While Microsoft's radical reinterpretation of its Windows Mobile platform in the shape of Windows Phone Series 7 is the talk of Barcelona so far, this could well win a large number of admirers...
Samsung has combined two crowd pleasing technologies: Android and pico projectors, in one with the launch of the 'i8520' - also known as the Beam and it is a spec-tacular tour de force.
On the handset side you'll find a 3.7in WVGA Super AMOLED display like that on the bada-powered Wave, a five megapixel camera with autofocus and flash, 720p HD video recording, HSDPA, aGPS, WiFi and (for Android) a trend breaking 16GB of internal memory plus microSD expansion slot. Battery life is also good thanks to a hefty 1800mAh battery that can last for nearly eight hours of 3G call time.
Impressive as this is, the real headline feature of the Beam is its pico projector and - unlike the LG eXpo - it isn't some bulky add-on, but fits neatly into the body of the handset. Admittedly at 14.9mm thick this isn't a slimline handset, but it is impressive nonetheless. That said, it is hard to judge the quality of the projector since - try as it might - Samsung was battling against the bright lights of the Fira de Barcelona exhibition and consequently image quality was rather washed out. We'd need to see the Beam in test conditions to form a full opinion, but it is hard to deny the appeal.
What does frustrate, however, is a worrying new trend from Samsung: the UI. While the Beam runs Android 2.1 you'd never know it since Samsung has decided to customise its appearance to match that exactly of bada. In fact they both employ Samsung's awful TouchWiz widget-based homescreen and use the company's ugly icons.
A rep told me the theory behind this is "to bring a uniformity to Samsung handsets, so no matter what model you are using they all look and feel the same" and while I see the logic here, I think it's a terrible idea. Samsung is no HTC when it comes to custom skins and so in my opinion this tactic destroys individuality and, in the case of Android, actually downgrades its user experience. Your thoughts?
The Samsung i8520 Beam will launch across Europe and Asia in Q3 with a feature set to die for and a UI to make you bang your head against the wall. So close Samsung, what were you thinking?