Samsung’s series of Android-fuelled Galaxy handsets span the smartphone spectrum, from entry-level gems like the Mini, Portal and Europa, right through to dual-core flagship powerhouse, the Galaxy S2. Now, sitting somewhere in the middle, is the newest member, the Galaxy Ace, coming across like a junior Galaxy S.
For a mid-ranger, the Ace’s feature set looks solid enough – 5MP snapper, Android 2.2, 800MHz processor – but when you consider the phone has been spotted going for free on a £10.50 a month, two year contract, the handset starts to look like a world beater.
Although it looks similar to the Galaxy S, it could honestly be mistaken for an iPhone 3GS knock-off. That’s said the chassis is soundly built but lightweight and comes with a choice of two rear battery covers; the glossy white case gives it a more premium feel while the rubberised, highly tactile meshed jacket is clearly more durable.
The recognisable and intuitive Android 2.2 interface is threaded with Samsung’s own TouchWiz 3.0 skin. This means four shortcut icons for calls, contacts, text messaging and main menu are permanently pinned along the bottom while the pull-down notification menu reveals five quick access switches for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, Silent and Auto Rotation.
Sammy’s own Social Hub app is also handy but half-baked, especially on the social networking front. It aggregates native email inbox (not the Gmail app), SMS, Facebook and Twitter accounts under one roof. Sadly, the social networking clients just link to the mobile websites, so best to download the official Facebook and Twitter apps for faster experience.
However, the inclusion of the excellent Swype keyboard app for text input is a boon. Its continuous finger stroke method takes time to figure out but once mastered, is so much quicker than traditional tap-typing.
Despite the Ace running Android 2.2 Froyo it doesn’t support Flash video when web browsing. This is unfortunately down to the 800MHz processor being too under-powered to cope. Yet, this doesn’t compromise the basic web experience too much. The pinch-to-zoom action is fluid enough and while the native browser is fine to use, we would still recommend downloading free apps such as Opera Mobile, Skyfire or Dolphin HD for a slicker surf.
Unfortunately, there are some other traces of its mid-range ranking. The standard issue 3.5in display is adequate for most uses but not overly sharp. The low-res video from its camera is terrible too, even for this level of phone.
The lack of a dedicated camera shutter key is disappointing, so this means less control with the touch focus. On the flipside, the Ace is brimming with cool photo mods including ISO and white balance settings, a stack of scene and effect modes, as well as macro focus and smile detection. Picture quality is similarly impressive for a 5MP sensor, with strong detail and natural colours.
There’s access to the Android Market and also the Samsung Apps store. This offers another destination for downloading apps but at the time of writing there were only three apps available. Stick to raiding Google’s 200,000-strong official store for all your app needs.
Overall, the Samsung Galaxy Ace is strong mid-range Android smartphone that offers lot of bang for the bucks. If you grabbed the Ace on a £10-£20 a month contract, you would go home a very happy camper indeed.
Available from Three