If you’re in the market for a budget Android phone then chances are you’ll be having a tough time making up your mind as there are so many of the blighters around. The Samsung Galaxy Europa (GT-i5500) offers Wi-Fi, 3G and Bluetooth, along with 140MB of internal memory and a 2.8-inch touchscreen.
At first glance, the Europa looks classy enough with its shiny, black fascia and metallic frame and snappy silver Google logo on the back. However, once you get it in your hand, it feels a little flimsy. The upside of that is that it weighs just 102g meaning that you can barely feel the weight of it in your bag, and measuring in at 56 x 108 x 12.3mm, it’s certainly small and slim enough to fit into your pocket. The glossy back panel means that your phone will be plastered with smudgy fingerprints soon enough and it is something of a dust magnet as well, but the asymmetrically curved back does make it comfortable to hold.
Along with a four-way navigation button encircling a Confirm button, you’ll also get the tell-tale selection of Android buttons – Menu, Home, Back and Search, along with dial and end keys. There is a volume up and down button on the side of the handset, although it is in a slightly awkward place, meaning that you have to adjust your typical “phone-holding” position to use it. Just underneath the volume buttons, you’ll find the Micro-USB connector which you can use to charge the phone through your computer or with the supplied power adaptor.
The 2.8-inch TFT-LCD screen is a little on the small side and sports a rather low 240 x 320-pixel resolution. This means that while you can easily watch a video clip or two, the images are rather soft so you wouldn’t want to watch anything too demanding and you certainly wouldn’t be able to sit through an entire TV programme. Surprisingly the touchscreen is capacitive, rather than resistive which is what you’d expect to find on an entry-level smartphone. The Europa uses Samsung’s TouchWiz UI, which is pleasingly zippy and responsive. Likewise, navigating around the menu screens is child’s play, particularly if you’re already used to the Android interface.
You’ll find all the usual suspects once you delve into the apps screen, including the calendar, camera, maps, browser, YouTube and Android Market, among others. There’s also an icon for Samsung Apps, with Samsung continuing to offer their own spin on apps. On our review device the Samsung apps offering was empty, but if other devices are anything to go by, it won’t contain anything wildly exciting anyway.
When it comes to texting, the alphanumeric keypad is actually a fair size compared to many similarly priced phones, but if you turn the phone on its side and use it in landscape mode a QWERTY keyboard pops up, making typing much easier.
Powered by the relatively up-to-date Android 2.1 (Eclair), the handset boasts an improved user interface compared to those that still use older versions. Sporting 512MB of RAM and packing 600MHz of processing power, the Europa is quite snappy, although it can a bit clunky if you have more than one app running at a time.
There are seven customisable home screens, although the main home screen is on the far left whereas we find it easier to have it in the middle – although that’s really down to personal taste. At the foot of each home screen you’ll find three icons, one for the phone dialler, one for contacts, and one for the main apps menu.
You’ll get a slightly measly 140MB of user memory, along with a 1GB microSD card, which you’ll need if you intend to store any multimedia files. You can, of course, upgrade the memory capacity by investing in a 32GB microSD card.
The capacitive touchscreen makes web browsing fairly smooth and accurate, although the low resolution means you lose a fair bit of clarity when zooming in and Samsung hasn’t included multi-touch support.
The phone’s cripplingly mediocre 2-megapixel camera is a bit of a disappointment, even on an entry-level phone. This is the sort of photo capability that we would have expected to see on a phone about 5 years ago or more. Unsurprisingly, the pictures aren’t very good quality, as there’s no autofocus. You can add various effects such as sepia and monochrome, but these don’t really help with the relatively poor quality of the original snaps.
The Europa also includes the Write and Go universal text composer which enables you to type in the text first then select the destination, whether it’s a text message, calendar entry or a status update. Other features include a 3.5mm jack on the top edge of the handset for plugging in the supplied headphones and an FM radio with RDS.
You can pick up the Europa for around £169.99 SIM free, or about £120 on a PAYG basis. If you’d rather opt for a contract, you can get the Europa from £15 a month.
There’s no getting away from the fact that the Samsung Galaxy Europa is a fairly average mobile phone. The tiny screen with its low resolution and the poor camera don’t do much to help its cause. However, the inclusion of a capacitive touchscreen is something of a boon on a phone in this price range so we have to give credit for that. And although the design might not win any awards, it’s not bad either and the phone is certainly compact.