The Samsung Galaxy Spica Android based phone has just been introduced into the Indian market adding to their existing Samsung Galaxy model which is also an android phone. Currently these are the only two Android based cell phones offered by Samsung here. Both the Galaxy and the Galaxy Spica are aimed at being affordable Android devices.
The Spica was slated to be the younger brother of the Galaxy, but the spec sheet makes it look like competition instead. I have been using mine for about ten days now and am quite satisfied with it.
Body & Design
The Spica is a nice slim phone with no slide out keyboard and is therefore slim. The dimensions are 115mm x 57mm x 12.9mm (LxHxW), and it weighs 120 grams which is slightly less than the iPhone 3G. In these dimensions it accommodates a 3.2 inch TFT LCD capacitive touch screen and dedicated buttons on the front for call pick-up and end, Menu key for applications, a Back key, a dedicated Home key and also a dedicated Search key. In the centre of all these is a 5 way d-pad for navigation. While a lot of other touch screen phones are doing away with most of these keys, Samsung has retained these and in my opinion they are a lot more productive than relying completely on touch.
The top of the phone has the micro-usb port hidden behind a small rubber flap and a standard 3.5mm headphone jack for the hands free or stereo headsets.
The left side of the phone only has the volume up and down button. On the right side of the phone you have a dedicated phone lock button (which seems to be common to a lot of Samsung phones) and a dedicated camera button. The phone can only be unlocked with the lock button. A major oversight in terms of the button here is that there is no backlight for them, which can make the phone a little inconvenient to use in the dark. Although in most cases the light of the screen is enough to see the buttons below it.
The back of the camera is very plain, and only features an inset, 3.2 Megapixel camera and the cut-out for the external speaker. The Samsung logo is horizontal giving it a more camera look when you are using the device for photo or video.
The entire back cover is removed to access the battery. The cover comes off easily and locks securely when put back with no jiggle room. Build quality is very nice and the matt finished surface gives a nice feel to the phone too.
Apart from the battery, the back cover also reveals the ports for the SIM card and the micro-sd card. The SIM slot is also like the memory card slot, the push to release, push to insert kinds, and makes life a lot easier than the sliding kinds. The Spica supports a maximum of 32gb of external memory via micro-sd card.
Before the Spica was released in any market (in November 2009) there were a lot of rumours about what kind of display it would have. The most prevalent one was that it would feature a 3.2 inch AMOLED display. Considering the price of this device, that seem highly unlikely. The Spica now sports a 3.2 inch TFT LCD capacitive touch screen with 65k colours, with an HVGA resolution of 320 x 480. Various experts have rated the Spica’s display very highly. As a person with first hand experience, the display is excellent and the touch-screen extremely responsive. Samsung has always been known for it display technology (mobile or otherwise) and this device is no exception. You will be hard pressed to find a problem with the display.
Hardware & Software
One of the main reasons that I bought the Spica was its processor. The Spica features a 800mhz processor which makes all the applications run like a breeze, even if you have multiple applications open in the background. The Spica has 200mb of memory available for user installable programs from the Android Market and also has 128mb or RAM, which seems a little less. However the 800mhz processor makes up for this slight downside.
The Spica runs Android 1.5 and an upgrade to 2.1 is expected in April 2010. The interface features no customizations (like the Hero) and is fairly standard with the usual pre-installed applications with more to be installed from the Android Market. Being a google phone, the contacts, calendar and mail can be easily set up to synchronize with your google account online and remain there as a backup. No software required for that activity. In fact the supplied PC Studio in the CD is pretty much useless with this phone.
Since the phone doesn’t have an external keyboard, Samsung has provided 3 different on-screen keyboards in the Spica. The standard Android keyboard, which work best for use in landscape mode, a Samsung keyboard, which can switch between 12 key, 20 key and full qwerty. The 12 key with T9 is perfect for single handed operation in portrait mode and a Hindi keyboard for those who would liek to send messages in Hindi. Both English and Hindi text can be combined and sent in the same message.
The Spica leaves no stone unturned in the connectivity section. The Spica is a quad-band GSM device and also supports bands 900 and 1200 for 3G, apart from the usual GPRS/EDGE capability. The phone also has an inbuilt GPS antenna (the GPS connects in about 30 seconds when outdoors), bluetooth and WIFI. However, the phone doesn’t currently support file transfer or sync via bluetooth, and is expected to get those with the 2.1 upgrade. On the up side you can use a bluetooth stereo headset to listen to the music.
The Spica is the first Android phone to natively support DivX videos and DivX streaming. Apart from this it has a fully functional music player very different from the iPod family interface but just as easy to use. Widgets on the home screen can also access the same music player and give you instant playback from your playlist. A YouTube application is also provided and works great, playing videos in high quality unless you specify them to be played in a lower quality.
The camera capabilities are acceptable. I am not too interested in the camera when I buy a phone, since I believe that a phone need not have an amazing camera. So the stills and the videos (3gp) are fine bu not exceptional.
This phone is great value for money. Costing between 12000 and 13500 rupees depending where you buy it from, it has a snappy processor, a bright and crisp LCD, a very responsive touchscreen and all the multimedia features that you can use. Coupled with the applications available in the Android Market, you can extend the phone’s capability to even greater levels.
On the down side, no backlight on the buttons (wanted), no bluetooth file transfer (can do without) and the android on-screen keyboard could use a little more improvement to match up to the iPhone’s on-screen keyboard