Samsung Galaxy S Advance £330
2nd Jul 2012 | 13:35
A mid-range Galaxy smartphone to impress Android fans
Not content with adding the Galaxy S2 and Galaxy S3 handsets to its flagship smartphone lineup, Samsung is looking to capitalise on its leading Android line with the Samsung Galaxy S Advance, a mobile phone that arcs back to the original model, combining a selection of high-end specs with a revision of the now iconic styling.
Landing under the alternate moniker of the Samsung I9070, the Samsung Galaxy S Advance features an amalgamation of many impressive handset factors, with the firmly mid-range price tag of £330 in the UK ($330 in the US) for a SIM-free phone being pushed by a collection of impressive specs and a sleek, functional, if far from unique user experience.
Building on the base of the original Samsung Galaxy S handset, the Samsung Galaxy S Advance boasts a zippy Cortex-A9 1GHz dual-core processor, with the multi-core CPU running the show to much aplomb, despite falling behind the recent onslaught of quad-core smartphone monsters.
Joining the dual-core processor to keep things running along nicely, the Samsung Galaxy S Advance hosts 768MB of RAM, with the handset once again offering more than its mid-range price tag would usually suggest, with phone owners given the option of 8GB or 16GB storage capacity offerings, a feature usually reserved for the top-of-the-line cream of the smartphone crop. This can also be extended with up to 32GB of external memory.
While the speedy innards will see the Samsung Galaxy S Advance measure up as a mid-market mobile phone powerhouse, many will be looking to the smartphone's entertainment features before heading to a retailer, and on this front the S Advance offers a mixed bag of tricks.
With a 5-megapixel camera on the rear, Samsung's smartphone falls back within the confines of the standard mid-market offering with 720p HD video recording capabilities featured as another now expected specification.
With a second, 1.3-megapixel camera on the front, video calls are made possible. Elsewhere, inbuilt speakers, an integrated MP3 player and FM radio capabilities further enhance the entertainment options in an increasingly expected, less than groundbreaking fashion.
Featuring a 4-inch Super AMOLED display with an impressive 480 x 800p image resolution, Samsung has maintained its run of fitting its handsets with some of the most eye-catching and dazzling displays on the market.
Although not the HD offering found on the latest high-end offerings, the 233PPI images offered by the Corning Gorilla Glass-covered display remain some of the best on the mid-market scene.
Landing with the usual array of 3G and Wi-Fi internet connectivity options and Google's Android 2.3 Gingerbread operating system under the hood, there's no immediate Ice Cream Sandwich update available.
So the Samsung Galaxy S Advance is lining up a little behind new rival Sony and HTC handsets that are currently making it into stores, and consumer's hands, with the near year-old Android 4.0.
With that said, given the device's £330/$330 SIM-free price tag, the Samsung Galaxy S Advance is brilliant value for the money, offering an array of specs superior to the market-leading handsets of barely 12 months ago, at a wallet-loving mark that is making such services and handset abilities available to a wider audience.
Design and feel
Like the original Samsung Galaxy S handset and the Samsung Galaxy S2 that followed, the Samsung Galaxy S Advance is a well-constructed - albeit largely plastic - smartphone with the compact, rounded edged finish fitting comfortably in the hand and offering little in terms of unwanted and unnerving flex when put under considerable amounts of pressure.
At just 4 inches in size, the Advance is considerably smaller than its 4.3-inch Samsung Galaxy S2 sibling and positively dwarfed by the industry-leading 4.8-inch Samsung Galaxy S3.
Despite this smaller form, however, the 9.7mm thick handset, which is larger than Apple's 3.5-inch iPhone, is heavier than its higher specced S2, with its 120g heft a mere 4 grams more than the now year-old handset.
Despite these added millimetres and grams, the Samsung Galaxy S Advance does not feel weighty or cumbersome in the hand, with the smooth backed, angular edged and rounded corner design sitting comfortably between your digits and offering a more reassuring feel than the larger, lighter, more unnerving Galaxy S2.
