The Wave is the first handset that’s loaded with Samsung’s new Bada OS. The quest of the Bada (meaning Ocean in Korean) platform is to provide faster and cheaper smartphones to the mobile community. Technically Bada has been around for awhile, it’s the name for Samsung’s proprietary OS that runs most of their smartphones. Of course now it’s gotten a bit more sophisticated. So here’s a closer look at the S8500 Bada powered handset, better known as the Samsung Wave.

Form Factor
The design is a variant of the Samsung S8300 UltraTOUCH which didn’t fare too well. It’s a great looking piece of hardware that’s light (118g) and comfortable to hold and carry. The Super AMOLED display (480 x 800 pixels) is scratch resistant and is spectacular when it comes to clarity. The colors always appear vibrant and crisp. The micro USB port and 3.5mm handsfree are conveniently located at the top of the device with volume/Zoom keys on one side and camera button on the same side as the screen lock button. The proximity sensor works like a charm and although this is well designed handset, nothing’s perfect.

One big issue I had with this handset was that I was I was unable to use any other 3.5mm jack equipped handsfree or earphones with this device except for the bundled set. I tried with two handsfree kits from other devices and three pairs of earphones but it didn’t work. I either got static or ended up with just one spear providing audio. The silver lining is that the bundled kit is very comfortable and sounds great. This could however be considered issues with just this test piece.

Features and Performance

The Wave uses a TouchWiz 3.0 UI on top of the Bada platform and the ARM Cortex A8 1GHz processor ensured an extremely speedy and smooth flow of the UI. Response was immediate with no lag whatsoever. The UI isn’t all that new from any other Samsung device. A few additions include Chat-like messaging screens, a widget system that’s more like LG’s S-Class UI rather than Samsung’s pop-out from the side version, a drop down section for quick access to messages, emails, missed calls etc. The Widgets are very much like those you’d find in an Android handset. In fact the Social Networking option is exactly like HTC’s FriendStream. It enables you to receive and post updates two both your Facebook and Twitter pages.

The menus have an Adaptive option that allocates the most used or recently used options at the top of the list. It can be shut off if you want. The virtual keypad is also very much like Androids. Multitouch is an added bonus. You can access all running apps by holding down the menu key.

What I could have used was a customizable EQ option but the presets and Effects provided, including the 5.1 surround setting, more than make up for that loss. Tones are clear and very crisp with a very resounding bass line that will have you stomping your feet even in a crowded train by reflex. Peaking the volume will only lead to you going deaf. Oddly though, the speakerphone is too low. The Stereo FM radio which has a recording option had decent pick up even while commuting.

Watching videos on the Wave was a great experience. It supports DivX and XviDcodecs with AVI files up to 720p and playback is smooth. You can also use the 5.1 channel surround sound option for videos. Colors look exceptionally good at any viewing angle. A few other video settings include adjustable color tones, brightness control and a mosaic search option to play the file from selected points. A resume function is built-in.

A few games like Asphalt 5, Edge and Parachute Panic are preloaded while others are, as usual, try and buy demos. A built-in photo editor allows you to make a few adjustments to your images.
The Wave is equipped to handle 3G connectivity so EDGE/GPRS fit right in. It also supports Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0 with A2DP and USB 2.0. It’s got all you need for social networking with Facebook and Twitter apps, a shortcut widget for Orkut (people still use that???) and a Palringo universal chat app. The keypad dons not change to landscape while using Plaringo. The problem is, unlike Maemo or Android and now the newer iPhone updates, the Wave doesn’t allow for integration of social networking contacts with your phone book contacts. Maybe the next firmware update would include that, but as is, it’s not available yet. The Samsung Apps option is still in its infancy and is nowhere near as loaded as Android’s, the Ovi Store or Apple’s App Store. The apps are still a long way off from being really relevant to what toady’s users want, but give it time.

Setting up email accounts (Push mail, Microsoft Exchange Activesync) is simple and very user friendly. Uploading images and videos to YouTube or other site is also simple process. The browser is great. It supports Flash content so you’ll get a desktop like experience.  For the Business class user, the Daily Briefing app will be very handy. It’s equipped with AccuWeather updates, Yahoo! Finance, AP Mobile for the latest news, and an option for you to check your daily schedule. The Wave comes with a built-in GPS module and A-GPS support with Samsung’s own navigation software preloaded. It takes awhile for the satellites to get picked up but once they do its smooth sailing from there.

The handset can also be tethered to your laptop or PC to be used as a modem to share your 3G or EDGE internet connection.

Misc. Features
There are quite a few handy features that the Wave comes loaded with. The basic features like the Calendar (syncs with your Facebook profile, Exchange Activesync), Alarm Clock (World Clock included), Voice Recorder, Calculator, memo pad and Tasks are present. A Mini Diary application is also available for taking pictures and creating notes to go along with them.

The Wave is equipped with a 5MP autofocus/Touchfocus camera that has an LED flash. It’s loaded with features that include Geo-tagging, face, blink and smile, Face Tagging, image stabilization, plenty of scene modes, omni-directional Auto Stitch Panaorma mode, Beauty shot, Vintage effects, White Balance, ISO up to 800 and a few more.

Image quality was not too great. In low light conditions pictures didn’t really seem to maintain a steady focus and usually appeared a little blurry. Outdoors, considering the weather, the greens stood out but quality was just average for a mobile phone camera. Macro shots looked quite good though, irrespective of lighting conditions. The Flash considerably brightens up dark areas but don’t expect clear images.

So, on the whole, the camera performed quite averagely. Don’t be fooled by the clear looking images on the handsets display the brilliant AMOLED screen makes everything look good. The Panorama mode is still one of the best you’ll find in the mobile phone segment.

On a single charge you’ll get about two days of usage if you’re always connected to the net for emails of social networking updates. Talk time averaged in at over 4 hours and 40 minutes which is excellent.

The Bottom Line
With a price tag of Rs. 17,200 (MOP) the Wave is a superb multimedia handset even if the camera didn’t perform as well as I’d hoped. It’s a well designed handset with quite a lot to offer users from all segments. Having said that, Bada is still a work in progress and does still require a few minor tweaks, but the Wave is still a handset that can compete with the best smartphones out there and if you’re looking for multimedia handset with all the trimmings, the Wave is definitely a top notch option.

Calling all users of the Samsung Wave, we'd like to know what your experiences are with the device. If you've had the same issues I have, I'd like to know. Please feel free to share your thoughts via our comments section.

Update: I managed to get my hands on a friends Smasung Wave this morning and here's what I found, I had the Samsung Navigation (Route 66) app pre-installed, his handset didn't.
He was able to veasily link his SN accounts with his phone book contacts but I was not. The problem we faced is that we were not able to link one contact with two SN accounts or a second phone number (unless copy pasted or entered manually), again that could be a fault with his device.
I was also able to easily use my test earphones and handsfree with his device with no issue.

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