Lately, we've seen a myriad of Samsung mobile phones powered by the Symbian platform in the race to produce a mobile device that merges both simplicity and productivity. The Samsung SGH-i550W seems intent on that purpose and is designed as a Symbian powerhouse that could give its competitors a run for their money.
Out of the box, the i550W gives a slightly lackluster impression due to its plastic build. Nonetheless, this is the reason why it's only 109g, which bodes well for consumers with a penchant for lighter phones. On the display front, Samsung is definitely generous, delivering a 2.6" TFT screen with 262k colors while supporting a standard resolution of 240 x 320 pixels.
Moving downwards, we had a slight grouse with the i550W's keypad design. Like the Nokia's N82, the individual numeric keys are too thin for effective typing, though it does have a greater degree of traction for a better tactile feel as opposed to the N82's smoother keys. We also found the trackball sensitivity to be lacking compared to the Blackberry Pearl series. Besides the standard Call and End button, there are two user assigned shortcut keys and four dedicated shortcuts for the Main Menu, Web Browser, GPS and Multimedia.
The volume control and microSD slot is located on the left while a dedicated camera button is situated at the bottom right. Here, we also found a nifty little spot for the USB slot, utilized for both PC and audio connectivity. The design of the USB slot was quite intriguing, as it uses a sliding door mechanism instead of the standard swivel design. And to give users more options for their listening pleasure, Samsung has also made the wise move of providing an additional 3.5mm audio jack beside the power button at the top of the phone. That scores extra brownie points with us.
As the i550W runs Symbian's S60, comparisons between it and any other similarly S60 based Nokia devices are inevitable. Looking beyond the all too familiar interface, we checked through its full functionality including WLAN 802.11b/g, HSDPA, and GPS. While we did not have the chance to test its HSDPA connectivity, we triggered the WLAN and Bluetooth 2.0 for the duration of our tests and got a decent lifespan of up to almost 2 days with moderate calls and text messaging. As for its navigation aspect, we took the i550W out on a clear day to determine the speed of its GPS connectivity. Failing to get a swift satellite lock with the bundled NavFone GPS application, we switched over to Google Maps and managed to receive a faster GPS lock, with the aid of the bundled GPS+ software (that downloads GPS satellite data for faster satellite lock, similar to Assisted GPS).
With the inclusion of a 3.5mm audio jack, we had high hopes for the multimedia capability of the i550W and tested it with a few selected 192kbps tracks. Vocal clarity was good, with a moderate amount of bass for heavier tracks. The 3.2-megapixel camera also did a pretty decent job, aided in part by the autofocus lens. Both indoor and outdoor shots turned out as well as we expected, though night shooting proved to be a weakness of the camera even with the presence of the LED flash.
Equipped with a strong suite of connectivity options that puts it in the league of the Nokia N series, the i550W has the makings of a successful formula that might appear in future Samsung mobile devices. More importantly, with the aggressive moves by Samsung to provide competitive prices for their mobile devices, we were not surprised at the recommended retail price of S$738 for the i550W, with an even lower pricing expected if you sign up a plan with your service provider.