Samsung Galaxy Y
16th Feb 2012 | 12:10
Samsung's latest low cost Android smartphone
We've now updated our review to reflect our findings with a fully working version of the Samsung Galaxy Y - including a price drop to under £90.
Samsung wants to cater for a range of users, not just those wanting the biggest, fastest and most media hungry phones and the Samsung Galaxy Y looks to bring functionality to the low-end range.
The 'Y' stands for 'Young', which clearly signals the market this phone is targeted at. The Galaxy Y sells itself as a budget Android device which allows you to keep updated on the go, from poking your friends to tweeting what you had for lunch.
The Galaxy Y is low on specs, but this means it is also low in price – available for free on contracts starting from just £9.99 per month, or £90 on PAYG, making it very competitive. A SIM-free option will set you back around £115.
The Galaxy Y is a dinky device measuring 104 x 58 x 11.5mm and housing a 3-inch QVGA (240x320) TFT touchscreen.
You'll notice that the screen is certainly petit, but Android 2.3.5 (Gingerbread) still works well – albeit looking rather grainy due to the low-res TFT display.
Pick the Galaxy Y up and it sits nicely in the hand; the rounded textured back provides a comfortable and firm grip while weighing in at 97.5g grams giving a solid feel without seeming heavy.
The build quality of the Galaxy Y is sturdy with no flex in the handset when pressure is applied. The back cover is plastic but it fits snugly on the phone and when removed feels thick enough not to be a worry.
Flip that handset over and you're greeted with a 2MP camera and speaker, which has a raised grill – bit of an odd feature but is likely there to provide a bit of distance between the lens and a surface when placed on a side.
There is just one button on the right hand side which is the power/lock key. Thanks to the Galaxy Y's small size, it is easy to reach when using one handed.
Move to the top and there is a 3.5mm headphone jack and a covered microUSB port. Providing you have not bitten your nails off, the cover is easy to remove.
On the left of the handset there is a volume rocker switch and hole where a lanyard can be fitted - if you're in to that sort of thing.
The is not much happening on the base of the Galaxy Y, just a microphone pin-hole and a dent in the chassis to allow you to take the back cover off – which we did with ease.
Back to the front and it's the classic Samsung three button combo below the screen, with touch Back and Menu buttons flanking a physical Home button. The Home button has a premium textured look and feel which seemed out of place on the budget Galaxy Y. It made us shudder if we caught it with our nail, as it felt like scraping your hand down a blackboard. We also found the touch buttons quite unresponsive, requiring firm taps to register.
Under the hood there is an 830MHz processor powered by a 1200mAh battery. The Galaxy Y is not going to be winning any speed races and it shows when using the phone with it slow to start up and load apps, but we expect this from cheap handsets.
Samsung has stuck a miserly 160MB of internal memory inside which can thankfully be upgraded to 32GB with a microSD card. Granted it's a budget handset, but even the San Francisco 2 and Wildfire S offer 512MB.
The Samsung Galaxy Y ships with Android 2.3.5 (Gingerbread) but with the specs it's packing don't expect an upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich. Ever.
Samsung has slapped its TouchWiz interface onto the operating system which is simple to use and relatively easy on the eye.
However due to the 830MHz processor the Galaxy Y lacks the zip TouchWiz has on high-end phones such as the Galaxy S2, with the overall experience a bit laggy.
Widgets are available, but with just three home screens and a tiny display you'll want to pick and choose very carefully which ones you want taking up that valuable real estate. Compare that to the HTC Wildfire S and its severn home screens and you may feel like you've been a little bit robbed.
Hold down on a free space on a home screen to open up the Galaxy Y widget menu. The basics are there including; clock, weather and date options, news feeds, email and YouTube.
Don't expect any particularly fancy options though – there's no calendar or notes app for example. You can't resize widgets like with the Galaxy S2, which is probably a good thing given the amount of space you're provided with.
Apps are stored in the applications area, which is denoted by the blue button with four white squares on the home screen. Apps are displayed in no particular order, but you can re-order them to suit your taste. Press the menu touch button and select edit to move or delete apps.
Due to the small screen, just 12 apps are displayed at a time, so if you have a tendency to download a lot you will find yourself sifting through reams of pages.
Folders can be created the same way as widgets on the homescreens to allow some organisation of apps. However you are unable to place folders in the app draw, which means there is no escape from those endless pages – frustrating.
Menus on the Galaxy Y have been given a nice splash of colour, notably in the Settings area which gives a pleasant appearance.
The TouchWiz interface is simple to operate and works well even on a small screen. Don't expect to be dazzled with 3D animations, but we were able to find our way around without too much hassle.
Contacts and Calling
On the Samsung Galaxy Y contacts can be accessed via the dedicated app or the phone app. You can select how the contacts are ordered and displayed in the settings, by forename or surname.
Images can be associated with a contact and you are able to add multiple numbers and emails addresses to a person along with various other details such as birthdays.
Social media integration is included with the Galaxy Y able to pull your contacts from Facebook and Twitter allowing you to match them up and although this is simple to do, it has to be done contact by contact. There's no slick mechanism to do it automatrically as there is on the Wildfire S thanks a feature in HTC's Sense interface.
