The Samsung S5600 comes with the latest implementation of the TouchWiz user interface much like the Samsung S8300 UltraTOUCH and the BeatDJ. Lively, colorful and pleasantly thumbable - the latest reincarnation of the TouchWiz UI has inherited all the virtues of its predecessors and adds some interesting new stuff.
In case you need a refresh, the widgets are basically convenient mini-applications for customizing your home screen. Some of the widgets are more practical such as the calendar or the world clock, even the image gallery or the mp3/radio player, while others are just pointless and funny.
Traditionally, all the widgets are stored on a bar on the left which you can toggle by using the small arrow in the lower left corner. You can pick which widgets to display by simply dragging them onto the display and placing them where you want. If you want to remove any of them, all you need to do is drag them back to the bar.
Leaving some different icon graphics aside the S5600 unit we had didn't differ much from what we've already seen in other Samsung devices.
Samsung promised a new touchscreen feature on that mobile called Gesture Lock. It should enable users to simultaneously unlock the phone and open a menu item or an application just by drawing an alphabet letter on the unlock screen. Users should be able assign various actions to any of the alphabet letters from A to Z. Unfortunately, that feature was not present on our early pre-production unit.
You can still check out some interface screenshots to get an idea of the rest of phone features - messaging, applications and organizer.
The music player of the Samsung S5600 hasn't been greatly altered from the M8800 Pixon. Some additional visual effects have been added but that's as far as the changes go.
It allows filtering tracks by author, album, and genre. Automatic playlists (recently added, most played etc.) are also generated and can subsequently be used as filters. If that doesn't seem enough, you can create your own custom playlists. The music player can naturally be minimized to play in the background.
The music player also has a dedicated widget, allowing quick access to the full version of the application by only a single tap. You can also start, stop and alternate tracks straight from the home screen if you prefer.
Last, but certainly not least, the player is nicely touch-optimized including fast forward and rewind, just like the Pixon. This adds up to an excellent music application that can fully replace your portable MP3 player.
Quite expectedly, the Samsung S5600 has two different picture galleries. Accessed from different parts of the menu, they are optimized for touch operation and are decently user-friendly. The first is an inherent part of the file manager and accessing it is as simple as opening any folder that contains images.
Once you open a picture to view, you can sweep you fingers across the screen to see the next image without having to return to the image list. The sweeping is really responsive and fluid and the capacitive screen might be the reason for this and not some software improvement.
The alternative to the picture gallery is PhotoBrowser. It has a dedicated icon in the main menu and is the quickest way to access you images. Sorting options were unavailable due to the very early software of our test unit.
The galleries also have slideshows and a nice accelerometer-based feature. It lets you browse pictures in fullscreen landscape mode by simply tilting your phone on its side (plus, of course, you get automatic rotation of the photos by changing the device orientation).
When we received the test S5600 unit, we were surprized to find out that the handset is actually equipped with a GPS receiver. Samsung did not announce that at the official launch of the device.
S5600 is able to use the built-in GPS chip for geotagging and some Java applications, much along the lines of Samsung Pixon. There is no navigation software supplied with our test handset, but we guess at least Google Maps will be on board. Samsung may even throw in their dedicated satnav software at some extra cost.
From what we saw, the Samsung S5600 seems quite fit and prepared for the midrange touchscreen race.
Comparison to the LG Cookie - a handset which we really enjoyed - is inevitable. The Samsung S5600 is certainly compact enough to stay in the game. The competitive edge comes from HSDPA support, the camera flash, smile detection and GPS geotagging plus the benefits of having an actual GPS receiver aboard. All that however is at the expense of the smaller, lower resolution screen and the lack of a stylus support for handwriting recognition.
But as always, in this segment price is king, so before we see any actual numbers on a price tag, we're just plain talking. But if Samsung somehow manage to squeeze the S5600 within the 200 euro price range, we just may have ourselves a winner.