Samsung Genio QWERTY
25th Mar 2010 | 18:14
The budget option for the BlackBerry lover
Samsung Genio QWERTY: Overview, design and handling
With a colourful chassis, full QWERTY keyboard and seriously budget price tag, the Samsung Genio QWERTY is squarely aimed at the younger social networker.
Available initially from Orange from under £70 on pre-pay, the Genio QWERTY is a very affordable alternative to BlackBerry-style message-centric devices.
It joins the low-cost touchscreen Genio Touch in Samsung's budget portfolio, with the Genio QWERTY leaving out the touch-and-swipe control interface and instead adopting a more conventional 2.2inch display and physical control system to wow its users.
It maintains the bright and colourful bodywork of the Genio Touch with swappable coloured back panels supplied in-box and others available as extras.
As well as emailing, texting and instant messaging capabilities, the Genio QWERTY is pitched at social network users.
The Orange-flavoured version we reviewed adds optimised online access to services via its Orange World portal, with links for services including Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, Picasa, Friendster and Photobucket.
There's no 3G to speed along online activity though (nor Wi-Fi, as you'd expect at this sort of price) – the Genio QWERTY is a quad-band GSM phone only, chomping through data at more modest GPRS/EDGE speeds.
The Samsung Genio QWERTY's onboard media capabilities include music and video player applications plus an FM radio – with a 3.5mm standard headphone jack so you can upgrade the supplied earphones.
Support for MicroSD card memory expansion is also included, and the Genio QWERTY's budget price tag is reflected in a modest 37MB of onboard storage.
The phone's camera snapping credentials are limited to a low-key 2MP camera on the back panel - but hey, you get what you pay for.
Design and handling
Samsung has trimmed costs with the display too. The 2.2-inch screen is a low-resolution (220x176 pixels) 65K-colour effort, rather than the sort of higher quality displays we've seen in recent Samsung devices.
That means graphics are a bit blockier and less refined, which is noticeable in graphic-rich applications such as web browsing and image viewing.
Like most BlackBerry-style devices, the display has a landscape orientation that's designed to be more messaging friendly on a wide-bodied device.
The Genio QWERTY's vital statistics – 110(h) x 59(w) x 12.9(d)mm and 94g – are slim and light enough to slip comfortably into a trouser pocket without questions over whether you're pleased to see people you meet.
Like the Genio Touch, its 'Fashion Jacket' back panel battery covers can be swapped. Included in our box were three such 'Jackets', in black, deep yellow and yellow with orange swirls, which work strikingly with the Genio QWERTY's glossy black with yellow and chrome trim front.
Side volume keys and the dedicated camera button on the side are splashed yellow, while the number keys on the QWERTY keyboard are also highlighted with yellow blocks, so you can quickly pick them out from the rest.
The 37-key QWERTY keypad isn't the most spacious we've encountered, although the four lines of keys are decently separated and contoured sufficiently.
This enabled accurate typing with one or two thumbs, and our large fingers didn't struggle too much in achieving reasonable typing speeds.
Among the QWERTY buttons are 'quick keys' for certain feature shortcuts, including new messages and the music player – although Samsung has also replicated some of these among its user interface shortcuts onscreen and via the navigation controls.
The control panel arrangement above the QWERTY keypad revolves around a typical navigation D-pad, which is nicely raised against the surface for quick and responsive thumb manipulation.
Immediately next to this are large softkey buttons, which initially feel oddly placed, as they're not adjacent to the relevant screen softkey options.
A bit of usage means you'll quickly get used it though. Call and End keys perch on either flank of the control panel, and again are pleasingly substantial.
Samsung Genio QWERTY: User interface
Without touchscreen goings-on, the Samsung Genio QWERTY's user interface is based on a conventional type of Samsung menu system, with a grid format main menu and subsequent lists and tabs as you proceed through the phone using the navigation keypad.
The navigation pad also prompts the usual feature shortcuts – out of the box these include new message, music player, and a buddy list.
The buddy list allows you to display five of your favourite contacts, with photos, enabling you to make calls or send texts quickly and to view logs of your communications.
However, the home screen does have some customisation features, including a quick-access 'shortcuts toolbar', and a sidebar option which is enabled out of the box on the Orange version of the handset.
Both of these options can be switched on or off from within the menus, and if they're on, they restrict the navigation pad shortcuts.
These shortcut toolbar features are easy to operate and intuitive. Rows of feature icons are displayed, which can be browsed through and selected from the navigation pad.
They're not particularly whizzy or sophisticated like Samsung's TouchWiz touchscreen widgets.