With few physical buttons detracting from the smooth and stylish form, those that are on the Samsung Galaxy S Advance offer little concern in terms of accidental presses, with the oversized, centrally located home button joined by a right side-mounted sleep-come-power button and physical volume controls featuring on the left of the handset.
Although these power and volume buttons line up in areas usually covered by your thumbs or fingers when held in conventional left and right-handed manners, thanks to their reassuring stiffness, there is little concern about unwanted presses turning the phone's display off or muting the handset during audio playback.
Despite being a largely plastic affair, the Samsung Galaxy S Advance stands up well to the everyday knocks and drops that are an unavoidable part of a smartphone's lifespan, with the Gorilla Glass display keeping the handset safe from some pretty hefty bangs and large spills to concrete that snuck into our test without intention.
Again helping to maintain the phone's sleek, appealing form factor, just two connection ports tarnish the smooth finish, with both the micro USB charging socket and 3.5mm audio jack lining up out of sight and out of mind on the handset's base.
Bringing Google's Android 2.3 Gingerbread operating system and the company's TouchWiz 4.0 user interface to the mix, Samsung has transformed the Galaxy S Advance's impressive array of innards and attractive styling into a handset that is simple and pleasant to use, if far from unique.
With a near-identical interface to that found on the full selection of Galaxy-branded smartphones, from the Samsung Galaxy S2 all the way down to the budget model Samsung Galaxy Y, there is little to set the Samsung Galaxy S Advance apart from a number of largely similarly specced phones that feature near-identical styling and, in some cases, lower price points.
Away from the lack of individuality, the Samsung Galaxy S Advance is an impressive handset in terms of usability. Thanks largely to its Gingerbread-flavoured Android OS, the handset boasts a friendly user experience.
The seven available home screens are easily managed and customised with a selection of pre-installed widgets and app shortcuts that bring the device to life with little fuss or fanfare.
With the standard centralised menu offering single-click instant access to the full selection of available applications, navigating through the handset's menus and features is handled with ease, as the 4-inch Super AMOLED display proves highly responsive.
Further enhancing the simplistic swipe to navigate system, the Samsung Galaxy S Advance features pressure and power-responsive scrolling with strong sweeping motions offering fast, flowing transitions while small, subtle finger movements result in slow and incremental changes to the on-screen content.
Despite featuring a 1GHz dual-core processor and 768MB of RAM, the Samsung Galaxy S Advance is surprisingly sluggish to exit applications and return to the home screen when commanded.
Featuring a very noticeable stutter, each press of the physical home button is followed by a pause before the handset finally kicks into action and returns you to the lead of the seven available and fully customisable home screens.
A welcome and recognisable experience for any consumers who have handled previous Android handsets, the Samsung Galaxy S Advance is simplistic and intuitive enough to enable first time smartphone users to pick up the basics in a matter of moments, with more advanced features quickly following.
Contacts, calling and messaging
Yet another example of the uniformity being introduced by Samsung's onslaught of Android and TouchWiz-combining handsets, the Samsung Galaxy S Advance's contact and calling features are highly functional and comfortably wrapped within a pleasant user experience.
Sadly, however, there is nothing to distinguish this phone's credentials from those found on the lower range Galaxy Ace, or any other of the expanding Galaxy-branded family.
Easily accessible from a home screen-placed icon, the contacts applications are standard Android fare, with you able to access information based on alphabetical listings or via a Favourites option that offers quick access to your most frequent acquaintances.
Offering an element of customisation to the contacts options, Groups bring improved access to desired details and help maintain relationships in an organised fashion.
The Samsung Galaxy S Advance enables quick, simple creation of new contact cards thanks to a basic, template-based input option.
But the selection of features is not as robust as some of the handset's rivals, with the omission of social network linking meaning a complete, well-rounded selection of centrally located communication methods is sadly unavailable.
