Samsung have always been one to create entry level handsets. The Galaxy S may have been the one to have in 2010 but they made sure that “cut down” versions were available for the smaller pocket and Pay-As-You-Go market in the form of the Galaxy Europa and Mini. Both models are still going strong today, but that said Samsung have rejigged their naming conventions and as a result have now assigned letters to each model in the range. Today we look at the entry level model: the Galaxy Y.
The ‘Y’ is supposed to stand for ‘young’. It says so on the the box so it must be true. But after spending more than five minutes with the phone, you quickly realise that ‘young’ does not mean young in the sense of a young person or adult using it. It means one of two things: a child (or ‘tween’ at the oldest) is the target audience, or that the user is a Smartphone virgin.
I say this quite seriously because it is the only way to fathom the weird specification that Samsung has included in this model. When Android phones were new it was common to fit devices with under specified processors and small screens with poor resolutions. The Y feels like a throwback to 2009/2010 with one exception: the dimensions are actually quite pleasant in the hand with the phone not being overly thick (11.5mm). It is very portable with a fairly solid plastic chassis. The back is moulded plastic with a faux-mesh pattern and it is easy to grip. And owing to the small dimensions, one handed operation is easy.
It packs Android 2.3.5 (Gingerbread) and wraps this up in Samsung’s TouchWiz interface. TouchWiz is loved and loathed in equal measure. Certainly it is easy to get to grips with, featuring four icons in the Dick at the base of the home screen giving access to the dialer, address book, messaging and the application drawer. The colourful, simplistic approach works well on smaller screens and low resolutions. It is only when you hit top EMS hardware that the “idiots guide to Android” that Samsung employs begins to grate.
It is sometimes difficult to be objective when you use top end phones on a daily basis. You can pick up virtually any phone in your local shop and there is guaranteed to be a lot of models which are accomplished little beasties which you would quite happily use regularly. The definition of ‘use’ is a personal one and it is important to look at what exactly you need out of a phone, but the Galaxy Y perplexes me even more on this front for several reasons.
Firstly, the argument of whether the small 3 inch screen is even usable needs to be addressed. While there is a definite need for smaller devices (not everyone wants to carry a tablet in their pocket), usability has to be considered and the Y’s poor resolution lets it down. Some reviewers have commented that 240 by 320 pixel resolution is ‘average’ but I defy anyone to find a lower one, and furthermore be able to use it. The approximate screen density of 133 pixels per inch (ppi) is a far cry from the giddy heights of the iPhone 4S’ 330 ppi or even the still impressive Xperia Arc’s 233 ppi. Interestingly, even the Xperia Mini’s 192 ppi makes the Galaxy Y screen resolution look terribly poor in comparison.
Even the Xperia Mini’s 192 ppi makes the Galaxy Y screen look terribly poor in comparison.
Secondly, the lack of camera flash on a phone aimed at the sort of person who would perpetually be uploading pictures to Facebook is odd. The camera itself is not that bad, but as a 2 megapixel sensor would rarely be used for printing wall high effigies. Not providing a basic flash to help the young ‘uns spread their adolescent angst across Twitter or Facebook is a poor error for Samsung to make. You have to ask the question about whether they should have included a camera at all if that’s the attitude they have to it.
the lack of camera flash on a phone aimed at the sort of person who would perpetually be uploading pictures to Facebook is odd.
The Galaxy Y’s processor is one of its saving graces; a 830 MHz ARM v6. When powering a screen of this size, it nips along at a reasonable pace providing the animations are turned off and seems fairly efficient. The battery lasted a good day and a half with average usage and the odd bout of web browsing, but the screen size really hampers what you can expect to get out of the phone any way.
In one of Samsung’s marketing blurbs, they state enthusasically “prepare to indulge yourself in over 200,000 apps on the Android market”. Ahem. Just because they are there does not mean they will work (or rather work well) and in my experience, this is the fault of the poor resolution.
Many games refused to run on the phone, and many more were invisible from the Android Market. Local favourite Bejeweled 2 would install but only offered black squares where the game should have appeared. And while Angry Birds ran, the resolution made game play particularly difficult. Out of the box there is little to get stuck into though, and while Samsung’s TouchWiz user interface is present, the Reader, Music and Social Hubs from higher tier handsets are missing. And watching video is also a write off with rarely clear images being displayed (which includes YouTube).
Unlike the issues I experienced with games, the usual array of social media tools such as Tweetdeck and Facebook performed well providing you do not overload them with too many updates. A variety of basic Accuweather powered weather widgets and clocks are as standard and generally they do a decent job. The Galaxy Y also comes with an office app which is largely a complete waste of time on a screen this small. Reading any text on this screen is a difficult task to say the least.
So I want a small Android phone. Is this it?
No. Probably not.
But I want a small phone!
Get a Sony Xperia Mini. Or Sony Live with Walkman. Or a Huawei G300. But not this.
But the Xperia Mini costs twice the price!
You pays your money. My Mother-in-Law always used to say “pay cheap, pay twice”. Save yourself some heartache and pay twice. Or at least a tenner more.
It’s OK. I don’t want to play games on my phone.
Ah….now we’re getting closer to the mark. Do you want to take photos either?
Maybe…hang on. I’m asking the questions here!
Just don’t expect it to take decent snaps. And don’t look at the screen. On the plus side it is fast enough and the battery will last you a day and a bit.
Ummm. So you would recommend it?
No. Look elsewhere.
The End All
I started out feeling quite negative towards the Galaxy Y. The small screen and compromises that have been made really bothered me and I started to wonder if there was such a thing as a substandard Android experience, and this phone was the definition. While there are many phones out there which offer iPhone rivalling simplicity and speed, the Y would make the average Apple fan laugh until they vomited.
But that is not the market for the Galaxy Y. Over time, the Galaxy Y grows as a slightly lacking, but never the less capable handset. Believe it or not, some people actually use their phones to make calls, and playing Angry Birds is not on their agenda. In that respect the phone works although I would not go as far to say that it “works well” (but I have a somewhat biased viewpoint). Certainly my gargantuan fingers are not exactly compatible with the diminutive screen on the Y, but plenty of people would get on with it just fine.
Times change, and this is where the Galaxy Y finds things difficult. Compared with similar sub £100 handsets, the Galaxy Y does not hold its own, and cannot claim to offer the same experience as an Orange San Francisco II or Huawei G300. Samsung also failed in not looking at their target audience more clearly, and offering the same level of thought on usability as Sony Ericsson have with their Xperia Mini range and the Live with Walkman handset.
But the Y will be a volume seller (especially considering the exclusive O2 branding that is tied to the London 2012 Olympics) and if this is your first foray into Android devices, it will probably work just fine. Just don’t expect to use it as anything more than a phone and mp3 player. But if that’s the case, why didn’t you buy the Sony Live?
AndroidGenus Score: C “Must Try Harder…”
Build and features: C ”Solid enough with the bare minimum of fuss”
Performance & Battery: C “Average - Poor screen and terrible camera vs good battery life and appropriate processor.”
User Interface: D “Average – hey! It works. But the screen res is too low for that size.”
If you are desparate for Olympic swag, the Galaxy Y with exclusive Team GB rear cover can be had from O2 direct for £79.99 on Pay As You Go. Contracts can be had from £13.50 per month direct from O2.
The best deal to be had at time of writing from Buy Mobile Phones who are offering up to £320 automatic cash back on a 24 month contract.