Currently the phone runs Android 2.1 although Samsung UK has said on its Twitter feed that that the handset is likely to receive an update to v2.2 once the Galaxy S update is finished rolling out. Over the top of the standard Android interface Samsung has added it’s own Touchwiz launcher to give it a look and feel that’s a bit closer to Samsung’s other touchscreen phones.
The Orange (GT-i58001) version of the phone that we had in for review also has an extra Orange themed launcher. This only really differs from the Touchwiz one in that the main menu is presented as a list of scrollable icons whereas on Touchwiz they’re presented as pages of 16 icons that you swipe back and forth through. There’s also a few extra widgets here and there, but none of them are especially useful and overall we preferred to stick with the Touchwiz launcher as it looked crisper and cleaner. You can switch between the two via a shortcut on the home screen and thankfully the process is quick and painless as there’s no reboot needed.
Samsung has built the Apollo around an SEC S5P6422 processor, which is an Arm11 based design that’s clocked at 667MHz. Obviously it’s not as speedy as it’s bigger, more expensive brother, the Galaxy S, but it does feel quite responsive for day to day use and even when you have multiple applications open it’s quick to jump between them. The phone naturally has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth onboard, as well as GPS. It also supports HSDPA at speeds of up to 3.6Mbps, so browsing the web or picking up email while you’re on the move is very speedy. We had no problems with call quality either during out test period and battery life was good by smartphone standards as we managed to get around two days from it before it needed to be topped up with juice.
The Apollo also puts in a good performance when it comes to multimedia. Rather than rely on the standard Android music player, Samsung has instead opted for its own music-playing app, which looks slicker and includes some useful effects, including a pseudo 5.1 mode that adds a bit of extra space to the sound when you’re listening via headphones. The supplied cans are also a cut above the norm, as not only do they produce warm full-bodied sound, but also their in-ear design makes them comfy to wear and helps block out background noise.
As well as the music player, the phone also has an FM tuner built-in, which is handy when you want to tune in and pick up the latest footy scores. As with most of Samsung’s Android handsets, the company has also added its own video player that supports DivX and Xvid files at resolutions of up to 720×480. As a result, it’ll play your collection of standard definition Xvid files without you having to first re-encode them to a lower resolution.
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On the camera front, the Apollo is equipped with a 3.2-megapixel snapper. It’s a bit of a pain that there’s no hardware camera button, as instead you need to use the shortcut to the camera app that’s found on the home screen. The camera takes a few seconds to load so it’s not ideal for capturing quick one-off shots, but once it’s started up there’s actually not all that much shutter lag. The camera application is also very good as it has a number of built-in scene modes such as Portrait, Sports and Landscape that quickly configure the camera for the types of shots you’re trying to take. There’s also a neat panoramic snitcher.
Pictures generally have bright vivid colours and the camera does a good job of capturing finer detail. Perhaps predictably, though, given the lack of a flash, indoor photos don’t look so hot. Unless there’s a lot of light in the room colours tend to be darker and muddier than outdoor photos and indoor images suffer from a lot of noise too.
The Apollo has a lot going for it thanks to its speedy performance, multi-touch support, and good battery life. However, the small screen means that it can feel a little bit fiddly to use for web browsing and although it’s not exactly priced to an excessive level, it does look expensive next to the cheaper Orange San Francisco that we’ll be looking at soon.