On the calling side of things, the expansion of the original Samsung Galaxy S handset is somewhat below par, with calls often accompanied by an unusually high amount of echoing.
This irritating quirk detracts from the content of the call and quickly becomes a nuisance, prompting you to opt for alternative means of communication.
Although we suffered no dropped calls during our time with the Samsung Galaxy S Advance, the handset's reception could have been stronger, with the smartphone never appearing to match the signal strengths of rival phones in near identical locations.
Much like the handset's contact and calling features, the messaging abilities of the Samsung Galaxy S Advance are a very samey affair, with the functional email and SMS services proving simple to set up and use while remaining an unoriginal copy of those found on a selection of other mobile phones.
Offering you no unique selling point that will set the handset apart from the increasingly crowded collection of mid-range smartphones, the Samsung Galaxy S Advance's messaging abilities are limited to the usual text and email services with no pre-installed social networking options included from the box.
While the lack of pre-installed Facebook and Twitter applications is now an unexpected omission, despite their availability as free downloads, it is perhaps even stranger to see Google miss the opportunity to fill the handset with its own Google+ social offering, a service that despite little use is popping up on an increasing number of Android devices with heavy integration.
With messages simple to set up, craft and send, Swype input abilities built within Samsung's TouchWiz UI enhance the handset's input options, with those using the Samsung Galaxy S Advance to craft extensive emails or text messages able to do so with relative ease and in a zippy fashion.
Speeding the typing process along, the inclusion of Swype features sees the usual, time-strenuous individual key tap option replaced by a more intuitive swipe to select service.
As well as making text input sharper, the Swype features help counteract the cramped, somewhat fiddly on-screen QWERTY keyboard option presented by the Samsung Galaxy S Advance.
Less than comfortable to use when holding the handset in a standard portrait manner, switch the smartphone to a landscape orientation and the keyboard becomes more user-friendly, with the keys upping in size and the spaces between input options made more manageable.
Internet, maps and apps
Once again, past users of Samsung-flavoured Android handsets will find a familiar browsing experience when using the Samsung Galaxy S Advance to venture online.
Simple, basic and with few unessential bells and whistles, the handset's browser offers little variety on past models.
While the incorporated browser makes inputting URLs a relatively simple experience, the service would benefit from a dedicated '.com' shortcut button on the pop-up QWERTY keyboard.
A feature that is present on most handsets heading to market, the button's omission won't tarnish the Samsung Galaxy S Advance's reputation, but it will certainly act as an irritant to those who splash out on the device.
With 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity options, the Samsung Galaxy S Advance will keep you online wherever you are.
While 3G signals could benefit from being a little stronger, the handset's Wi-Fi connections prove robust and easy to set up, with Android's intuitive platform once again coming into its own to enable you to sync the handset with your home networks.
Once online, the Samsung Galaxy S Advance fails to find its feet and fully live up to expectations.
Open a web page and instead of being met by a web formatted, content-rich page, the handset offers a heavily zoomed in, almost cropped view, with the sizing issues forcing you to repeatedly pinch to zoom out in order to absorb a standard section of content.
Further held back by its lack of text reflow, the Samsung Galaxy S Advance's browser is made up of a collection of under-performing aspects with the handset's impressive scrolling and responsive content moving features disappearing to be replaced by a jumpy, jilted experience that will have you turning to the Google Play Store in order to download a replacement browser.
With the Samsung Galaxy S Advance running the now dated Android 2.3 Gingerbread operating system, in terms of pre-installed content it means the handset is a little behind the times, packing the now defunct Android Market.
While signing up to this service will see the phone automatically updated and revised to the replacement Google Play service, the mere presence of the dated download offering is a strong reminder of the handset's lack of an up-to-date operating system.
While the new Google Play market might offer a more attractive, user-friendly shopping experience, the digital retail outlet is still littered with randomly priced content, giving the service a more fiddly, cluttered feel that fails to live up to the uniformity of the genre-defining Apple App Store.
