Well, here we go again with the Samsung Tocco, which is available from all the major network operators from free depending on your contract choice. My review sample came from Orange.
This time around, just to help differentiate the Tocco from the crowd, Samsung has come up with what it calls a unique user interface that lets you personalise how you use the phone. I’ll get to that in a moment. But first let’s talk design.
This is a mobile phone that shouldn’t trouble most pockets. At 98.4mm tall, 55mm wide and 11.6mm thick it is on the small side. It is a pity that Samsung couldn’t break 100g, but its 106g weight is really no hardship to carry around. It is extremely comfortable to hold the phone in one hand and tap at the screen with the thumb.
Just to add a little something extra to proceedings, the phone comes with a second battery cover that has a screen protector attached to it. Once fitted, the screen protector flips up from the bottom of the handset, shielding the screen from scratches without adding the significant extra bulk of a case.
The front fascia of the phone is shiny black apart from the screen, and there’s a flash of silver surrounding the speaker, and another that forms a strip beneath the screen. That strip offers three buttons: Call and End, with End doubling as the on/off switch, and a longer lozenge which drops you into the shortcut menu. There is a selection of five applications on the shortcut menu: Music Player, Messages, Internet, Call and main menu.
Around the edges are a rocker for volume control; a hold button that disables the touchscreen; a camera key; and a jack for Samsung’s extremely annoying proprietary multifunction socket that charges the phone, accommodates the provided stereo headset and connects the Tocco to a PC via USB.
The front screen measures 2.8 inches diagonally, putting it on a par with the screens of the more portable Windows Mobile devices. It delivers 320 x 240 pixels and 262 thousand colours. I found it clear and sharp to read and easy to use.
So, what about that personalisation I alluded to earlier? Well, it comes in the shape of a ‘drag and drop’ system which you can use to put ‘widgets’ onto the main screen. The process is simple enough.
In the main screen there is a sidebar hidden away off the left tall edge of the screen. You can open this by tapping an arrow that pulls it out. This offers all available widgets. You just drag what you want across to the main screen.
The selection isn’t vast but does include games, photo album, today’s date, digital and analogue clocks, calendar, music player and FM radio. If you don’t want a widget you can drag it off the main screen and onto the sidebar. And you can drag the operator logo off too, which is rather nifty.
Other than that, using the Samsung Tocco is quite familiar. You can drag left and right to scroll though horizontal lists, and drag up and down to scroll through vertical lists. When music is playing you can drag along the progress bar to get to a set point in a tune and there is a draggable volume bar. When viewing photos you can drag up and down to scroll through images or call up a ribbon that displays image thumbnails or an image manager. When on the Web you can drag to move up and down or left and right in a webpage.
Entering text is a matter of tapping an onscreen keypad, and you get a little haptic response for screen presses. It works well enough, though I found dragging vertically through menus that don’t take up the whole screen a bit hit and miss. It was easy to drag beyond the menu box itself, and thus cancel out of the selection process. Also, the whole interface simply doesn’t have the pizzazz of the iPhone. The web browser, for example, lacks zooming capability and feels under-featured.
This is a pity because the Tocco is a 3G handset with HSDPA to 7.2MBps if you can find a connection, so web browsing is quite quick, and the large screen means the browser interface could have been a much more pleasant experience.
Music playback is here and there is 220MB of built in memory and a side mounted microSD card slot for expansion. Battery life was stunning, providing an impressive ten and three quarter hours of music from a full battery charge before deciding not to play any more. Even after that it stayed alive for ages giving a total of 15 hours 42 minutes of life.
There is a front facing camera for two-way video calling, and the main camera shoots stills at 5-megapixels. It has a flash, and features face detection technology and an image stabiliser. Oh, and smile mode. This, bizarrely enough, only shoots a photo if it detects that your subject is smiling. Even more bizarrely, it worked. You just hold the shutter button down and wait for the victim to smile. The camera software does the rest.
There is no specific macro mode but on test the camera did well with close ups. The pink flowers were shot at close range and definition is good. They are a slightly deeper hue than the photo suggests, but the image is pretty good.
The cat photo is quite clear and sharp too. But it does show up one problem with this phone – a slight shutter lag. She was actually looking up in the air when I clicked the shutter button.
Indoors with the phone set on auto mode, and under normal household lighting, the camera fared less well. The coloured dish photo is good, but not outstanding. Its background should be white and its colours aren’t quite as vibrant as they could be. The outdoor chair photo is, not surprisingly given what has gone before, very acceptable. Detail is good, and the camera didn’t have too much trouble dealing with the parts of the subject that were in shade or bright sun.
There is no Wi-Fi which is a real pity on such a sophisticated handset. Samsung would do well to look at including this on its higher end mobiles in the future.
The Tocco is easy to use, the Widgets feel gimmicky but actually work quite well, and the camera, apart from its shutter lag problem, is good for a mobile phone. As I’ve come to expect from Samsung, battery life is impressive too. This is Samsung’s best touchscreen effort to date, but the company needs to refine the web browser – why no full screen view or widescreen mode? – and add in a touch-QWERTY keyboard to accompany the T9 effort.
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