A nice feature of Samsung's TouchWiz interface is the ability to view history, activity and media exchanges between yourself and each contact. Great if you need to see what call/message/picture you sent to you're mates after one to many beers the night before.
Adding, editing and deleting contacts is easy and the Galaxy Y gives you the option to save the contact to the phone, SIM or Google – depending how you want to be set up.
For those of you who have numerous friends you may find navigating the long list of contacts tricky on the small screen. Only 4 contacts fit on the screen at a time – but there is a search bar available allowing you to quickly jump to a contact.
Call quality was respectable and we didn't find any issues with signal dropping. The people we called said they were able to hear us fine and the speaker volume was adequate, even in noisy locations.
The call screen is easy to use with quick buttons to bring up the keypad, put the phone on speaker and add people to the call.
Making a call can be done through the phone and contacts apps. Even on the small screen the number pad is big enough not to cause problems. Smart dialling is supported with the Galaxy Y, providing you with suggested contacts as you start typing a number.
The TouchWiz interface makes contacts and calling easy and the Galaxy Y performs well. The only issue here is the size of the screen can make it fiddly at times.
The Samsung Galaxy Y offers the standard array of messaging options including SMS, email and social media.
As with most Android phones the Galaxy Y comes with Gmail and Email apps – annoyingly keeping your Gmail separate to your other email accounts, although you can add your Gmail account in the Email app as well.
Social Hub is a bundled Samsung app which allows you to pull in your social media feeds such as Facebook and Twitter along with your traditional SMS and email communications to one central place.
Unfortunately there is no unified inbox – a feature found in this app running on the more advanced Samsung handsets such as the Galaxy Ace. You are just greeted with a list of your accounts and you have to select each one individually to view.
It's a little surprising that the Facebook and Twitter apps are not pre-loaded onto the Galaxy Y, especially as it is aimed at the youth market and sells itself on being a way to stay in touch with your friends via various communications methods. A quick trip to the Android Market sorts this out though.
There is a dedicated Messaging app which allows you to send witty texts to the masses. It is easy to open up a new message and select the contacts from your list, but as soon as the onscreen keyboard pops up the trouble starts.
The screen on the Galaxy Y is just too small for a full QWERTY keyboard and we found ourselves continuously hitting the wrong letters as we desperately tried to tap out a message to our mum saying we would be late for tea.
There is slight relief when you turn the handset into landscape mode to get a better spaced keyboard, but this hides any message you may be responding to.
Even with the extra space we still found the keyboard lacking, with response poor and incorrect key hits still occurring at an unacceptable frequency.
The Galaxy Y is able to deliver the principles of messaging well, with an easy to use navigation system albeit lacking dedicated apps and a unified inbox. However for a phone which is marketing itself at the youth of today who are keen to stay connected the quality of the keyboard is a real hindrance – making message a chore instead of a rapid response.
The Samsung Galaxy Y packs a standard Android internet browser, but due to the weedy processor and low res display browsing the web is a basic experience.
There is 3G and 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi on board to aid you in your online pursuits, so all hope is not lost.
Content heavy websites take time to load and images appear grainy on a display which is far better suited to text.
The classic pinch-to-zoom functionality is present and correct, however there is no text-reflow when zoomed in. This makes reading pages a frustrating experiencing as we found ourselves scrolling left and right to get through an article.
Flash is not supported, thanks to the low grade processor sitting in the Galaxy Y, so don't hold out hopes for fancy websites or crazy videos.
Bookmarking is featured and the browser provides a tiled display which makes adding and selecting bookmarks an easy task.
The Samsung Galaxy Y provides the bare bones of online browsing, but thanks to a sub-standard processor, poor display and lack of flash support don't expect to be whizzing round the web at any pace.
There is just the one camera on the Samsung Galaxy Y and it is not going to set your world on fire. It is a rear-facing 2MP snapper capable of capturing images up to 1600 x 1200.
There is no flash, no tap to focus and no auto-focus. Think of this as the no-frills budget-airline of mobile phone cameras. The Orange San Francisco 2 on the other hand sports two cameras, with the rear one boasting 5MP, flash and auto-focus.
As you would expect from a low-end mobile, the camera function is basic with only a few options to choose from. The camera app takes just over one second to open while shutter speed is sluggish with a one to two second delay between shots.
A 2x digital zoom is present if you need to get closer to your subject, but resolution deteriorates the more you zoom.
The camera struggled to balance between the lighter and darker areas of the image above.
When the subject has a balanced light, the camera performs better but the result is still grainy.
The zoom works reasonably well given the quality of the lens.
The camera struggles to cope with the colours on the TV in this indoor shot.
There are 3 shooting modes to choose from; single shot, smile shot and panorama. When in smile shot mode the app prompts you to press the shutter button, but won't take a picture until it detects a smile.
Panorama mode allows you to stitch up to 8 images together to form one long image. The feature works but it didn't wow us, with the image turning out quite blurred as you can see above.
Effects can be added to the camera with the choice of negative, black & white and sepia.
Indoor TV image using the negative effect.
