Samsung I9003 Galaxy SL review: Through different eyes

GSMArena team, 2 February 2011.
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GPS and navigation

The Samsung I9003 Galaxy SL comes with a GPS receiver, which locked onto satellites in about a minute with A-GPS turned off.

Google Maps is the titular application and its Street View mode is probably the best part of the deal in places where turn-by-turn voice navigation isn’t yet offered. If the Street View is available in the area you're interested in, you can enjoy a 360-degree view of the area. When the digital compass is turned on it feels like making a virtual tour of the surroundings!

Voice-guided turn-by-turn navigation using Google Maps Navigation is only available in select countries and unless you live in any of them the best you can do is plan a route in advance and keep an eye on your current location during travel.

Our I9003 Galaxy SL came with Maps 4.5 but if you update it to version 5, you’ll get access to some great features. Offline rerouting is one – if you stray off your course, Maps will recalculate the route without the need for an Internet connection. You can’t change the destination without connection though.

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Google Maps 5.0

The I9003 Galaxy SL is on the list of devices that support all features of Google Maps 5.0 – 3D buildings (where available), two finger rotation, tilting and so on.

Android Market is where the fun starts

The Samsung I9003 Galaxy SL is running the latest available version of Android and has a WV screen, giving you access to the whole Android Market (some apps won’t run on older versions or low-res screens).

The structure of the Android Market is quite simple – featured apps on top and above them, three sections (Applications, Games and Downloads). There is also a shortcut up there for initiating a search.

The Applications and Games sections are divided into subsections (e.g. Communication, Entertainment etc.) so you can filter the apps that are relevant to you. Of course, there is also an option of displaying them all in bulk, but you’ll probably need days to browse them all that way.

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The are more than 100K apps and games in the Android Market

There are all kinds of apps in the Android market and the most important ones are covered (file managers, navigation apps, document readers etc.).

The Samsung I9003 Galaxy SL also has access to the Samsung Apps repository, where you can find some extra apps and games. We did find a few free gems there so you should definitely check it out.

Samsung I9003 Galaxy SL
Samsung Apps repository

Final words

The Samsung I9003 Galaxy S is a solid smartphone. It’s slim, it’s got lots of screen estate and oomph under the hood. But it fails to bring anything new to the table and by dropping the gorgeous Super AMOLED screen it has lost the Galaxy S line most important selling point.

There’s just nothing about the I9003 that can make it an obvious choice over competitors. It’s a solid device that – with the right price tag – may even get the nod ahead of the Desire HD. But it’s easy one to ignore too if your local pricing has gone through the roof.

But still there’s a scenario, in which the I9003 can justify its existence. The price of the original I9000 Galaxy S just can’t drop any further – considering the high production cost and short supply of AMOLED screens at this time. Plus we’ve heard that Vodafone will have the exclusive right to sell the SAMOLED Galaxies for some time, so the appearance of the Galaxy SL makes sense.

The Super Clear LCD screen makes the inevitable transition to a lower price tier. Potential customers will find it’s actually possible to live with a screen that’s not mind-blowing. As long as they’re charged a reasonable price. And it’s a nice LCD screen, we give it that. It’s just not SAMOLED nice.

SuperAMOLED is still the best screen in business and 2010 was the year of the mobile display tech. But 2011 is already here and there are more and better tricks that capture the users’ imagination. Many people will probably pick a dual-core CPU and a more recent Android version over a Super AMOLED screen. So it makes sense to keep the limited supply for the new flagships that are just around the corner. And by the way, this is an issue for the competition to consider too.

The HTC Desire is the perfect example of a phone affected by the shortage of AMOLED screens. Expected to cost about as much as an HTC Desire (which too runs the risk of not getting many updates from now on), the I9003 has a larger screen and loads of internal storage to show for it.

HTC Desire
HTC Desire

If you wouldn’t mind living with Android 2.1 Eclair and somewhat limited multi-touch functionality you might save yourselves a few bucks by purchasing the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10. You will also get a superior camera as a bonus for this deal.

Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10
Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10

The Nokia C7 comes cheaper, too and packs an AMOLED screen, but the lower resolution, less internal storage and limited choice of apps mean that the I9003 is at least good a deal. Plus, Symbian^3 does need to sort its interface and web browser issues. The autofocus camera is another thing that can tip the scales in favor of the I9003.

Nokia C7
Nokia C7

The Samsung I9003 is by no means better by the original Galaxy S but this is not to be held against it. This is not a typical upgrade – it doesn’t follow the chain of command. It’s a substitute forced by circumstances much like with the Wave and Wave II. The Galaxy SL might be the right device for upgraders coming from the likes of the Galaxy Spica. All it needs is a properly adjusted price tag to prove that no AMOLED, no party is the wrong mentality.

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