A couple of months ago I had to unexpectedly bid farewell to my faithful Sony Ericsson C902 phone. For all its retro standings in the smartphone stakes, the camera was great, and the phone was robust. However, it was no match for a Macbook Pro falling from it at height – you may say it saved me a lot of money in breaking the fall – perhaps.
I am not a high maintenance phone user, with no contract. The landline, email, texting or skype does me fine and looks after my money, though I have been a very reliable, predictable customer to my mobile phone network for ten or more years. I didn’t want to put myself into a contract, but I did want to break into the smartphone world with my replacement handset – especially with all my work on content for ReallyAppy and Nonvert.
Without a contract, I was faced with the prospect of purchasing a phone outright. I spent several hours and several evenings reading reviews and watching videos or all manner of HTC, Nokia, Samsung phones, and gaping at the cost of iPhones and trying out a friend’s iPhone 3 (prior to iOS 5). Yes, I was mislead about the newer options in the iPhone, but neither was I able to shell out the money for the handset or a suitable data plan to feed the hungry thing.
Eventually, after much deliberation, I settled for the Samsung Galaxy Ace, which turned out to be at the centre of the patent war between Samsung and Apple, and is apparently now banned in the Netherlands. I can see why, as can my iPhone owning friends who are surprised at the similarities.
The Ace is not powerful enough to support Flash, which at first seemed a little odd, but doesn’t bother me all that much. The YouTube app triggers pretty much seamlessly should I want to play a video on a website through the browser.
Many reviewers had a dispute with the battery life. Not being a heavy caller, I do find that I can make the phone last 2 days with light usage, but 1.5 days and on all night is usually enough to make it display ‘connect charger’ on the standby screen. I may be getting longer battery life because although I leave wireless on, I have data transfer switched off due to a lack of suitable data plan, which prevents a lot of background syncing.
When the battery life does get low, the phone appears to switch itself off, though I’ve never caught it in the act. My C902 used to have a fault that was either common or occasional in the handset depending on how lucky you were. I saw it switch off in front of my eyes twice while idle and on good battery life – however I have yet to catch the Ace doing this. Instead, it likes to switch off in my pocket, which I suspect may be to do with the power button being situated on the edge of the phone. Still, this behaviour correlates far more with battery being low.
The initial keypad configuration was quite tricky to use – narrow like vertical iPhone keyboard but for a touchscreen newbie, a little too much. I have opted for the traditional keypad with multiple letters on each key for vertical and the qwerty horizontal keyboard when I require it. The most irritating thing about the vertical keyboard is the lack of apostrophe – one must use horizontal qwerty to get that character, a nightmare for strange people like me who insist on using correct punctuation even in IM and text messages.
Writing text messages can be quite amusing on the Ace. It uses text prediction – for some strange reason I must type ‘no sheep’ quite often, as ‘sheep’ will always be predicted after ‘no’ in my messages. At times when I use IM such as whatsapp that can have comic results especially as I struggled to not clip keys by accident.
However the prediction can be quite useful as it seems to use names and details out of its phonebook and teaching it words is pain-free (having just taught it ‘blogging’). There is the swype keyboard entry – its meant to hold a world record for speed. I may go back to have another go at it, but I did not find it as intuitive as typing with straight prediction in the first few weeks.
Calls are great quality, and the camera is super too – see my photo set for some examples. I recently used the camera on bonfire night and made us of the ‘fireworks’ setting. The flash is bright and clear, and it takes speedy photos. In comparison to my c902 the only disappointment has been that it seems to be more sensitive to light levels when taking panoramic photos. If anything, the zoom is better on the ACE – though they both have 5MP cameras.
The ACE comes with its own headphones for handsfree and an alternative colour back (white or black). The headphone socket is universal, which I have used to advantage with an audio cable for the car and my own headphones at work. The charger plug is also for data and a standard type of USB which is handy. I tend to carry the charger with me if I am not home at night so I can charge it that night or the next day, but its tiny and weighs practically nothing. Alternatively I can charge from a computer’s USB port.
Connecting & Bluetooth
I have not been successful in using the Samsung Kies software with the ACE due to its incompatibility with the phone and my Macbook. However, I am used to using bluetooth and after quite a while of being rather puzzled at how I could upload files via my standard mac bluetooth but not see files on the phone using it, I discovered that one needs to set bluetooth visibility individually on each file to make it visible. Once discovered, everything was fine, but it could benefit from a ‘select all’ functionality. Also I cannot delete using bluetooth, but there is a ‘select all > delete’ on the phone to please my clear-the-decks requirements after downloading photos.
Altogether, I have probably had the most teething problems of all the phones I have owned, with the Ace, but I half expect it as not only do smartphones use a lot of power, they are more complicated by design. For the money I paid at the time, there wasn’t much in the market, but I do wonder if I had paid out a little more, I might have got something a little faster, and a little more reliable – but probably a lot heavier, and bigger…