Back when Samsung Bada launched with the original Wave around a year ago, it offered a promising – if incomplete – alternative to Android. Since then though, it has made disappointingly slow progress.
Like Android, it gives you home screens to fill with widgets, as well as a standard apps menu that holds the rest of the Samsung Wave II’s features. It’s simple, intuitive for all but the completely inexperienced and reasonably attractive. However, the significant developments Android and iOS have made over the past year leave Bada less enticing than ever.
Android has often been criticised for its clunky, buggy quirks, but Android 2.2 and 2.3 make Bada seem like the one lacking grace and charm. Pinning-down how Bada doesn’t match up to its rivals is tricky, because the first impression it gives is that it has the basics down perfectly. Basic interface navigation is very quick and responsive, helped in part by the Samsung Wave II’s excellent capacitive touchscreen, and largely avoids crashes and those moments of standstill associated with younger platforms.
It still hasn’t stepped-up its game from the beginner leagues though. Social network integration, dealing with email accounts and notifications aren’t particularly well-handled – the Samsung Wave II can’t handle the juggling of a busy, “always connected” lifestyle as well as some other smartphones.
The Samsung Wave II does at least try. It centralises email accounts and social networks in the Social Hub, but its problems arise in day-to-day usage. It doesn’t aggregate content properly outside of a home screen widget, for one, it just acts as a list of accounts – tapping on them direct you to another app. The built-in Facebook, Twitter and Email apps use the system font throughout too – while this trick worked with the slick Windows Phone 7, it doesn’t here. The standard Samsung font looks stuffy and style-free while the Cool Jazz and Rosemary alternatives look simply silly.
You can’t improve on this situation all that much with the Samsung Apps app store either, because it isn’t very good. Some games publishers have done the store some real favours – Gameloft and Popcap have ported some of their best games to the platform – but it’s very low on worthwhile apps, and hardly provides any good additional widgets.
What it does have is loads and loads of themes – almost 1500 of them at the time of writing. These change the look of the pre-installed icons and the wallpaper, but offer purely visual tweaks. Feature phone systems tend to end up inundated by themes like this – pointing to the sad truth that Bada is still a smartphone/feature phone hybrid. It can’t shake the feature phone roots of its Touchwiz UI.
For all its simplicity, there are a few dodgy interface design choices that stick out throughout Bada too – ones we hoped would soon be fixed when we noticed them originally last year. They’re nothing major – boxes place in unintuitive spots and clumsily laid-out features – but they conspire to remind you that Bada is less than a top-flight operating system.
Bada is still an impersonation of a smartphone OS. It’ll be enough to fool some, telling you when emails and Facebook messages arrive just like your friend’s iPhone 4 or HTC Desire HD, but power users will soon be frustrated by its near-limitless limitations.
If a simple touchscreen phone is what you’re after, the Samsung Wave II has a serious advantage over many rivals – battery life. We had the phone running from Friday, through a series of intensive tests including video and web browsing, through the weekend – with occasional email checks – and well into Monday afternoon before it’s battery drained away. Part of this time, 3G was disabled, but you should be able to get a solid two full days out of this phone with moderate always-connected use.