Examples of these seemingly random, and at times irksome, pricing structures come in the form of EA's NBA JAM game, priced at £3.20 in the UK or $4.99 in the US, and the £5.36/$6.99 Minecraft Pocket Edition. Both of these are considerably cheaper to buy in the App Store for iOS devices.
For those not wanting to be completely reliant on Google's rapidly expanding selection of systems and services, Samsung has integrated its own application outlet, with Samsung Apps providing a condensed collection of Android apps at occasionally inflated prices.
Although a selection of free daily apps help build your selection of handset content without attacking your wallets, the fact that certain applications that are free in the Google Play store cost as much as £1.25 (around $1.95) through Samsung's own-branded service is enough to turn even the most loyal of fans away.
While the Android Gingerbread operating system might be a little dated, thanks to its Google branding its comes filled with the company's hugely impressive mapping software option, the aptly named Google Maps.
Offering more of the same - although in this case that isn't a bad thing - Google Maps enables you to quickly and simply determine your location and gain handy navigation options to desired destinations. Working with the smartphone's inbuilt GPS settings, it proves speedy and accurate.
One of the most coveted features of any smartphone, the 5 megapixel rear-mounted camera on the Samsung Galaxy S Advance is a largely impressive affair, packing an LED flash and punching above its weight to capture a selection of great-looking and eye-catching snaps.
Despite these plus points, however, as with many areas of this dual-core handset, this doesn't mean the snapper isn't without its faults.
Far from the best camera in terms of well-rounded light management, the Samsung Galaxy S Advance frequently struggles when faced with variable and challenging natural lighting conditions, with the handset's snapper often failing to find a mutually beneficial balance between the areas of light and shadow.
Struggling in more areas than simple light management, the inbuilt camera features a shutter speed that is a long way from setting the world alight.
Ensuring you don't whip your handset out to capture a quick passing shot, the sluggish shutter can result in missed shots and create a selection of photographs filled with areas of blurring and distortion.
Not quite up to par with the 8-megapixel cameras currently filtering down to the Advance's mid-range market rivals or those featuring on the high-end smartphones it is trying to undercut on price, the S Advance isn't without merit.
When taking shots of well lit, static subjects, the results are very positive, with bold, vibrant colours paired with sharp, distinct edges and noticeable depth.
While there's a selection of both free and paid-for apps in the Google Play Store that will see your snaps take on a selection of eye catching forms and effects, the Samsung Galaxy S Advance touts its own array of basic snap adaptions, with you able to give your images a greyscale, sepia or negative makeover.
While these effects are rather rudimentary, the results can be highly impressive when used in the right situations.
Complementing the 5MP snapper on the rear, a 1.3MP camera lines up on the front of the phone to offer surprisingly impressive, albeit largely flat images, as well as the now customary yet little used option of video calls.
Like its stills snapping counterpart, the Samsung Galaxy S Advance's video camera is a combination of largely impressive results and occasionally poor and disappointing light management.
Capable of capturing 720p HD footage, the current standard of mid-market smartphones, the inbuilt video recording capabilities do not handle variable lighting conditions well.
Video shot in darker areas is filled with noise distortion, while those in areas of strong, direct light feature diluted block colours, with little subtleties nothing more than a hope.
Offering fewer areas of image customisation than the standard stills camera, the Samsung Galaxy S Advance's video recorder enables you to do little more than alter the quality of recordings and make less than subtle alterations to the white balance.
Again falling slightly below par, the video recorder's accompanying audio capturing abilities do little to enhance self-shot video playback, with even moderately loud sounds filling recordings with hugely distorted audio that makes former coherent words little more than an amalgamation of crackles.
Despite these niggling issues, the video recording features found on the Samsung Galaxy S Advance add up to an overall strong package, with you able to capture video content that is pleasant to watch back and savour the memories you were determined to record.