Indoor TV image using the black and white effect.
Indoor TV image using the sepia effect.
You can also choose from eight scene modes; landscape, night, party/indoor, sunset, dawn, fall colour, candlelight and backlight. This is a surprisingly high number of options for a camera which produces low quality images.
If you fancy tweaking the settings further (although we're not sure why you would bother) the Galaxy Y allows you to change the white balance and brightness of the camera.
The camera is easy to use and the settings are straight forward, however with such a low quality lens don't expect to produce superb images.
It's pretty obvious that the Samsung Galaxy Y is not a media machine with its entry-level specification better suited to the more basic mobile tasks.
Internal memory is a pitiful 160MB, however a 2GB microSD card does come in the box and the Galaxy Y can support up to a 32GB card.
Wi-Fi capabilities feature to help with downloading, but there is no DNLA streaming option unlike the Galaxy S2.
There is a basic music player app pre-loaded on the phone providing you the ability to create playlists on the move and a nice feature in the notification bar allowing you to skip and play/pause tracks without having to open the app.
The Galaxy Y supports MP3, WAV and eAAC+ music file formats.
However there is no accompanying homescreen widget, which some may find annoying.
Audio playback is acceptable for an entry-level phone. The Samsung Galaxy Y is able to deliver reasonable treble and bass tones as long as the volume is not at maximum level.
You'll also find an FM radio app on board which uses headphones as an antenna. It is a basic app allowing you to save 4 stations as favourites and features a simple dial to manual tune or arrow keys to auto tune allowing you to quickly jump through stations.
Due to small screen and budget focus of the Galaxy Y we were not surprised to find no dedicated video player app pre-installed, but there are several available for free in the Android market if you need one. Videos are stored in the gallery among photos, which can make finding a video a slow task. Playback supports MP4, WMV and H.264 formats and is simple to use with play/pause and skip buttons, plus the ability to scrub (skip through the video).
Playback quality is acceptable given the screen which is included on the Galaxy Y. It's fine for watching the odd YouTube clip and thanks to its small size also comfortable to hold, but we wouldn't use it to watch films or TV shows.
Battery Life and apps
The Galaxy Y packs a 1200 mAh Li-Ion battery which can provide a quoted standby time of 540 hours (3G) and 6 hour 20 mins (3G) talk time.
We found after a days moderate use we still had some battery left, but a nightly charge is required if you're surfing the web and playing music frequently, due to the small nature of the juice pack.
Connectivity wise the Samsung Galaxy Y covers all the main bases which is impressive for a low-end phone; with Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, A-GPS, Bluetooth 3.0 and a microUSB port all on board. It will even let you use it as a wireless hotspot, allowing you to use the phone network to browse the web on a laptop or another Wi-Fi enabled device.
Samsung's own desktop software Kies allows you to easily pull information on and off the Galaxy Y and the update to version 2.0 of the software has seen it become more stable and relatively user friendly. Kies allows you to easily see what content is on your phone and computer and transfer between the two without fuss.
There are very little in the way of additional apps pre-loaded onto the Galaxy Y, you don't even get Facebook and Twitter on a phone that sells itself to the youth of today.
What you do get is a bit of Samsung bloat-ware like the totally pointless Samsung Apps app – which is a greatly reduced Android Market - and the slightly more useful Social Hub and voice recorder and search apps.
Quickoffice finds its way on board allowing you to view and edit Word, Excel, Powerpoint and PDF documents; however on such a small screen you may not want to bother.
As with all Android devices the Galaxy Y comes with Google Maps pre-loaded and it is really the only map solution you need. Thanks to the A-GPS on board your Galaxy Y can also be your sat-nav, with Google's free turn by turn navigation also included. The small screen size can make it hard to view the directions on screen while driving, but it's not bad for a budget phone.
However the under-powered processor comes back to haunt you as maps are slow to load and the Galaxy Y takes a while to find your location - around 20 seconds in our test.
There is no question about it the Samsung Galaxy Y is certainly a budget smartphone. It packs all the basic features but it will not blow you away.
For the price it is hard to knock. The Galaxy Y gives you Android, a camera, video camera, music player, web browser and even a sat-nav for around £100.
It is lightweight, pocket friendly, comfortable to hold and Samsung's TouchWiz interface makes it easy to use which will suit first time smartphone users who are likely to be drawn to this handset.
Unfortunately the Samsung Galaxy Y does have its downfalls, from the small screen that makes browsing the web or watching video a less than enjoyable experience to the poor keyboard which had us pressing more wrong keys than right.
The camera is not as good as competitors' and the screen resolution is noticeably average. The value-brand processor also makes a noticeable difference when trying to perform demanding actions with slow down and lag a common occurrence.
So is this the top budget phone around and should little Darren and Sharon be saving up their pocket money for a Galaxy Y? Sadly no.
Samsung has by no means done a bad job with the Galaxy Y, but there are better alternatives out there for the money. The HTC Wildfire S and Orange San Francisco 2 are both just a bit more polished and back beefier specs – nudging the Samsung Galaxy Y to the back of the class.
Thanks to Expansys for sending over our review model