The shortcuts toolbar, which runs in a strip across the bottom of the display, can be edited to your tastes; five shortcuts are pre-set (messaging inbox, new message, music player, organiser and alarms), though up to 15 can be used, and all can be assigned to one of a dozen features or applications.
It's a useful option to have to hand, though not a particularly special feature.
Oddly, it's switched on or off via the phone's wallpaper menu rather than the separate Shortcuts Toolbar menu (which is used for editing options only).
With the Orange sidebar activated, though, the Shortcuts toolbar option can't be selected, as they won't work together, like some sort of Sharks and Jets dance face-off.
The out-of-the-box Orange sidebar can be switched off or activated via the Home screen menu options, again quirkily located in the Phone Settings menu rather than in the Display and Light menus.
Navigation of the sidebar differs slightly from the simple highlight-and-select shortcuts toolbar.
As you scroll down the sidebar, you can also scroll across to get additional options for that particular icon – for example, different messaging options under the Messages icon, or links to different parts of the Orange World portal from that icon.
Again, it's not particularly innovative, but it makes accessing certain applications quicker and easier directly from the home screen.
Not that the Genio QWERTY's menu system isn't accessible enough in itself. Samsung's convention of using numbers next to sub menu options for quick selection is used again here, cutting down on having to continuously scroll as you drill down through the sub menus.
Apart from the quirkily placed shortcuts settings mentioned above, most of the Genio QWERTY's menus appear straightforward to work through and uncluttered, so shouldn't present too many issues for Samsung newcomers.
Samsung Genio QWERTY: Calls
Although the numberpad is incorporated into the compact QWERTY keypad, it's not too difficult to accurately tap in new numbers.
The number keys are highlighted in bright yellow and arranged in conventional numberpad formation, so while they're not as finger-friendly as a generously proportioned keypad, they are easy enough to pick out.
Accessing contacts is straightforward, whichever shortcut set-up you opt for, and there are numerous fields you can add to the basic contact details on the handset.
As previously mentioned, you can set up a Buddy list as a shortcut, enabling you to view up to five favourite contacts on 'cards', with photo images assigned if available.
Selecting these enables you to call or text the individual contact, and you can see communications with Buddy contacts listed in chronological order.
The call performance of the Samsung Genio QWERTY came across loud and clear. We had sufficient volume at both ends and the earpiece sounded bright and pleasant during calls.
The phone also maintained a solidly reliable signal performance throughout our tests - something we're constantly noticing budget phones manage ahead of their much more expensive counterparts.
Samsung Genio QWERTY: Messaging
The core appeal of the Samsung Genio QWERTY is, of course, the QWERTY keyboard. While not everyone prefers these to a regular numberpad for texting, the Genio QWERTY does offer a very affordable option for those who do.
This style of keyboard, popularised by the BlackBerry, has been done by Samsung before, but the Genio QWERTY takes it down to mass market for those who want to pump out messages or do plenty of online social networking updates.
While the individual keys are quite tiny, they are sufficiently usable and we didn't have any major issues tapping away at it.
Sure, we'd have liked more room to stretch our fingers, but we found it accurate and were able to get reasonably good speeds with it, even with our large thumbs.
Changing texts to multimedia messages is a matter of pressing an Options softkey and selecting multimedia file to add from the phone (or memory card).
On the Orange-branded Genio QWERTY we reviewed, the Orange Messenger Windows Live Messenger-powered instant messaging application was pre-loaded, enabling users to get IM on the handset in a similar way to a desktop PC.
It also had Orange Email preloaded onto the phone's email client, which you can use to aggregate various email accounts into one account, if that appeals to you.
The email client also makes it reasonably straightforward to set up some regular web-based or ISP email accounts.
Settings are pre-installed for various popular email services, including Hotmail and Google Mail, and an email wizard takes you through the procedure to add your email account address, password and username for POP3 or IMAP4 email access.
If the email provider you want to use isn't included, you can type in details manually.
You can set up up to five different email accounts and switch between them when you select the email inbox option in the messaging menus.
The email user interface and functionality is pretty average though. It's a low-tier Samsung client, with a functional mobile phone look rather than being anything more desktop PC-style or BlackBerry-esque.
You can select headers you want to open, and basic no-frills text from the email is downloaded.
There was a limit, however, of 100 email headers at a time on our review sample, after which some had to be deleted – something many may find insufficient.
The phone does support attachment downloading and storing, although there isn't any document reader software to open them on the screen – you can view jpeg images, but not Word documents or PDFs, for example – which is a shame for a messaging-orientated device.
Overall, we'd have expected a bit more for a device clearly geared up for messaging as a priority feature.