Media, battery and connectivity
An all-round handset that hits the mark on multiple fronts, the Samsung Galaxy S Advance is not let down by its multimedia capabilities, despite featuring an inbuilt speaker that is far from impressive and offers little in terms of bass yet creates a considerable amount of distortion and crackle at high volumes.
With the standard MP3 player integration offering an outlet for your music on the go, the PMP abilities are yet another example of Android's efficiency that has seen the market flooded with a number of marginally different handsets that give the Samsung Galaxy S Advance little room to work with.
Bringing what can be a largely stoic aspect of a smartphone's feature bag to life, Samsung's TouchWiz UI and the Samsung Galaxy S Advance's multi-touch display and gyroscope have combined to use a selection of tilt to zoom and pan options that have been made available alongside the standard pinch-to-zoom offerings.
Elsewhere, with a selection of advanced image editing apps available from the Google Play store, those looking to make minor adjustments to their handset-shot snaps or downloaded images need not venture to the retail outlet with a selection of basic editing options pre-installed in the media-friendly handset.
Enabling you to crop and adapt images, the Samsung Galaxy S Advance will be a friend to those looking to make minor adjustments to their snaps before being shared via the likes of Facebook and Twitter.
Media can be stored in the phone's inbuilt 8GB or 16GB storage capacity, which can be extended via up to 32GB of external memory.
With the Samsung Galaxy S2 and the newly launched Samsung Galaxy S3 being two of the heaviest handsets on their limited battery lives, the Korean manufacturer faces marginally improved performances in the incorporated 1,500mAh Lithium-ion battery.
Samsung touts a 550 hour 3G standby time and the 7 hour 20 minute talk time, which come into fruition.
More importantly, the handset tackles the 24-hour single charge challenge, managing to go the distance under a natural day's use when we did everything from checking emails and browsing the web to making calls, sending texts and downloading a selection of handset-filling apps.
Aside from the strong Wi-Fi and 3G connections that leave room for improvement, the Samsung Galaxy S Advance plays host to the standard collection of connectivity options, including Bluetooth.
Thanks to the micro USB adaptor, it can be synced with your PC, enabling data transfers at a reasonable rate of knots
Despite being made in 8GB and 16GB storage forms, Samsung has retained the handset's optional microSD card slot under the bonnet, an option that enables increased storage and offers you the chance to rapidly shift content between devices.
Hands on and official gallery
A smartphone that will never live up to the likes of its older Samsung Galaxy S2 sibling or new Samsung Galaxy S3 overlord, the Samsung Galaxy S Advance does its intended job well, providing a mid-market handset that's more than capable of living up to the former high-end phones coming to the end of their 18 month contracts.
Comfortable in the hand and zippy under instruction, the Samsung Galaxy S Advance is a strong collaboration of both style and substance, with the sleekly finished handset packing a powerful punch that is backed up by a selection of strong user features and some impressive entertainment options.
With few physical controls or connection ports distracting from the eye-catching finish, the Samsung Galaxy S Advance is a strong contender for the leading mid-market smartphone with the impressive, if far from perfect, camera and video collaboration performing well alongside an operating system and user interface combination that offers a simple, intuitive and pleasant experience from start to finish.
Despite offering a smooth flowing user experience, the adaptation of the original Samsung Galaxy S fails to set the world alight on any front, with the Android 2.3 Gingerbread and TouchWiz combination pairing for the umpteenth time to create a handset that fails to distinguish itself from its near countless similarly branded counterparts.
With a web browser that struggles to come close to the experiences offered by a number of rival handsets, venturing online with the Samsung Galaxy S Advance will see you face an infuriating collection of niggling issues that detract from the phone's usually sleek interface.
Entering an area of the market filled with competition, the Samsung Galaxy S Advance sets itself apart on a hardware front more than on the software side of things.
Relatively samey to phones that have preceded it, the handset's saving grace is one that is hard to argue with - a £330/$330 price that will have your wallets as happy as you are with your latest smartphone that will last you until the Samsung Galaxy S3 becomes old hat.