In a bid to prove that it’s down with the kids Samsung launched the Genio range in the latter half of 2009, marked by its bright fascias and mid-range functionality. With their nu-rave aesthetic, they are handsets that wouldn’t look out of place in an episode of Skins but looks aren’t everything. Will the user experience and functionality be good enough to keep today’s tech-savvy teens happy?
What we like
The distinctive curved design with flashy interchangeable backs makes quite a nice change from the standard grey/black/dark brown fascias we tend to see these days. It does give the handset a very young feel though, even with the least-conspicuous black and white covers on it doesn’t exactly scream ‘take me seriously’.
One really nice aspect of the handset is the screen, which is surprisingly responsive, swishing through menu- and homepages is fast and easy. Customising your homepage is quick and easy, just drag widgets and drop them wherever on the homescreens you want them. It’s very reminiscent of a basic Android OS but, well, not as nice to use.
The music player is fairly straightforward, with options including repeat, shuffle, playlist creation and podcast playback all pretty standard these days. Sound quality is also average, although it tends to get a bit muddy at higher volumes. Likewise, call quality is passable if a little shrill.
The Genio Touch comes with a good few apps built-in, although they’re not all completely necessary: the Google apps are a boon particularly maps (Mail, however, is not so much an app bas a shortcut), there’s also an RSS reader app, world clock, voice recorder and measurements converter. Email is also easy enough to set up in your universal inbox, although it tended to be a little slow to receive messages.
There’s an FM radio tuner which we had no problems with – and you have the ability to quickly switch between the headphones and the speaker, although we’re not sure we approve of making it easier to play tunes aloud on the bus.
Samsung has tried to make uploading your images to social networks easy as pie. But quite aside from why you’d want to upload the same image to Facebook, Flickr, Photobucket and more, setting it up is a little bit convoluted. However, once it’s up and running, it is a quick, easy process although we did encounter a few glitches when uploading images.
What we don’t like
Taking photos is a slightly confusing affair. We’re not keen on having the camera button so central on the phone; we’d much prefer it to the right where we’re used to having the shoot button on regular cameras. The other thing that annoyed us about the camera was that it doesn’t give you any indication that you’ve actually taken a picture. There’s no shutter noise, no still image of the shot you’ve taken, no flash; just a little counter on the screen which goes down by one each time you take a picture.
The handset doesn’t come with a data cable – it’s an optional extra. While it helps to keep the cost of the phone down, without it you’re limited to FM radio or the hassle of copying songs to your memory card or Bluetoothing songs across from other phones. You do have the option of buying music and downloading it straight to the handset or using the Find Music app which is like Shazam but slower and not as accurate. Annoyingly, it doesn’t sync well with the browser – so when you hit ‘download track’ in FindMusic, all it does is launch Vodafone live where you have to then type in the artist or song name and search for it manually.
What’s a bit annoying about text-input is that there’s no Qwerty keyboard layout. We don’t see why it couldn’t rotate to landscape and give us one, even if the screen is a mere 2.8-inches. But for short texting bursts, the on-screen 1-9 keypad does the job.
The keys and screen don’t lock when it goes to sleep – you have to actually press the lock button on the side of the handset, which takes a bit of getting used to.
There is no dedicated app store, so you’re stuck with just the applications the handset comes with; although what’s there isn’t bad, we’d like to have a bit more freedom. Same goes for the proprietary headphone port – we’d prefer a 3.5mm jack so we can use whatever headphones we want. We’re stuck with the adaptor for now though, which is just another fiddly thing to have to remember when you go out. The headphone connection cover is a definite liability: it hangs over the side of the handset when you have headphones plugged in. In a bag or a pocket it would snap off and be lost in a shot.
Aside from the eye-catching design, the Genio Touch is very middle-of-the-road. There are things about the handset we like, but we find ourselves constantly pointing out that they could be better, could be faster, could be easier to use. We’d like to see the same handset with access to an app store, a landscape Qwerty touchscreen keyboard and a few buttons rearranged, then we reckon Samsung could be on to a winner.