The selection keys are almost out of reach

The trackball itself is another controversial part of the Samsung i550 hardware. As much as we like trackball navigation, we just couldn't let it get away with the painfully slow response. Rolling a thumb all the way we only managed to move about two icons in the menu. Scrolling through very long lists (usually in the gallery or file manager) will probably take quite a lot of time and effort.

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The trackball is rather slow, which is quite a burden at times

Backlighting is also somewhat uneven. Still, with the sufficient spacing between keys usability in dark environments doesn't suffer that much. In addition the trackball is pleasantly illuminated in blue and that looks really cool.

Samsung i550 Samsung i550
Backlighting is OK even if uneven

All in all, apart from the decent typing, the Samsung i550 keypad is a sounding failure to us. We do hope the trackball speed has been corrected in the retail version making navigation at least passable.

Telephony

Quite as expected, the i550 lives up to Samsung's reputation as regards reception and in-call sound. Voice clarity on both ends of a call is commendable and in terms of clear reception it's completely competitive to what other manufacturers have to offer.

Samsung i550
Dialing a number on Samsung i550

We also did our speakerphone test on Samsung i550. It performed on a good general level, without excelling or disappointing. Here is how it ranks among some of the other device we've managed to test. You can find more information about the test itself and the complete list of tested devices here.

Speakerphone testVoice, dBPink noise/ Music, dBRinging phone, dBOveral score
Samsung i55073.866.678.1Good
Nokia N9577.366.678.0Very good
Nokia 6110 Navigator65.965.872.9Average
Samsung i60067.266.375.7Good
Samsung i78066.364.666.7Bellow Average

"...The real problem with the keypad of Samsung i550 are the six keys placed around the trackball. Those are arranged contrary to any logic and really got on our nerves during our reviewing. The problem is that the more frequently used soft keys are smaller than the dedicated web and GPS buttons. Now, don't get us wrong - having shortcuts to those two features is great but the implementation in i550 is disastrous..."

User interface

Samsung i550 is running on the Symbian 9.2 OS and uses the well known S60 3rd edition graphic user interface. The Feature Pack 1 also comes pre-installed. It brings in a bunch of nice upgrades to the original 3rd edition, such as multiple alarm slots and longer voice recording capabilities.

Samsung i550
User interface is well familiar

In general the result has turned out very good. Samsung i550 is one snappy device with great handling. Looks are also quite decent with the handsome Samsung styling of icons.

Being a Symbian handset, Samsung i550 features an active stand-by mode. You have a bar of shortcut icons for instant access to pre-selected functions at the top of the display, while scheduled events from the calendar along with the currently playing track or radio station (if any) get displayed underneath.

When assigning Active Standby shortcuts, you can choose any application or even a website. The functionality of the two soft keys is configurable too. Another standby screen feature that we really like is the Google search bar giving instant access to the search engine.

Samsung i550
Active stand-by screen features a lot of shortcuts

The phone has 5 profiles plus an offline mode that switches off all transceivers. It is also the default profile if you start the handset without a SIM card. The offline mode allows full access to the functions of the phone that do not require cellular network coverage. All the profiles can easily be edited to best suit your needs.

As with any other S60 smartphone, the task manager of Samsung i550 pops up upon a press-and-hold on the Menu key. It allows switching between applications or turning off any running application by pressing the Clear key.

There are only two different menu views for the i550 but they are practically what the majority is using. Whether the icons will appear as a 4 x 3 grid of icons, or as a standard list, is completely up to the user.

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The two available view modes

Finally, Samsung i550 has a voice recognition feature that (supposedly) allows you to control the whole user interface without even having to touch the phone. It does all right but still not as well as we hoped. Although speaker independent, the application has trouble recognizing some user commands, especially the longer ones. It's still a good help on some occasions and, given the beta status of our unit, it may even be better in the retail version of Samsung i550.

Samsung i550
Voice commands are speaker-independent

Customization

If you get bored with the phone's looks, you can always change the theme. There are only two preinstalled themes on Samsung i550. Anyway, downloading additional themes for a Symbian S60 device is a walk in the park. There is hardly anything in greater number on the internet than themes for S60 3rd edition phones with QVGA resolution displays.

Samsung i550
The second preinstalled theme

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