Samsung Genio QWERTY: Internet
The lack of high-speed 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity hampers the web browsing capabilities of the Samsung Genio QWERTY.
The phone sports a familiar sort of lower range Samsung Access NetFront 3.5 browser.
This works adequately at negotiating mobile optimised sites, including BBC News and network operator portals, where speed isn't a huge issue.
It does trundle along slowly when downloading other full webpages, such as TechRadar, and it doesn't support Flash.
We also got 'insufficient memory' messages when downloading some webpages. It isn't ideally suited if you're after an enjoyable browsing experience – the screen also lacks the resolution of standard issue mobiles so visually isn't that attractive.
In addition, with an average mobile menu based user interface for selecting options, it's a less than slick browser.
There is the facility to use online social networking services on the SamsungGenio QWERTY, with links to Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, Picasa, Friendster and Photobucket.
The Orange-optimised model we reviewed provides a selection of services via its Orange World mobile phone-optimised portal. They do work adequately, but some may prefer a slicker online experience.
Samsung Genio QWERTY: Camera
The budget nature of the Samsung Genio QWERTY also becomes apparent when you turn to the camera. It's a low-key affair compared to some of Samsung's recent cameraphone efforts; it does the shooting essentials, but the 2-megapixel camera isn't high on quality imaging.
As you might expect from a down-range camera, it lacks autofocus and flash capabilities, so is more for casual fun snap-and-send shots than anything more serious.
The camera fires up in just a couple of seconds, displaying the viewfinder across the width of the landscape display.
You may find that this makes it slightly more intuitive to snap shots using the D-pad control rather than the camera side button.
The user interface is simple to operate, and includes a familiar array of regulation cameraphone settings options and effects to override the auto system.
These include white balance adjustment, multiple shots and mosaic images (which automatically shoot in low res), resolution setting options, night mode, timer, plus colour tinting effects and frames
Image results, though, are lacklustre and lack the level of detail you can get for a few quid more on other cameraphones. Colour balance is reasonable, and shots do look bright with natural colours.
MIXED SCENE: The 2-megapixel fixed focus camera on the Samsung Genio Qwerty is pretty basic – it's okay for snap'n'send images, but offers limited image detail and quality; here images are slightly soft and detail around trees and the sky is imprecise
CLOSE UP:The fixed focus lens means you can't choose the focal point for a shot, so close up images can't be sharply defined
STRONG LIGHT:Even in strong lighting conditions, images can be soft with subdued colour and lacking in detail
LONG RANGE:Longer-range shots aren't crisp, and in moderate lighting detail is poorly defined
MID RANGE:Mid-range shots also suffer from softness and lacklustre colour presentation
BRIGHT COLOUR:You can get okay shots reasonably close to the subject. Here, colour rendition is decent enough
MIXED SCENE:This street scene again shows a slightly subdued and soft image with a lack of definition
ARTIFICIAL LIGHT:For this grade of cameraphone, the autometering system does a reasonable job with artificial light in dark conditions, although without a flash in dark environments image quality is poor
In dark conditions, without a flash the night mode option doesn't offer much of an improvement to low light shooting, boosting gain but adding more noise to shots.
Overall, though, it's a low-grade budget snapper compared to other recent Samsung offerings.
Video shooting quality isn't up to much, with low resolution QCIF (176x144 pixels) recording at 15 frames per second providing basic quality images for even a low cost cameraphone.
Samsung Genio QWERTY: Media
The Samsung Genio QWERTY supports H.263, H.264, MPEG4 and WMV video file formats, although not DivX or Xvid files like some higher end Samsungs.
The screen space and resolution limit the quality and viewability you can expect from the player however.
The phone's music player provides a better than average audio performance however, with a 3.5mm standard headphone socket on top enabling you to upgrade the in-box ear-wear with your own earphones.
The supplied headset isn't bad, though – the in-ear earphones are a few notches above what you'd normally expect from a budget phone.
Sound quality is decent, delivering loud volume, plenty of low-end thump and an acceptable amount of detail.
It's not a particularly subtle performance, but it's more than you'd expect from a budget handset - and you can upgrade sound quality easily with better headphones.
The music player software is familiar Samsung stuff; tunes downloaded or sideloaded to the phone or slipped in on a memory card are automatically filed under appropriate categories.
The user interface is low-key but serviceable, and does the job. When playing, the D-pad takes care of control business in regular fashion, with cover art supported if available.
Among the other options, there are several equalizer sounds, shuffle control and so on. MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+ and WMA files are supported.
No USB data cable is supplied in-box nor Samsung PC Studio software – they're an optional extra if you want to copy over music that way.
