The first thing we noticed about Bada is that it's pleasantly fast, no doubt thanks to the sensitive capacitive touchscreen, speedy processor and heaps of RAM. It also never crashed on us, only popping an occasional cryptic error message. The second thing we noticed about Bada is that it's extremely familiar, mostly because the TouchWiz 3.0 interface is almost identical on the Wave and the Galaxy S
, despite the different underlying OSs. If you've ever used another phone with TouchWiz or even an Android device, you'll feel right at home. There are multiple home screens with widgets (but no shortcuts), an editable app tray which scrolls sideways, and a notification bar. Multitasking is included: holding the home key brings up a task manager (a la Symbian). Most Bada apps support long presses and feature a menu softkey similar to the menu hardkey in Android. Speaking of which, the Wave ships with a veritable cornucopia of bundled apps, most of them decent. There's also full Java support, plus the Samsung Apps app store, which strangely contained zero apps -- possibly because it's not technically launched in the US.
-based Dolphin web browser is one of the best we've used on a feature phone; it was able to render the Engadget site without drama (something some smartphones still struggle with
). Scrolling is snappy and pinch-to-zoom works as advertised.
There's no Flash support, however.
Update: There's support for Flash 9, but it's disabled by default. The email client handles Gmail (and other providers) via POP3, IMAP4, and Exchange ActiveSync (including contacts and calendar). Gmail setup requires some tweaks since POP3 is selected by default, and there's no way to mark multiple messages as read, but otherwise it works as expected (still, you're probably better served by Gmail's web and Java versions). There are also dedicated Twitter and FaceBook clients -- the interface won't win any awards, and sadly there's no way to upload pictures with the Twitter client, but the apps are usable. An IM client is included but it requires creating an account with yet another third party for configuration, something we're not too excited about. The "Route 66" maps app left us cold. There's nothing particularly wrong with it, but after years of navigating the world with Google and Ovi Maps, we're spoiled -- so we installed the Java version of Google Maps and called it a day.
Media is where the Wave shines, especially video playback. The music player sounds excellent and features a CoverFlow-like interface in landscape mode, but there's no gapless playback (the music pauses between tracks). The video player supports a staggering array of formats (including DIvX, XviD and MKV), and handles 720p flawlessly. The photo viewer is easy to navigate, with pinch-to-zoom and the aforementioned full suite of tools to edit, tag and upload your content. The Wave also provides some handy additional features, such as a WiFi hotspot (super rare for a feature phone) and Bluetooth / USB tethering, which we fully expect carriers to nix on subsidized models.
The Wave is a lot like a baby Galaxy S. What you lose in screen size and performance, you gain with better materials, build quality, battery life, and camera features (namely an LED flash and a dedicated 2-stage camera button). Bada, surprisingly, behaves a lot like a baby Android. It arguably provides the best feature phone experience currently available, but still leaves us craving for more. In North America, where we have 4 subsidized variants of the the Galaxy S to chose from, the Wave makes little sense (especially without the required 3G bands). But for the rest of the world, we're pretty sure the Wave is one of the best wannabe smartphones available.