Samsung I7500 Galaxy review: A hitchhiker's guide
Tweaks & Modding
We've covered ways to mod your Android device by putting on custom firmware. You don't need to go that far with the Galaxy - there are already great apps to bring certain features: an HTC Sense-like homescreen or a better keyboard, to name a few.
One useful app is Open Home - Lite. It takes the place of the regular homescreen, but it's bigger - it has nine panes, three times as much as the regular one. It also throws in a shortcut to the search box, and a quick app launcher.
Best of all, there are a ton of skins for it - starting from iPhone skin, Palm Pre skin, and moving on to some more creative ones. It's not a complete redesign, just a skin, but it's a start (i.e. the menus still look like Androidish).
There's more to tweak even further - if you're not happy with the stock keyboard and envy HTC users - don't. You can install the exact same keyboard, complete with QWERTY, Compact QWERTY and Phone Keypad options.
What you need to do is download HTC_IME.apk and an app installer (we used SlideME App Installer). Put the .apk file on the memory card and then use the app installer to install it (remember to allow the use of "Unknown sources" in the phone's Application settings).
After the installation has finished, from Locale & text choose Touch Input. Then find a nice text input field (the browser works fine) and long press it. From the pop-up menu select "Input Method" and then choose Touch Input. That's it!
Android Market has what you need
The Samsung Galaxy comes with very little preinstalled applications - Google Maps, Google Talk, the Quickoffice, the PDF viewer and the YouTube client are all you get. However with the Android Market open for business you can find a large number of apps (a good portion of them is free by the way) which can be downloaded directly from the handset using Wi-Fi or the mobile network.
A nice touch is the warning shown if the application you're about to download has potentially unsafe access to personal data, connectivity settings, etc. The warning says exactly what data will be accessed so you can abort the download if you prefer.
When an app is being downloaded a status bar appears at the top of the display to track progress. When download is complete, you can start the application from there.
The Android Market follows the logic of the pioneering Apple App Store. Everything about it - the structure, the look - is pretty familiar.
Applications vary from pretty useless (such as the one that turns the display into a flashlight) to real must-have's (including file managers and video players).
So, there we are at the restaurant at the end of the Galaxy. It's more of a sweet shop though and the next thing on the list of the specials will be donuts. But that won't be on the Samsung I7500 Galaxy shift. Enough fooling around though, it's time to tell the Galaxy there's no such thing as free lunch.
The Galaxy is a great phone running an OS of great potential but some of the limitations just can't go unnoticed. The 3.2" AMOLED capacitive touchscreen and 5-megapixel camera are nothing to sneeze at. But then, the Galaxy takes "point and shoot" to an extreme - there are practically no camera options. The top-notch connectivity and the great browser would've made it the ultimate choice for surfing the web on the go - was it not for the missing Flash support. The beautiful screen is just made for video watching, never mind the squarish aspect ratio. But there's no DivX or XviD video support.
On other counts, the Galaxy takes full advantage of the ambitious OS. You can take the entire net with you and all the Google services. On top of that, Facebook and other things that don't come preinstalled have official apps that do the trick. And it doesn't have to all be cloud-based. You get 8GB of internal memory and a card slot for 16GB more - there's space for all the music you would want to take with you.
The Galaxy is Samsung's Android debut and some of its faults can be understood, if not forgiven. What's more, the competition is dealing with similar issues - they only have been doing it a bit longer.
The HTC Hero is the Samsung I7500 Galaxy's archenemy. It offers more RAM, but no serious internal storage to speak of. The display is TFT only, and the HSUPA tops out at 2Mbps, but the Sense UI is certainly a treat – especially with the latest software updates that speed up the performance noticably. The camera has much more settings and, as far as looks – the white Teflon coated version is great. And yes, the Hero’s web-browser is Flash enabled and there’s Smart dialing on board.
If you're not an Android fan but it's the specs that brought you around - have a look at the Samsung i8910 Omnia HD and the Palm Pre. The Omnia HD is more expensive but that gets you a bigger screen and a better camera. Plus, 720p video recording is still unbeaten. The Palm Pre on the other hand will try to please those who looked forward to Android as the Next Big Thing, but were left disappointed.
The HTC Magic isn't really that far behind the Hero, but the price tag is a lot easier to munch down.
Then there's the Acer Liquid. This thing promises to blow all current Android-based handsets away with its extra fast 768MHz Snapdragon CPU. It should start hitting the market within a month.
So, in a nutshell - if the Android OS is eyeing the number 2 spot in smartphone market share by 2012, a leading manufacturer like Samsung will perhaps play a vital role in the plan. Therefore, the Galaxy must be as important to Samsung as Samsung is for the whole Android project. At this point, the Galaxy does well to show the company's commitment. It's a viable option too for users who want to stay loyal to the brand but give the new OS a try. It was the Sense UI and some other home-baked additions that took the HTC Android lineup a level up. We guess, Samsung are busy giving their next Android some more of their special in-house treatment as well.