Amidst all the brouhaha surrounding the more established mobile operating systems like Android, iOS and Symbian, it's quite easy to forget Samsung's Bada OS that powers its Wave line-up of phones. Now, the Bada devices may not have the application support that Apple and Android phones boast of, but it is definitely an OS that puts a high weight on usability. In fact in my review of the original Samsung Wave, I had commended it for having the best touch experience since the iPhone 3GS. Let's see if the Samsung S8530 Wave II is a worthy successor.
The touch response on the Wave II is as good as on the iPhone 3GS which is no small compliment.
The Samsung S8530 Wave II is a smartphone that runs the Bada OS v1.2 and has a 3.7-inch Super Clear LCD (SLCD) capacitive touchscreen with a resolution of 480x800 pixels. The Wave II has 2GB of internal storage and supports microSD cards up to 32GB. It is powered by a 1GHz ARM processor and a POWERVR SGX540 GPU and also has a 1500mAh battery. You can shoot pictures using the Wave's 5MP autofocus camera with LED flash that can also record 720p HD videos @30fps.
Samsung has given the Wave II plenty of connectivity options including Wi-Fi and 3G (HSDPA 3.6Mbps; HSUPA 2Mbps) support. It also supports GPS and uses the Samsung LBS app to provide navigation (you need to purchase the services if you plan to continue using the navigation feature beyond the trial period of 30 days).
As I mentioned earlier, the Wave II has access to the Samsung Apps store which, at the time of writing this, had 5,439 apps available for download out of which 2,783 apps were free to download. It's pretty evident that the Samsung Apps store still has a long, long way to go before it can match the heights of the Apple App Store and the Android Market. Still, it's good to see the number of apps meant for Bada devices steadily increasing.
Some of the free apps available in the Samsung Apps store.
The Samsung Wave II comes pre-installed with the Palringo chat client that brings together some of the popular chat services such as Google Talk, Yahoo Messenger and Windows Live Messenger into one app so that you can chat with your friends without needing to switch apps. Social networking is taken care of by the Social Hub app that lets you set up your Facebook and Twitter accounts so that you can be updated on the go.
Design & Usability
With its big screen and glass-metal body, the Samsung S8530 Wave II certainly looks and feels like it costs more than it actually does. The Wave II is also deceptively light at 135g and slim (11.8mm) which makes it easy to carry around.
On paper, it's disappointing that unlike the original Wave, the Wave II doesn't sport an AMOLED display instead opting for an SLCD. However, the SLCD is good to look at too and is colorful and very sharp, maybe even more so than the AMOLED display. However, like the original Wave, the Wave 2's display loses some visibility under direct sunlight. Overall though, the screen might be one of the best things about the Wave II.
The Bada OS UI feels and operates like and enhanced and prettier version of the Android UI. The Wave II also has the advantage of the OS and UI being specifically tailored for the hardware which means that using the Wave II is great. The touch response on the Wave II is as good as on the iPhone 3GS which is no small compliment. Thanks to the great touch response, the virtual keyboard is also accurate and the auto-correction works well.
My only complaint with the interface is that it only allows for pre-determined widgets on the homescreens and unlike on Android, you can't have application shortcuts or folders on the homescreens.
The Wave II also has a decent number of hardware buttons to aid in navigation. The presence of physical call accept and reject buttons is an intelligent design decision by Samsung although I wish the Wave II also sported a 'one step back' button.
Browsing & Multimedia
The Samsung S8530 Wave II's default browser is on par with the iOS and the Android browser in terms of features. Using the browser is a good experience with features such as pinch-to-zoom and 'highlight and copy' text. The good looking display helps sites to look good on the phone and Samsung has wisely put usability on the forefront by forsaking Flash support on the browser which could have resulted in the phone slowing down.
The Wave II has a pretty good 5MP autofocus camera that is quick to operate and focus. The images come out with a good level of clarity and details but surprisingly although they look colorful on the phone screen, they look quite dull on the computer monitor. In photos I shot indoors I noticed some noise creeping into the pictures but the autofocus ensured that there was virtually no blurring. The 720p videos recorded by the Wave II are excellent and they play at a crisp rate too.
Images shot with the Wave II (click on image to enlarge in new window).
The Samsung Wave II is especially suited for people who like a dash of extra bass in their music. However, if you want to change things around, the Wave II also has a bunch of sound customization options. The default music player on the Wave II looks stylish and you can even choose from different visualizations to go with the music and even get the player to recommend you tracks based on the one you're listening to.
The Wave II continues to impress even in video playback with support for most of the popular video formats including DivX/XviD. Our test videos looked great on the Wave II's display albeit, some of our test videos did have choppy playback.
There is no reason why at Rs. 16,499, the Samsung S8530 Wave II shouldn't be top contender for your next mid-range smartphone. Yes, it may not have a widely accepted mobile OS and the benefits that come with it but on its own, the Wave II is a very good smartphone. If you are one of the few people out there who don't care about what OS your phone is running and want a phone with great usability and impressive features, you won't go wrong with the Wave II.