The Galaxy Portal is only Samsung’s second Android phone, although the company seems to have plenty more in the pipeline. Essentially this handset can be seen as a cut down version of Samsung’s first Android effort, the Galaxy, but although some features have been removed, some have also been upgraded too, as we’ll find out.
Samsung’s handset designs are usually rather stylish – we liked the look of the Tocco Lite and the Pixon, for example – but unfortunately the company’s designers must have been suffering from a hangover when it came to styling the Portal as it’s far from the prettiest phone Samsung has released.
At 115 x 57 x 13mm it’s not exactly overly chunky, but the design is quite drab and boring. We also hate the cluster of buttons at the bottom of the screen. There’s simply too many of them and they’re too tightly packed together to be comfortable to use. Another issue is that the reddish line around the OK button makes the d-pad look exceptionally cheap. In fact, as with trackballs, we don’t think you should really need a D-pad on a touchscreen phone, but we’ll let you make up your own mind on that one.
At least the Portal does feel reasonably solid and the rubberised plastic on the removable battery cover makes the handset relatively comfortable to hold. There’s also a standard 3.5mm headphone jack at the top of the handset next to the microUSB port, so it’s easy to use your own cans with the phone, although the supplied in-ear style ones are actually pretty good.
Instead of the AMOLED display used on the Galaxay, Samsung has gone for a more standard TFT display on the Portal. However, it’s still a fine screen. Its resolution of 320 x 480 is pretty good for a phone in this price bracket, it’s very bright and colours are probably a bit more natural looking than on the Galaxy’s AMOLED screen. The display also uses capacitive rather than resistive technology for registering finger dabs and swipes and as a result feels very responsive to touch input.
Unfortunately, although multi-touch is starting to become a standard feature on most new Android handsets, it’s not available on the Portal despite the presences of that capacitive display. In fact, the Portal is some way behind the pack when it comes to its Android OS as Samsung has used the older version 1.5 of the software. It hasn’t added any of its own interface tweaks over the top either, so you’re left with a plain vanilla version of Android with just three homescreens and no fancy live widgets like you get on HTC’s handsets. There are a couple of neat apps preloaded, though, including a Divx movie player and the Layer augmented reality browser that uses the phone’s GPS chip and camera to display a real time view of your surroundings with stuff like cash machine locations blended over the top.