Samsung SGH-i550W Mobile Phone - Review

Samsung SGH-i550W Mobile Phone - Review

Samsung SGH-i550W Mobile Phone - ReviewThis is not the first time Samsung is coming up with a Symbian S60 phone. In fact, there have been a number of models, such as the SGH-i520 in 2006 and the SGH-D730/SGH-D720 in 2005, but these were mainly for the European markets. Two years on, the Korean chaebol is once again bringing the S60 platform to some of its handsets. One of these is the SGH-i550W which we will be looking at.

For most people in the know, Nokia has been using S60 in its Nseries multimedia phones. With Samsung now joining the fray, things will likely become more interesting in the near future as this gives S60 loyalists another mobile phone brand to choose from.


Samsung is great at coming up with head-turning handset designs, but the i550W happens not to be one of those. Instead, it follows a very safe formula--black casing with a gray strip running around the sides, traces of metallic silver for a sophisticated look, a textured back casing that doesn't attract smudges, and the right size for a comfortable grip in hand.

The 2.5-inch QVGA screen takes up almost half of the phone's front, so it's inevitable that something else has to give. Our concerns were initially with the longish and thin alphanumeric keys which remind us of the ones on the Nokia N82 and Sony Ericsson W880i. Fortunately, our worries were unfounded. Although the keys are smaller compared with the traditional rectangular button, these are well-spaced-out and provide good tactile feedback.

Samsung SGH-i550W Mobile Phone - Front & RearPerhaps the most unique implementation on the i550W is the trackball which replaces the standard directional pad. Its role is to save us a few clicks by rolling to the desired point on the screen with a swiping motion. The flipside is we now have less precise control over the navigation compared with using the D-pad. Scrolling through long lists can also be a potential problem. For example, with the hardware keypad, pressing and holding down a button usually continues the scrolling, but with the trackball, we have to make a few swipes in the same direction.

The i550W comes with a 3.5mm audio port and that is on the top edge of the set covered by a protector. This lets us plug in our headset from the top, so there won't be anything protruding from the sides when the phone is in our pockets. Elsewhere, there's a microSD expansion card slot on the left and a connector port behind a sliding door on the right.


Usually by looking at the dedicated buttons on a phone, one would be able to tell the strongest feature on the unit, or how the device is positioned in the market. In the case of the i550W, Samsung has clearly given the built-in GPS priority over other features with its own hotkey. Of course, there's also Wi-Fi which has its logo at the top right corner. These two features are important, but they are not what makes the i550W compelling. It's the underlying Symbian S60 platform that made us sit up and take notice.

Like we mentioned earlier, the i550W isn't Samsung's first S60 phone and we are glad the company is bringing it back again. In recent years, the Symbian platform has been intimately linked to Nokia's Nseries handsets. So when one mentions S60, the Finnish company almost automatically comes to mind. Now, S60 loyalists are handed another reason to make the switch from Nokia, if they had previously held back.

Although the familiarity and the user interface of the Symbian S60 have been carried over to the i550W, Samsung didn't just leave it as is. The menu icons have been redesigned, so it looks different from the ones on the Nokia handsets. Ultimately, it's S60 in a different flavor, or theme, depending on how you look at it. That's good if you are already a seasoned user of the OS. Otherwise, it's only a matter of getting used to.

Previously, users who want built-in GPS on their phones had only Nokia to choose from. Now they have an additional option. The mapping solution is different on the i550W, though, at least we think so. Our prototype unit was loaded with Route 66 maps, but that may change when the commercial set comes along.

Connectivity options on the i550W are plentiful. Besides Wi-Fi, the triband phone comes with HSDPA and Blueooth stereo A2DP. There's also a 3.2-megapixel autofocus camera with built-in LED flash for snapshots and an FM radio for music over-the-air. According to the literature, the i550W uses a 1,200mAh cell which is rated for up to 7 hours of talktime and about 21 days on standby.


Overall, the i550W looks like a promising addition to Samsung's current lineup of mobile devices. The company has had Windows Mobile devices and, now with Symbian S60 onboard, things are going to be interesting. Put simply, there's almost an OS for everyone. Although we weren't able to test out many of the i550W's features on our production set, suffice to say that the specifications of the unit already give it a lot of headroom in an otherwise saturated market segment. Built-in GPS is, of course, a bonus, though we're not sure how much impact that would have on the battery life.

We'll update this first take with a full review once a commercial set is available. At the time of writing, the i550W was slated for end-February in Singapore.