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We always said Google's Android mobile phone operating system had great potential and it would only be a matter of time before the perfect hardware would come along to make it truly shine. Well, with it sporting a large AMOLED screen, a slim candybar form factor, 5-megapixel camera with flash and autofocus, 3.5mm headphone jack, and 8GB of onboard storage as well as a memory card slot, the Samsung i7500 Galaxy certainly looks like it could just be that handset.
Coming off the back of reviewing the highly stylised Palm Pre, first impressions of the Galaxy are a little underwhelming. While its design is certainly classy - unlike many of the more toy-like Android handsets we've previously seen - it just feels a little too boxy and lacks a truly cohesive design. The mass of buttons on the front and various other flaps, buttons, and holes round the sides also make it look a little cluttered. Now, don't get us wrong, we're not averse to taking substance over style but for those of you who like your accessories to make an impact this might be one to avoid.
Another disappointment is build quality. While many have reported that the screen is made of super tough and scratch-resistant glass, it is in fact just a very hard plastic. Now, it's certainly going to be more scratch-resistant than soft plastic screens but still nowhere near the level of a glass screen. The back is also fairly flimsy glossy black plastic so will scratch very easily. Samsung does, however, include a basic soft pouch that is nice and slim, fits the phone snugly, and has a smooth finish so is easy to get in and out of pockets.
In contrast, the buttons on the front all have a nice brushed finish and are large (or in the case of the little one on the right, sufficiently raised) so easy to hit and they have a nice positive break to them so you know when you've pressed them.
While they are easy to reach, the buttons themselves aren't without fault. While we think dropping the trackball of all other Android handsets and replacing it with a D-pad makes sense, we wish Samsung had thought about dropping some of the other extra buttons as well. In particular, we don't see the need for a separate home button (the little one) as well as ones for back and call end/power. The side-mounted lock button also seems superfluous and is certainly very frustrating - this phone seems to have a mind of its own when it comes to locking and unlocking it (to the point of many a swear word passing my lips in exasperation). We much prefer the simplified layout of the T-Mobile Pulse with its combined lock/power button on the side and home/back button on the front.
At 12mm thick, the Galaxy is on the slim side for a phone of its calibre and its width of 56mm is quite narrow too. Combined with fairly straight sides, this makes it easy to grip securely (unlike the iPhone's slippery curved sides), which somewhat makes up for the unwieldiness that results from a significant height of 115mm. The key, though, is handling this phone never requires you to stretch awkwardly, as the important buttons all fall within easy reach, so it's easy to use one-handed. It's also a little lighter than many large touchscreen smartphones at just 116g.