It’s been six months and we’re still not sure why Samsung launched “bada”—their own proprietary operating system—and threw its nascent build headlong into a crowded mobile operating system war.
To be fair, it has worked fantastically for the company. Samsung expects to ship five million bada-powered devices by the end of FY11 and its flagship device—the Wave S8500—opened to surprisingly optimistic reviews (we called it “one of the best deals in the market today” back in July). But things are very different in the Indian mobile market now. Back then, the Wave S8500 was one of the few smartphones under the Rs20,000 mark. Today there are more than 20 phones below that mark from five different manufacturers, most powered by Google’s Android operating system.
Android’s also been responsible for taking smartphones below the Rs10,000 mark for a touch-screen smartphone—a space previously occupied by Samsung’s Corby range.
Bada needed to head down the value chain fast, and here’s the first effort from that scramble—the Rs8,800 Wave 2 or Wave 525. Samsung seems to be building itself a nice little spread of smartphones in every pie—there’s the Galaxy Tab at the top at Rs38,000, and the Galaxy S right below it at Rs28,000. The original Wave brings up the budget models at Rs19,000, followed by the Galaxy 3 and 5 at Rs12,000 and Rs10,000, respectively.
The Wave 525’s screen, while not AMOLED like the original Wave, is bright and clear, and the phone’s build quality is solid. Calls and contacts are easily managed, and the interface packs a few nice tweaks in it. In the SMS inbox, for example, you can swipe across a read message to the right to reply, and swipe left to call the sender. The 3.2 megapixel camera is adequate, and the phone includes the usual spread of required features: Bluetooth, GPS, Wi-Fi and a standard headphone jack. The phone allows you to access Wi-Fi hot spots even without a SIM inserted, making it useful as a small, secondary Internet access device.
The hardware in the Wave 525 isn’t as well-endowed as the original Wave, so there’s the slightest-ever hint of sluggishness in the phone. Bada’s interface is a hit-and-miss—some of the menus are a maze, reminiscent of Symbian Series 60, and something that should be done directly needs many clicks to access.
The app store is still poor (no Angry Birds!), but most of the apps you will use, such as Facebook and Twitter, come pre-installed. The browser isn’t as good as the ones on an Android phone, but Opera is available as an adequate alternative.
The Wave 525 is priced at Rs8,800. For approximately Rs1,000 more, you can pick up Samsung’s Android-powered Galaxy 5. It has Angry Birds.