Stills seemed to be decent quality, but we've definitely been more impressed with some of Samsung's other offerings. There are some basic presets for changing settings like white balance and metering, but the camera app is nowhere near as robust as that of the Galaxy S II. We found colors to be fairly washed out, and white balance to be pretty below par -- and lack of flash doesn't help matters. Though there's a macro mode, you've got to hold the handset extra steady else you risk an unintentional appearance by Mr. Blurrycam. There are various different shooting modes available, including single shot, continuous, smile shot, panorama, and "add me," which allows you to take two halves of a photo separately and then piece them together.
Our personal favorite mode was panorama, which automatically pieces together eight photos shot in succession. While the "panorama" effect worked like a dream in terms of correctly matching up the photos, our end results tended to look blurry and out of focus no matter what settings we tried to tinker with. It was much less of an issue outside than in, but even in good lighting our finished panoramas weren't as sharp as we'd have liked. It's unfortunate, because this is certainly a cool and unique feature out of the box, and would be pretty awesome if photo quality weren't an issue.
When it comes to video, the Galaxy Pro shoots in a measly QVGA resolution at 30 frames per second. There's no focus whatsoever when you're in video mode, and you can't capture at any resolution higher than 320 x 240, so don't be surprised when final results look like something from an LG flip phone circa 2004. There are options to shoot in black and white, sepia, or negative, so if you're trying to be artsy there's always that route.
We used the Galaxy Pro as our main device for a couple of days, and found that we were able to get through the day with regular use of 1350 mAh battery, but by around 7PM it was time to plug back in. We had full Google account synchronization running in the background (2 accounts), as well as regular Twitter use and some navigation with GPS. We also had WiFi turned on and spent some time generally tinkering with the device, but were definitely not using it particularly heavily. Android's battery monitoring app told us that the screen was the largest culprit of power drainage, followed second by cellular standby, which seems to be par for the course with devices these days.
On the software side, the Galaxy Pro ships with Froyo in tow instead of opting for the fresher Gingerbread. It's all topped with a serving of TouchWiz 3.0 UI, Samsung's customized skin that -- for better or worse -- overlays the OS you'd normally find on a pure vanilla Android device. The main change is the addition of four static icons along the right side of the homescreen that allow quick access to the full application tray, messaging, contacts, and dialer. You're given up to seven homescreens of 16 apps apiece to customize to your liking, but so far as we can tell those four on the right are there for better or worse. Like on the Galaxy S II
, Samsung's TouchWiz tweaks add some extra functionality to the Android recent apps switcher: with one click you're at the device task manager, which allows you to kill running apps to help save battery and processing power. Unfortunately, it lacks some of the motion sensor-enabled gestures that are present on the GSII -- though to be fair, that's running a more recent version of the TouchWiz suite.
As we hinted at earlier, Android is an operating system designed primarily for portrait use. It works alright in the landscape orientation, but with about half the screen real estate as other Android phones, the UI really suffers in certain regards. There are just too many menus that aren't optimized for the landscape format, and it results in an inefficiency in terms of how precious space is used. Despite Android's idiosyncratic landscape issues, some of the tweaks Samsung has made through TouchWiz make things even worse. Though we appreciate the addition of connection toggles (WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, etc) in the notifications tray, they take up a solid one-third of the screen, leaving not much room for actual notifications. Also, multitouch is nowhere to be found on the Galaxy Pro, eliminating the ability to use pinch-to-zoom in any of our favorite apps at all.
The Galaxy Pro ships with the standard suite of Google apps, including Gmail, Market, and Google Maps with Navigation, all of which suffer in one way or another from the smaller screen size. For example, in the Market app, half of the screen is dedicated to static coordinated Market content, while only the other half lets you scroll through apps and search results. When you tilt the phone sideways and kick it into portrait mode, though, you instantly see how it should display (with the featured content above search results). In Gmail, the smaller screen means that you don't get to see as much of a message onscreen because of the floating toolbar at the top and archive, delete, and next/previous along the bottom. It just serves as another example of unnecessary on-screen buttons for functions that could benefit from the physical keyboard. Google Maps worked well, as did turn-by-turn navigation, but the lack of pinch-to-zoom is a bummer when it now comes standard on so many other devices.
The browser is a stock Android implementation, but the small screen really kills much of the experience. Pages load in the WAP / mobile format by default, and so far as we can tell, there doesn't seem to be an option to change that. Since there's no pinch-to-zoom, you're stuck using the on-screen buttons or double-tapping, which in our experience didn't work as flawlessly as we would've liked. Also, since the resolution is only 320 x 240, text is pretty much illegible unless you're zoomed in. We couldn't find Flash Player available in the Market, and when we spoke to a rep we were told it wasn't showing because it's a UK handset, though it technically supports up to Flash 10.1.
The homescreen itself only functions in landscape mode, and doesn't re-orient when you flip the phone sideways (though we don't know why you'd ever use it that way). However, certain apps only function in portrait mode, and simply will not twist no matter how you contort your wrist. We learned this the hard way when we tried to Shazam a song. Even Twidroyd gave us some weirdness when switching between different views, especially with LivePreview enabled.
The review unit we were testing shipped with all screen animations set to off, which didn't instill much hope for performance with them enabled. Still, we of course flipped the switch to enable them, and didn't notice any drastic change in performance. The same goes for live wallpapers; while we didn't notice a significant change in performance, scrolling through homescreens did seem to slow down slightly. Of course, there's no telling what these fancy transitions would do for battery life, though we can assume it doesn't make your battery last longer.
The keyboard is physically connected, but the OS is completely disjoint from it aside from the text input. For example, in the Gmail app, you can only see three labels up at a time, and you can't even use the letter keys to jump to a particular one. However, in the browser you can
use the keyboard to jump to options in dialogs and such, which further confuses the issue. Samsung has added "Quick launch" shortcuts that allow you to quickly launch an app by hitting the search key and a letter, such as search+b to launch the browser. It's definitely a step in the right direction, but we still feel that the ball was dropped. There needs to be more integration with the keyboard at the system level, and that's probably something Google should address in a future revision to Android. The keyboard takes up half of the front face of the device, but its functionality is really limited.
The Galaxy Pro is definitely a unique little phone in a small subset of devices, and it certainly has its pros and cons. Though it has a keyboard, Samsung's layout makes typing on it almost as much as a chore as a virtual implementation. Lack of multitouch along with Samsung's added tweaks make the Android experience even less enjoyable on an already small screen. Its battery life is good enough to get you through the day, and performance seems decent enough, but you're not going to be playing graphics-intensive games on this phone aimed at current BlackBerry users. Overall, we really wanted to love this phone and kick the BlackBerry habit for good, but the drawbacks outweigh the advantages in this particular case, so we'll be sticking to our 'Berrys for now.