Not to be confused with the flagship Samsung Galaxy S, the Galaxy 5 smartphone is an entry-level prepaid smartphone. Excusive to Telstra and retailing for just $199, the Samsung Galaxy 5 is the cheapest Android phone on the market but despite this it doesn’t skimp on too many features.
The Galaxy 5 looks similar to the Samsung GenoA and the Samsung S3653, which were also entry-level mobile phones. It has a distinctive, rounded design with a curved back; this makes it comfortable to hold, but it rocks slightly from side to side when placed on a flat surface. The Samsung Galaxy 5 has an attractive glossy black finish with chrome edging, but the handset quickly becomes grubby with fingerprints and is hard to keep clean.
Most of the Samsung Galaxy 5’s front is taken up by a 2.8in capacitive touchscreen, while below this sit the standard Android shortcut keys (menu, home, back and search) as well as a five-way navigational pad and answer and end call keys. The navigational pad doesn’t get much of a workout as the capacitive touchscreen is responsive and easy to use. A capacitive display at this price point is a real plus, though its low 240×320 resolution — the same as the HTC Wildfire’s display — means viewing angles aren’t the best, nor is legibility in sunlight. The small size of the display also means both the on-screen keyboard and the Web browser do feel a little cramped.
The Samsung Galaxy 5 runs the 2.1 version of Google’s Android operating system and it includes all the regular features and functions of more expensive Android smartphones. Access to the Android Market for third-party apps, an excellent notifications taskbar and automatic and seamless synchronisation with Google services are all part of the experience. The Galaxy 5 can have up to seven home screens for live widgets and shortcuts, and Samsung has also opted to use its TouchWIZ interface which includes Feeds and Updates (Facebook, Twitter and MySpace aggregator), and Buddies Now (a rolodex of photo contacts). Though the Feeds and Updates widget is fairly useful and stops you having to log in to separate applications all the time, it lacks some advanced features, such support for multiple Twitter accounts and URL shortening when tweeting.
Samsung says the Galaxy 5 “may” be upgradeable to the latest 2.2 version of Android (called Froyo) but hasn’t specified a timeframe. Froyo will add full Flash support, built-in wireless tethering, and the ability to store third-party apps on your SD card, as well as a range of other improvements.
One of the more impressive features of the Samsung Galaxy 5 is Swype text input, an option that allows you to slide your fingers over the letters you want to type in a single motion, letting the software work out the word you are trying to write. Swype is an excellent feature and considering the small screen of the Galaxy 5 compared to the larger Android phones like the HTC Desire, it is a smart inclusion.
An annoying aspect of the Samsung Galaxy 5 is the excessive amount of Telstra customisation built into the software. Although you can arrange your home screen shortcuts and widgets in any way you like, the main menu has exactly 25 shortcuts to Telstra applications and services and while some of these may be useful, most are simply Web links.
Samsung has cut corners when it comes to the phone’s camera and the screen. The basic camera is just 2-megapixels and lacks a flash for night-time photography. The smaller display has a negative impact on Web browsing. The Galaxy 5 also lacks multitouch support, meaning you can’t pinch the screen to zoom in and out of applications like maps, the browser or photo albums. Other features include a built-in accelerometer, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, a digital compass and a GPS receiver. The Samsung Galaxy 5 has a microSD card slot for extra storage, located behind the rear battery cover. Samsung includes a 2GB microSD card in the sales package.