Samsung seems to be aiming to fill a whole universe with phones that have Galaxy in the name. The latest of the bunch is the Galaxy S Advance that we're looking at here and which is something of a mash-up of the original Galaxy S and the hugely popular Galaxy S2, making the phone essentially a mid-range blower targeted at those who can't afford the likes of the SIII. As such you can buy it Sim free for around £270 or alternatively get it for free on an £18.50 a month contract form O2 as long as you sign up for 18 months.
Like most of Samsung's Galaxy handsets, the S Advance is a good looking phone, but not one that really knocks your socks of in terms of design. This is mainly due to the fact that the chassis is made entirely from plastic and so lacks the really premium feel that some other manufacturers have managed to add to their phones. That said, the screen is protected by gorilla glass, so overall the phone shouldn't prove too fragile over the longer term and certainly the chassis feels pretty solid. The screen's 4.0inch size means that the form factor is a bit bigger than many other smartphones at this price bracket, but its still a good deal smaller than the gigantic SII. As a result it's easy to hold and operate with just one hand.
When it comes to controls, there's a nice and responsive power button on the right hand edge and Samsung has added volume buttons on the left. On the font beneath the screen there's a hardware home button in the middle which is flanked by two touch buttons for the menu and back functions. Annoyingly Samsung has placed the headphone jack on the bottom of the phone next to the microUSB port, so we found we had to put the phone into our pocket upside down to stop the headphone cable from snagging. It's a terrible design decision really, and it's been quite a while since we've had a phone in with such a poorly placed headphone jack. Prise off the plasticky battery cover on the rear, meanwhile, and you'll find a removable battery as well as an easily accessible microSD card slot that accepts cards of up to 32MB in size.
One of the plus points of the S Advance is its screen. As we've already pointed out this is covered in gorilla glass, but it curves outwards slightly towards the bottom, which is quite a nice effect. The screen uses the Same AMOLED technology as the screens on the SII and SIII, and as a result black levels are extremely deep, while colours look very bright and vivid. Actually they're slightly over egged and to our eye they're not quite as accurate as what you get on good LCD screens, but nevertheless we think most people will like their bold and brash appearance. The screen is searingly bright too, something which isn’t affected much by using it outdoors, unlike older OLED displays. While its resolution doesn't stretch to the retina levels of the S3, at 480x800 its still good for a mid range model and means that text on webpages remains legible even when you're zoomed out a fair bit.