You can still copy files via Bluetooth, or slip them in on a MicroSD card – the Genio QWERTY can accommodate cards up to 8GB. Orange Music Store service is also supported on Orange-branded handsets.
On top of the music player there's an FM radio function with RDS covering 87.5Mhz-108Mhz frequencies.
As well as being a breeze to tune in and use, either automatically or manually, you can record clips from the radio to play back on the phone.
Samsung Genio QWERTY: Battery and other features
Without 3G or higher spec power-hungry features like GPS or Wi-Fi to sap juice, the Samsung Genio QWERTY puts in a decent battery performance.
Samsung reckons on its 800mAh power pack clocking up up to 7.5 hours of talktime or up to 390 hours on standby.
In our tests, the handset doggedly kept going for 3-4 days between recharges with our normal phone usage. Extensive use of the music player or online services, though, could soon see you slim that performance down, however.
A regulation set of Samsung organiser functions are loaded onto the Genio QWERTY, including calendar, memo, tasks, world clock, calculator, converter and alarms.
All are straightforward to use and intuitive, with a functional layout and operation. A voice recorder, stopwatch and timer are also included.
The Samsung Genio QWERTY is a quad-band GSM 850/900/1800/1900 handset, and doesn't support 3G data connectivity, relying on GPRS/EDGE for online connectivity.
This limits its online speed for browsing and uploading or downloading content.
The handset supports stereo Bluetooth with A2DP, so you can use wireless stereo headsets and stream music to other Bluetooth devices such as wireless speakers.
While the phone supports USB connectivity via a MicroUSB port on the top of the phone, there's no USB cable included in-box (presumably for cost reasons).
No software disc for PC syncing is included either, though you could download the relevant Samsung PC Studio software online.
As mentioned previously, the Genio QWERTY does support MicroSD cards up to 8GB. The slot is under the back cover and requires the battery to be removed for access.
The Genio QWERTY doesn't do too much extra fancy stuff. There are a trio of demo versions of games, which you can buy if you like them.
A typing training application is included, just in case you've bought a QWERTY keyboard-packing phone without knowing how to type.
On the Orange version of the Genio QWERTY there's an Orange Widgets application that enables you to get online updates and headlines for sports, news, entertainment and weather, plus an online search facility.
The updates are effectively a series of RSS feed consolidated into one Widgets application, so nothing groundbreaking.
Samsung Genio QWERTY: Hands-on gallery
Samsung Genio QWERTY: Official gallery
Samsung Genio QWERTY: Verdict
Bringing a full QWERTY keyboard to the budget mobile market, the Samsung Genio QWERTY is device that will interest a particular type of buyer rather than have mass appeal.
The relatively cheap QWERTY keyboard is the chief draw, with a sprinkling of messaging functionality in that's aimed to grab the cash-strapped youth market.
A decent music player and colourful swappable casings add to the attraction.
However, it is a limited handset. The email messaging functionality is budget rather than top drawer, its browser is run of the mill and there's no 3G.
It doesn't have the largest or most detailed display and its camerawork is mediocre. Its social networking credentials aren't as well integrated either as a device such as the INQ Chat 3G, which costs a bit extra but delivers a better all-round package.
The QWERTY keyboard is small but perfectly manageable, even with our large fingers typing away.
The conventional menu layout is easy to follow and intuitive to operate, so newcomers should have no problems using it.
The music player offers a decent audio performance, with higher grade than average earphones supplied plus a standard 3.5mm headphone socket for easy upgrading to higher quality headphones, should you prefer to.
Colourful casings offer something a bit different to the normal business orientated BlackBerry look most QWERTY-equipped handsets adopt. Battery life was good too.
The display was disappointingly low resolution. The lack of 3G hampers the connection speeds for browsing and online services – some of the supposed attractions of the handset.
The browser, too, is standard issue average mobile browser that's functional but limited.
We were surprised that the email client wasn't more sophisticated for a messaging-centric handset.
It'll disappoint those expecting a near-desktop style experience. A lack of a USB cable and software reflects its budget status though we'd have liked to have them in-box for syncing.
The camera is a mediocre entry-level 2-megapixel shooter, with a poor video capture performance.
Samsung is aiming at a particular type of youthful buyer with its colourful, QWERTY keyboard-packing Genio QWERTY.
It does the basics well and its compact keyboard has a fast enough action for speedy mobile typing.
It offers some decent features, such as a good music player, though others, such as the camera, are limited and down-range.
Its messaging credentials are reasonably good for a budget model, if not the best around, and it is one of the cheapest models you can get if a QWERTY keyboard-equipped handset is what you're after.