Samsung S7550 Blue Earth review: Calling Captain Planet
TouchWiz UI gets eco-friendly
The S7550 Blue Earth comes with Samsung's user interface for touch-based phones - the TouchWiz. It is as usable as ever, though they've cut down on the eye-candy a little - both Motion gate and Media gate are gone.
No big deal, the homescreen has plenty of widgets and the new customizable menu is here to make using the phone easier.
The Samsung S7550 Blue Earth has the same homescreen layout as the Jet - it gives you three different non-scrollable screens that you can alternate by sideways sweeps. To help you orient, there are three small squares at the bottom, which indicate which of the three screens you're viewing.
You can fill up each of the homescreens with as many widgets as you like and assign a wallpaper that spans the three screens. Widgets are mini-applications that you can use to customize your home screen.
The widgets are tucked in a tray on the left side of the screen by default. Once you open the tray, all you need to do is drag them to a place on the screen where you would like them to be. If you decide that you no longer need a widget just drag it back to the tray.
Some widgets are handy like the AccuWeather widget that shows the local weather and a clock with two time zones. There are widgets that simply serve as shortcuts to an application and the good thing about them is that you don't even need to drag them out - a tap on a widget in the tray will launch the app too. So, if you carefully select which widgets to be in the tray, you can use it as a simple menu.
You can download new widgets and change the settings for network access. This is something to keep in mind - some widgets need to download data from the Internet (weather forecast, news feeds, etc.). It's not large chunks of data but it can still involve data charges.
The star widget here is the Eco Walk widget. It works with the Eco walk app and can be used to start a new walk, showing you the number of steps and some stats at the end of the walk. Stats include how many calories you've burned, how much fuel you've saved (and how much CO2 emissions the trip would have produced if you drove). The units for this calculation are the number of trees saved.
The Blue Earth uses the rearranged main menu we saw in the Jet and Pixon12. It stretches over three different screens which are sweep-scrollable sideways. The reason that so much more space was needed is the fact that almost all apps are now brought to the main menu, arranged in a flat iPhone-like structure and you will only need to dig deeper for the settings.
You can pick between four different themes for the menu and you can also assign a custom background. The image selected sits slightly dimmed in the background so that it doesn't interfere with the icons and hurt usability. You can remove some of the shortcuts or bring back ones you've removed; you can also rearrange them and even rename the three screens.
In both the main menu and the homescreen, you have a button bar at the bottom that features three virtual keys - keypad, phonebook and a button to toggle between the homescreen and menu.
The Samsung S7550 Blue Earth, like most recent Samsung phones, comes complete with multitasking. The task manager gets launched by pressing and holding the hardware Back key. It's not as nice as the one in the Jet, both in terms of aesthetics and functionality.
The "task manager" is actually two different and unrelated screens - the first, which you get most of the time, is just five shortcuts which allow you to switch between the native phone functions. The other - which you can only get if you press and hold the menu key with a Java app currently on the screen - allows you to switch between and terminate Java applications.
This is very annoying as minimizing a Java app to get to the native functions means you have to open the "Games and more" menu to get back to the Java application, even if it's just to close it.
The Blue Earth phone features Samsung's Smart unlock, which allows users to not only unlock the phone but open a menu item or an application, or even dial a contact, just by drawing a letter on the unlock screen. Each letter from A to Z can be set to trigger one of those actions.
The default lock however is different. It's called Eco unlock and is in tune with the message of the phone. To unlock, you need to pick up a discarded soda can and throw it in the trashcan next to it. Eco unlock is not as functional as the Smart unlock or as quick as the regular unlock, but it does neatly reinforce the phone's central mantra - "recycle".
The other eco-related bits and pieces in Blue Earth's TouchWiz include the Eco mode, which sets the display backlight to more conservative settings. This is perhaps not very useful, but when you change the backlight settings, a message informs you that Eco mode has been turned off. We couldn't help but feel a little guilty when we cranked up the backlight to maximum, so this might keep people from using the maximum setting. Before you know it, this attitude will extend to air-conditioners too.
The other feature (for which we couldn't quite find an explanation) is the Eco profile, which changes the ringtone to "Eco chirrup". Eco chirrup (there's also "Eco chirp") is a high-pitched chirp, which is rather annoying (to say the least). It might be because the ear-piercing chirps are easier to hear even at a lower volume, but the energy savings are probably not worth the torture.