As the old 12-key style mobile phones slide further into obscurity in the mainstream mobile market (for now at least), we’re getting used to seeing more of hybrid phones like the Samsung Galaxy Pro; touchscreen phones that have a physical keypad bolted on. In the Galaxy Pro’s case its a full Qwerty, which puts it at loggerheads with HTC’s ChaCha and the recently announced BlackBerry Curve 9360. We took a little walk around the block with the Samsung Galaxy Pro to see how it fared.
What we like
The keys of the Samsung Galaxy Pro’s Qwerty feel great to type on. They’re big, springy and feel solid, like they’ll be able to last a lifetime. Combined with the four row of Android keys above and the 2.8-inch touchscreen, tapping out emails and getting around the Galaxy Pro’s menus and homescreens isn’t daunting at all.
Design and aesthetics are obviously a personal thing when it comes to phones, so we’ll say that not everyone will appreciate the looks of the Galaxy Pro. But, for better or worse, it’s consistent with the design stylings of phones like the Samsung Galaxy S2 and the Samsung Galaxy Ace.
You get the same textured mesh effect on the back cover and the same curved ‘chin’ that sticks out at the base of the phone. The Galaxy Pro also shares that ‘weightless’ feel that we’ve seen on the S2 and more recently the Tab 10.1. It’s very light and comfortable to hold.
Wider than the likes of the HTC ChaCha, we actually like the roomier feel that the Galaxy Pro’s blocky frame allows for.
Though not the fastest or most powerful Android phone, the Galaxy Pro performs the essentials like Gmail and web browsing to an acceptable standard. The 800MHz processor keeps things ticking over at a fair old clip, and generally the Pro performs as well as can be expected for a phone of its calibre.
Google Maps works surprisingly well, when you consider the screen’s size (at 2.8-inches, smaller than your average Android phone) resolution (320 x 240) and the fact that it doesn’t support multi touch.
You get a big-ish 4GB of internal storage with the Galaxy Pro which is nice. Samsung tends not to skip when it comes to built in storage, something we’d like to see other Android phone makers taking on board.
Though Android 2.2 Froyo gives you the ability to transfer great apps to SD, when you move an app over to a memory card, a few hundred kilobytes worth always gets left on the phone’s memory. So if your Android phone has a low amount of internal storage, it’s not going to help when it comes to installing loads of apps, no matter how big the microSD card you’re packing is.
Speaking of microSDs of course there’s a slot here (up to 32GB) and, though you need to take the battery cover off to get at it, you don’t need to take the battery itself out. A small plus, but a plus nonetheless.
Voice quality is generally pretty muddy, but not terrible. It’s not quite as sharp and trebly as we’d like but it isn’t terrible. The voice call quality is more or less uniform on calls to landlines and other mobiles on all the main networks, so at least it’s consistent.
What we don’t like
Running on Android 2.2 you don’t even get the most up to date version of Android for your money, compared to the HTC ChaCha, which ships with 2.3 Gingerbread. Support for games and apps is limited, with some titles looking/running particularly badly. Similarly, the TouchWiz UI on the Galaxy Pro doesn’t add much up from stock Android, compared to the ChaCha’s HTC Sense.
Though we generally like the feel of the Galaxy Pro’s keyboard, we don’t where some of keys have been positioned. The Shift, Alt and the Symbol keys are all down in the bottom left corner, which means that accessing certain symbols and capitalizing certain letters (particularly Z, X and C) can be tricky, often requiring a co-ordinated two-handed effort. All of the letter keys seem to have been ‘left aligned’ in fact, compared to how a standard Qwerty is set up.
Though we got used to the Galaxy Pro’s arrangement after a couple of days, we still found instances where this set up interrupts texting/emailing flow.
We’d have gladly seen Samsung ditch the four arrow keys on the bottom right for equivalent Shift, Alt and Sym keys on the opposite side. RIM has two shift/caps keys on either side of the spacebar on most BlackBerry phones and the HTC’s Desire Z did as well. In fact, having directional arrow keys when you’ve got a touchscreen up top also feels a bit redundant.
We would have liked to have seen some on-screen text predictions, the kind which you get with the standard Android keyboard (for touchscreens). Obviously you don’t need to have a full virtual Qwerty enabled, but there’s no reason why three predictions couldn’t pop up in a narrow bar at the bottom of the screen.
Screen resolution of the Samsung Galaxy Pro clocks in at a weedy 240 x 320. Text looks blocky, pixellated and low-res on emails, web pages, Facebook and even the phone’s menus. Big websites with plenty of pictures don’t look so bad, but anything text-heavy is murder on the old peepers. Speaking of the web, you’re limited to only having four windows open at any one time with the stock browser.
The camera is a 3-megapixeler with autofocus that, in the right lighting conditions, is capable of taking some ok shots. Though you get the usual plethora of ISO, white balance and other options, pictures taken on the Galaxy Pro are generally underwhelming. Absence of a flash also limits where and when you can take pics.
The low resolution screen also doesn’t give you a true idea of how good or bad a picture actually is. So, as is often the case with low res phone screens, you’ll go to upload what you think it a decent picture to Facebook and it actually turns out to be a bit messy.
External controls besides the Qwerty and the four Android buttons are limited to just a power button (which also functions as a sleep/wake control) and a volume rocker. Though we just griped about the rather average camera, we can’t help but feel that a dedicated button/shutter key could have been included here.
The Samsung Galaxy Pro is a mixed bag; we love the feel of the Qwerty keyboard but struggle with the positioning of the keys. We like that the Pro loads web pages and Google Maps quickly, but think that the low resolution screen lets it down in this department. Compared to the HTC ChaCha (more up to date OS, higher res screen, better camera) the Galaxy Pro doesn’t impress and we can’t see it holding its own against the forthcoming BlackBerry Curve 9360 in the Qwerty stakes either.