Outstanding battery and a great screen, but poor browsing experience
At around £270 sim-free, the Wave 2 is strictly in the mid-tier of smartphones - a good £100 cheaper than its stablemate the Samsung Galaxy S, while on paper offering many a similar camera and interface. Running Samsung’s own Bada interface instead of Android, does it still appeal?
Constructed from metal, the Wave 2 feels solid, with a stylish two-tone black and grey design. At 135g it’s light and 11.8mm deep very slim. On the top you get a 3.5mm jack and microUSB slot with plastic cover that slides up. Dedicated buttons for camera and lock are on one side, and volume is on the other (the latter is quite stiff to press).
Specifications are very similar to its predecessor. There’s 2GB internal memory as well as a microSD, N WiFi, 3G and Bluetooth 3.0. The 1GHZ processor ensures it never feels slow, even when you’re swapping between multiple web pages.
Samsung Wave 2: Screen
One are that has been improved is the screen. It has been boosted from 3.3-inch to 3.7-inches, with a resolution of 480x800. This time however, it's SUPER Clear LCD screen instead of Super AMOLED. We're guessing the price and shortage of AMOLED are behind this decision.
Side-by-side, the Wave 2's screen isn't quite as impressive as the AMOLED of the Galaxy S. Blacks aren't quite as deep, while contrast and off-angle viewing aren't as good either. It's a similar story when you put the Wave 2 next to the iPhone 4 with its Retina display. However, the Wave 2 still has an excellent screen, certainly better than most phones at this price point, such as the HTC Wildfire and LG Optimus One.
Movies look fantastic - our HD test clips were smooth, with lots of detail, contrast and respectable off-angle viewing. Colours are bright – but a bit too oversaturated; when streaming an Inception trailer from You Tube, skin tones in particular are very warm.
The touchscreen is very responsive, so it’s a real shame text is a pain to read on some websites using the on-board browser - especially those that aren't optimsed for mobile. Double tap to zoom in on the text, but on some websites (like T3.com) it is too small to read, especially when in portrait orientation. It enlarges when you zoom in, using pinch to zoom, but then the text doesn’t wrap to fit. It also seems quite buggy, informing us some web pages were too big to display.
Samsung Wave 2: Software
The Wave 2 runs Bada. Samsung’s own UI. Initially it looks very similar to the Galaxy, thanks to the excellent Touch Wiz UI overlay, which is exceptionally easy to use with its bright, colour icons. Although you can't move icons around, we like the way you can choose to have the applications you use most at the top of the list.
Hold down the homescreen button to see what applications are running or press it twice too access a good phonesearch facility. A swipe down on the homescreen (in a clear nod to Android) lets you quickly turn Bluetooth and WiFi on and off and view message notifications.
Flick smoothly through the screens adding up to 10. Customisation isn’t as flexible as Android though. Click the Widget button and you can drag widgets (such as AccuWeather and Dual Clock) onto the homescreen, unfortunately you can’t have app shortcuts - such as Facebook and Twitter - on the homescreen. Instead you have to use the Samsung 'Feeds and Updates' widget instead, which is fine.
We like the Social Hub that brings all your accounts together, click ‘compose message’ and select whether you want to send a message using Email, Twitter or Facebook. It’s easy to sync contacts with Facebook and Twitter, although you have to link them together manually.
Where Bada really suffers is the lack of apps. Although Samsung is adding to it all the time, it just can't compete with Android. There's no Ebay, Angry Birds and more frustatingly considering the browser issues, no Opera Mini or Dolphin Browser.
Samsung Wave 2: Video and camera
Pictures taken using the 5-megapixel camera are good rather than amazing. While we’re pleased there’s a dedicated shutter - which is certainly preferable to a touchscreen - it’s not amazingly quick; if you’re not careful pictures can easily become blurred. Make tweaks using five white balance presets; ISO settings from 50-800 (noise is clearly visible at ISO 800) and filters including sepia, negative, watercolour and mono. Blink detection works well, illustrating blinking subjects with a red square on the picture.
Like the Wave it captures 720p movies, it’s a shame it’s not 1080p, but it’s still good, although there’s no HDMI out. The on-board speaker is very loud – far louder than we’ve heard on most smartphones - although it distorts badly at upper levels. Plug in a good pair of speakers though and the sound impresses, the phone automatically detects if a video clip supports 5.1-channels and with a tap of the button it replictates the effect. It really adds an immersive sound especially when watching movies clips. With eight equaliser settings, music sounds good too. Music controls are fairly simple and if you lock the phone you can still adjust the volume.
Samsung Wave 2: Battery and keyboard
In portrait mode the virtual keyboard is quite small for larger fingers, although auto correct is fantastic, we tested it with a series of quick careless texts and every typo was detected. Alternatively dragging your finger over the letters to create words works well too.
If we had to recommend the Wave 2 for one thing, it’s battery performance. We easily got two days use and that was with moderate calling, texting, browsing, some music playback and WiFi on all evening.
In summary, we've mixed feelings about the Samsung Wave. It's not a massive update to the original Wave and certainly not worth upgrading too. However it's well built, the screen is excellent (although we'd still have liked Super AMOLED) and the UI is intuitive. However the browser really needs improving and the interface suffers next to the customisation of Android, and of course, app choice is poor.
In terms of its camera and touchscreen, the Wave 2 it's viable alternative for anyone who who can't afford the Samsung Galaxy S or Galaxy S II, but isn't bothered about features. Instead the Wave 2 sits in the mid-tier smartphone market with the LG Optimus One and Nokia C5-03 and HTC Wildfire, and certainly is a viable alternative to either of these.
Samsung Wave 2 launch date: Out now, link Samsung
Samsung Wave 2 price: £250-£310