In the past, Samsung's Wave smartphones have always impressed me thanks to their reasonable price-tags, excellent touch usability and feature-set, which were among the best in its class. Almost a year after the launch of the Wave 2, the Wave 3 S8600 makes its way into a very different looking market. Android phones with good usability, specs and great features have finally broken into the sub-20K segment (with devices such as the LG Optimus Black and the Samsung Galaxy SLCD i9003) and suddenly, the Wave 3 with its limited app support and proprietary OS has a much steeper hill to climb.
Unlike the Galaxy smartphones, the Wave 3 uses high quality metal in its build and is also surprisingly slim and light.
Here's why I thought that while the Wave 3 matched the pace set by its predecessors, it has been overtaken by other better phones.
The Samsung Wave 3 is a Bada OS smartphone with a 4-in Super AMOLED display (800x480 pixels resolution). Apart from Samsung's proprietary OS, it also features TouchWIZ 4.0 UI that's also on the new Galaxy smartphones such as the SII and the Note, although it works a little differently here. The Wave 3 relies on the Samsung App store which is, quite frankly, shorn of many popular apps. As a result, you won't be able to play your Angry Birds or install other ubiquitous apps such as Seesmic, Pulse Reader, Shazam, Opera, Evernote etc. The app store currently shows that 7,643 apps are available for download which is really not a number that is in anyway comparable to the huge numbers posted by the Android Market and the Apple App Store.
The Wave 3 does come with a couple of neat pre-installed apps though. There's Samsung's own Chat On, a messaging service like What's App and Blackberry Messenger. AllShare allows you to share media content across DLNA compatible devices and Wi-Fi Direct similarly lets you transfer files between compatible devices. There's Voice Command, an app that actually works decently to search the Web using Google when it does decide to work (I kept getting "Network Problem" issues) and then there is the excellent Polaris office suite that lets you create, view and edit Office documents.
But the absence of the really popular apps makes the experience annoying. For instance, there's no Google Sync app and if I want to get my Google Contacts to show up in the Contacts tab, I need to setup a Mail for Exchange account. There's also no dedicated YouTube app but rather just a shortcut icon that opens the browser. Also, apart from the handful of widgets that are pre-installed on the phone, there really isn't much of a choice on the app store.
The Wave 3 also has a 5MP auto-focus camera, with an LED flash, that can shoot 720p videos. It's powered by a 1.4GHz Scorpion processor and offers 4GB of internal storage (of which about 2GB is usable) with support for microSD cards up to 32GB. The Wave 3 supports Wi-Fi, GPS and 3G (HSDPA 14.4 Mbps; HSUPA 5.76 Mbps).
Design & Usability
Like I mentioned earlier, the Wave smartphones have always stood out thanks to their great usability. The Wave 3 also has great touch response and a beautiful looking UI but all of that is hampered by intermittent slowdowns (especially when exiting apps) and crashes (this happened thrice during my testing period of a week), where the phone would just show its version of a Windows Blue Screen, with an "Upload Data to PC" message, forcing a restart.
When the UI works, it works well and it incorporates stuff from Android- a notifications bar, a flat menu that's quite customizable, 10 homescreens that you can customize and an accurate keyboard. If you're a fan of the default Android UI, you should have no familiarity issues with the Wave's UI.
Unlike the Galaxy smartphones, the Wave 3 uses high quality metal in its build and is also surprisingly slim and light. Add to that its gorgeous 4-inch Super AMOLED display, and you have in the Wave 3, a very stylish device that's not hampered by bulk.
The Wave 3 also scores near perfect marks in battery performance. While the Galaxy Note still has probably the best battery life among smartphones, the Wave 3 isn't too far behind and it gave me two complete days of regular usage (about an hour of calls, regular social networking and e-mail notifications and some browsing) even with Wi-Fi on. The Wave 3 also offers good call quality but its smart dialing feature left me wanting. The smart dialer throws up suggestions based on the numbers you type but doesn't do so based on alphabets.
Browsing & Multimedia
For a phone with a great screen and touch response, the Wave 3 doesn't provide a particularly great browsing experience. The Samsung uses the Dolphin Web Browser which has a couple of annoying issues. The browser doesn't fit text properly within a pane and on zooming, I constantly saw text running out of view beyond the right edge of the screen. Also, playing a Flash video on the page slowed down the browser considerably.
The Wave has a very good camera that really doesn't leave too much scope for complaints. Both indoor and outdoor shots looked good, although there was some loss of detail in indoor images. The 720p videos shot by the Wave also look good and play well. One issue worth noting is that the Wave 3's flash is not really powerful, so you won't get optimum low-light performance.
Images shot with the Wave 3 (Click to see actual resolution).
The Wave 3 also works well as an audio player with good sound quality (although the highs do tend to be a little overpowering), a great music player interface and a very loud external speaker. Video playback is also good and the Wave 3 was able to play both DivX and MKV 720p videos straight out of the box and only couldn't play 1080p videos.
While I can't deny that the Samsung Wave 3 is a good phone, it's just not a device that elicits any form of excitement. It's priced at the heavier end of the mid-range segment and just doesn't offer as much as other smartphones nowadays do. The LG Optimus Black and the Samsung Galaxy SLCD i9003 would be better options at the same price-range.
The Samsung Wave 3 is now available in India for Rs. 19,600.
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