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Monday, May 3, 2010

Samsung Galaxy SPICA Review: Part I


The Hunt:

I was looking for a descent multimedia phone that performed well in all the areas including as an mp3/mp4 player, good camera and then wifi. So after immense search from the google I zeroed in on Motorola ZN5.

The mobile performed very good both as an mp3 player as well as a 5 MP camera. But that was the time when Motorola was sinking in India and they had reduced the dealers all over India. Which meant the phones availability and service was in question. But due to some commitments I had to forego and I postponed my purchase.


Then, from no where came the craze of touch mobiles. I too was drenched in that frenzy touch phones. So this time I had an additional requirement ie touch screens. Meanwhile I was closely following the growth of android and I was quite amazed. But all the phones were way beyond my reach as they cost little more than 30k.

So this was the time where I chanced to play over a feature phone from SAMSUNG called the Samsung JET. I was completely blown away by the features it offered, especially the AMOLED screen with crystal clear pictures. Now this phone had something more for me. Other than the 5 MP camera, this one also packed in the DivX playback which means I can play the conventional .avi files. And boy, when I chanced to have a demo I decided that I will go ahead and buy this smart feature phone.

The Confusion
But as always good always comes with little bad. The phone lacked 3rd party applications support. And installing JAVA applications was a pain.This was the time when the price of Galaxy SPICA dropped from 21k to just 13K. I was in a dilemma because SPICA had more or less same hardware except for the camera and the screen. I then slowly learnt that SPICA had a capacitive TFT LCD screen which means very good touch response. On the other hand JET had an R –Type touch screen but still response was good.

So these were my markings then


+Multimeda Phone.
+5 MP Camera.
+AMOLED screen.
+DIVX certified Phone.

-No third Party apps support.
-Unstable OS with critical bugs.

+Android OS
+3.2” Capacitive TFT LCD Screen
+DIVX certified Phone
+Android Market(free downloadable apps)

-Outdated Android OS v1.5
-No Bluetooth file transfer(though available in the set)
-65k colors support by OS(16M in H/W)
-feature less 3.2 MP camera.

Final Call:

But at the right time SAMSUNG announced that SPICA will receive an update to latest ANDROID v 2.1 which means the above mentioned minus will almost be non-existent.
So I just sacrificed the Camera and the crystal clear AMOLED screen and unstable OS of the JET with GALAXY SPICA. And at the price of 13k getting a 3.2” inch capacitive TFT LCD touch screen phone with ANDROID OS and updates is simply a killer buy.

All the phones that I mentioned are superb in their own way but for the love of ANDROID in this price range, I felt SAMSUNG GALAXY SPICA to be a worthy buy.

I hope this would help you in finding the right phone.(Infact I was wondering if I can write something on JET2 and ZN5 as well).



The Galaxy Spica retail sealed box consists of travel charger,USB cable,Samsung New PC studio software suite CD, hands free, leather pouch, a manual and a 2 GB Samsung Micro SD card with an adaptor.

The phone is made out of high quality plastic with curved edges. The front surface has a huge 3.2 “ Capacitive TFT LCD display with HVGA resolution followed by 6 keys and a 5 way D Pad. The keys are meant for 1)menu,2)cancel,3)call, 4)power on/off / End, and 2 dedicated keys for 5)browsing (on the left ) & 6)a home key(on the right). The keys are average(plasticy feel) and these keys don’t have a back lighting. So it will be real difficult to handle these buttons in the dark. Other than these keys, on the front there is a volume rocker key on the 7)left side and two keys, 8)one for screen lock and the other 9)one for camera.

The Speaker is at the bottom, behind the back cover. At the top you have the 3.5 mm standard jack. So you can stick to your own headphones rather than the stock one. Next to it is the micro USB, which can be used to connect the phone to the computer.

On the back side you have the 3.2 MP camera lens covered with a glass which is part of the back cover. There is no shutter or lens cover provided. Provision is also available for tying up a lanyard to the phone.

Opening the back cover is pretty easy and in fact its very loose that you feel it could fall of pretty easily. So handle the cover with care.

Removing the back cover exposes the huge 1500 mah battery that acts as the power house for this phone. On the inside you have the provision for inserting the sim(left) as well as the Micro SD card(right). The Micro SD card is hot swappable(i.e no need to power off your phone to remove the card) but you still need to open the back cover to remove the card.

+Simple Design.
-Plastic build.
-Keys feel flimsy.



While buying a touch screen phone its important to look at the screen size as well as the touch sensitivity. Having a small touch screen is really going to give us trouble in touching the rite icons. And also the sensitivity to the touches. So Spica manages to bring the rite balance by employing 3.2” HVGA resolution Capacitive TFT LCD screen.

The response is real good I should say. I have tried the Samsung corby, Samsung jet and the Nokia 58000 but those were all resistive displays. Spica performs very well in touch response. The screen supports 16M color but the the OS ie Android 1.5 supports just 65k colors. This difference can be hardly seen with pics but on running some videos the difference is clearly visible. Overall the design of android(the icons size) and the touch sensitivity of the Spica’s capacitive screen gels very well with the resolution of 320x 480 (but still cant match the AMOLEDs).

+3.2” Capacitive TFT LCD screen.
+Very good response.

-OS supports only 65k colors (but the hardware supports 16M)


Spica is embedded with a 3.2 MP camera with autofocus. Usually the autofocus cameras employ a half press button which is not the case here. Once you click the camera button, Spica tries to get its focus rite and on releasing the camera button spica captures the focused image. An interesting feature is that you can embed the image location info in the pic(Geo Tagging). Spica gets the co-ordinates using the gps and it embeds them in the photo taken. The photo is taken in the resolution of 2048 x 1536. The camera unfortunately doesn’t have any other extra options other than night mode. So its just like a point and shoot camera. But still it manages to get good pictures in day light.

Spica’s camera department really tests the users patience. It takes couple of seconds to get started and then couple more to get focused. And another set back in the imaging department is the missing flash.

One thing that I had noticed is that when you take a first snap the pics are over exposed but eventually pics taken later on are pretty good. I think it has something to do with the software so hopefully its fixed in a firmware update.

Camera also can record videos and there is no time limit. But the recordings are below average which are recorded @ 15 fps. The video is then further stored as .mp4 which even worsens the quality. The video when viewed in the phone looks pretty average but on a PC it looks even worse.

Overall the camera is very basic with nothing much to discuss but the image quality is good in day light and as expected below average in low light conditions as there is no flash.
+Pictures in day light are good with color reproduction.
-No Flash.
-Takes time to focus and capture.
-No other extra modes except night mode.
-Video recording @ just 15 fps.

Will add some photos taken using SPICA shortly.

Continues in Part 2.
*Note: All the pictures in this post are taken using the google image search!!!

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