Thankfully, Samsung hasn’t lumped the handset with an ageing version of Android. Instead, the phone runs the relatively recent Android 2.1 release. This means you get the improved user interface that was introduced with this version including some eye candy such as the live wallpapers. For example, there’s one preloaded that has leaves floating on water. When you touch the water you’ll see ripples form on the surface.
Naturally, there are other improvements, too, including HTML5 support, a new contacts list, general speed increases and support for Bluetooth 2.1. Samsung has also added its own skin over the top, but really the only major difference is that instead of the traditional scrolling effect in the main menu, you’re instead presented with a number of screens that swipe back and forth to move through your list of apps. The company has also included its own Samsung Apps store, although this was curiously empty during our review period. There’s also the Layar augmented reality browser along with Samsung’s Allshare software that allows you to share media from the handset to other Samsung devices, including its range of Internet-connected TVs.
On the hardware front, the Europa has 512MB of RAM, 256MB of ROM and runs on a 600MHz processor. It feels quite speedy for a phone in this price range with very little slow down in evidence even with a couple of apps open in the background. The phone covers all the bases when it comes to connectivity too. Along with support for HSDPA, there’s Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, Wireless N Wi-Fi and GPS. Call quality was generally pretty good as the earpiece is loud, but the mic didn’t produce quite as clean audio as some other Android handsets we’ve reviewed. Nevertheless, battery life wasn’t bad as we got just under two days from it for a mixture of calls, web surfing over Wi-Fi and music listening. This is pretty much par for the course on Android handsets.
The phone’s camera is very basic, though. It’s a simple 2-megapixel shooter that lacks both autofocus and flash. The shots it captures are quite poor as colours aren’t very accurate and pictures look smudgy when viewed on a PC. Indoor shots also look pretty bad unless there’s lots of light streaming into the room, as otherwise you end up with excessively grainy and noisy photos.
Obviously, the built-in storage space is a little tight if you’re going to take lots of pictures and videos or store music on the phone, but thankfully Samsung includes a 1GB microSD card in the deal. This tucks into a slot found behind the battery cover, but as you don’t actually have to remove the battery to get at it, you can hot swap cards.
The big downer with the GT-i5500 is the fact that Samsung hasn’t added in multi-touch support, despite the fact that the display uses capacitive technology. Nevertheless, the phone remains a tempting option if you can’t afford the multi-touch enabled GT-I5801, as the screen is very responsive and it feels speedy to use. It certainly trashes similarly priced rivals like the Vodafone 845.