February 22, 2013


Samsung Galaxy S GT-I9003 is branded for India as Galaxy S LCD 4GB but elsewhere it is available as Galaxy SL (16GB version). Personally, I would call it a toned down substitute of Galaxy S I9000. It indeed was surprising to see this version out so late and almost a year after the launch of Galaxy S I9000 handset. Had the handset arrived alongside or at least three months after the GT-I9000 launch, it would have made more sense and would have sold more.

Samsung has introduced this new Galaxy S LCD 4GB loaded with Android 2.2.1 Froyo by default. Despite clear technical differences between this handset and the Galaxy S I9000, people can't help but compare both devices. Throughout the review, I would be referring it as GT-I9003 and the Galaxy S as GT-I9000, just to avoid confusion.

Currently, there's a dearth of Galaxy S I9000 handsets and the shortage of Super AMOLED displays has been cited as the main reason behind this. Obviously, Samsung has moved on to the new Super AMOLED Plus technology that is better and has been used in upcoming handset - Samsung Galaxy S II GT-I9100.

In the absence of GT-I9000, you'd certainly like to know about an Android device that looks almost the same and is packed with a few new goodies in it. Before you get to know how Galaxy S LCD performs, take a look at the differences between both the phones.

 Characteristic GT-I9003 GT-I9000
 Display Technology  Super LCD (C-Type) Super AMOLED
 Operating System Android 2.2.1 Froyo Android 2.1 Eclair (now with 2.2)
 Processor 1GHz TI OMAP 3630 1GHz Samsung Hummingbird
 GPU PowerVR SGX530 PowerVR SGX540
 Bluetooth 2.1 3.0
 Storage 4GB 8GB/16GB
 Thickness 10.6mm 9.9mm
 Weight 131g 118g
 Height 123.7mm122.4mm

From the above table, it is clear that Galaxy S LCD would stay behind a bit in terms of graphic and processing performance. Both smartphones have processors running at the clock speed of 1GHz but due to different manufacturing design differences, there could be a marginal variation in their performance. The TI OMAP 3630 CPU is the same which has been used in the Motorola Droid X. 

Design and Build

Firstly, let's get over the handset's Apple iPhone like looks. Samsung did it with Galaxy S and now has kept the same design for Galaxy S LCD. When the Galaxy S GT-I9000 and GT-I9003 are placed next to each other with non-active screens, there's hardly any visible difference. Technically, there's a slight difference in weight and height between both devices. The overall finish of GT-I9003 is almost the same with rectangular Home button and two capacitive keys - Menu and Back.

Galaxy S GT-I9000 vs. Galaxy S LCD GT-I9003
Galaxy S GT-I9000 alongside the GT-I9003

With a glossy finish, the plastic body of the GT-I9003 quickly catches fingerprint smudges and requires frequent wiping to ensure that the screen appears clean. Despite gaining some thickness and a bit of height, the new Galaxy S LCD indeed is slim.

Galaxy S LCD has a 4-inch Super Clear LCD display which supports multi-touch and offers 480x800 pixel resolution. It is needless to state the display is big enough to watch a 720p HD video and pinch-zoom the photos or webpages. Oh yes, the display does support pinch and zoom gestures for the home screen, photos, web pages, documents and in several other apps. 

GT-I9003 vs GT-I9000

Slim Twins

At the back, lies a speaker that is decent enough in places filled with ambient sounds. This smartphone has a 5 megapixel camera albeit without LED Flash. Looks like Samsung did not hear several users and geeks ranting about the lack of LED Flash in Galaxy S I9000. Most likely, the GT-I9003 has been manufactured using the GT-I9000 reference design as well as parts. The latter seems a more plausible reason.

To the right lies the Power/Lock button and on the left lies the Volume rocker keys. On the top lies the 3.5mm audio port and next to it is the MicroUSB (USB 2.0) port covered with a sliding lid. The SIM card slot and the microSD card slot are located at the back panel cover. This phone comes with 4GB internal storage out of which you will get only 1.5GB free for installing apps or putting multimedia on it.

Task Manager

Both Samsung Galaxy S GT-I9000 and S LCD GT-I9003 have 512MB RAM but since the latter houses a different processor and GPU, the available RAM is more - 478MB.

Update: The Super Clear LCD display does come with the Gorilla Glass Technology. 

Operating System and Interface

The Galaxy S LCD GT-I9003 comes with Android 2.2.1 Froyo by default unlike the Galaxy S GT-I9000 preloaded with Android 2.1 Eclair. But the recent Galaxy S GT-I9000 devices already had the Froyo update running on them. The Android 2.2.1 Froyo richness has Samsung's proprietary TouchWiz 3.0 UI running on it which also brings a few useful features. After unboxing the smartphone, I plugged it to Samsung Kies to get Froyo build update and later connected to Wi-Fi for updating the Google Apps.

Galaxy S GT-I9003 has new lock screen that can be unlocked by swiping on either sides instead of swiping it upwards. The smartphone retains the homescreen like the one on GT-9000 and has seven panes. If you pinch across the touchscreen, you'll get to see all seven panes stacked up in the editing mode. For adding widgets or changing the wallpaper, press and hold anywhere on the active homescreen to get the pop-up menu. Samsung has added a couple of new live wallpapers but do remember that live wallpapers tend to eat up a lot of battery life. The bottom of the screen shows the usual icons wherein the right most is the gateway to the Applications Menu.
Home screen & Apps

The TouchWiz 3.0 UI over the Android 2.2.1 Froyo brings a built-in Task Manager which is so amazing that you won't need to install other Task Managers from the Android Market. The built-in task manager is slick and very easy to use. It shows details about running apps, downloaded apps, RAM being used and Storage details.

Samsung bada OS had intuitive swipe gestures implemented in the Phonebook. The same feature has been added to the GT-I9003 and so while using the Phonebook, if you swipe left to right on a contact, you can make a call to that contact. Swiping right to left will let you compose a new text message to the respective contact. This swipe implementation is certainly cool. The Phonebook also gets the SNS (Social Network Services) Integration so you'll get to see activities of your contacts on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and your office's Microsoft Exchange supporting accounts as well.

Swipe Interface

Most important improvement has been made in to the Status Bar - the Toggle switches given in Bada OS have been implemented to the Android 2.2.1 Interface. When you pull down the Notifications bearing Status Bar, you'll find the Toggle Switches for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, Silent Mode and Auto Rotation lock. That indeed is very helpful.

Heavy text messaging users can make the best of the built-in SWYPE feature that is a predictive text input technology meant for faster text input. It comes with a very limited library of its own but is programmed to learn from the words that exist on your mobile in your contacts, texts, notes, web browsing history and documents. To activate SWYPE, keep your finger tip pressed in the input area and a pop-up menu option will show up asking you to choose between SWYPE and Samsung Keyboard. Samsung has also added the Nuance developed XT9 predictive text input for those who type out loads of emails and text messages via their phones. Clearly, typing is good fun for those who try and get used with the SWYPE as well as XT9. For the rest like me, we will have to struggle with wrong key presses and use the Backspace key a lot.

ThinkFree documents viewer and editor comes quite handy while editing your documents while you are on the move. You can also sync your documents to the ThinkFree virtual storage if you have an account.

The eBook reader resembles the iBooks App on the Apple iOS. However, if you are not comfortable with the UI then you can certainly get the Adobe Reader from the Android Market. 

Ebooks Reader

Social Hub and Samsung Apps store are pre-installed but it was a bit painful to get it activated. I had to register with two different IDs for Samsung Account and Social Hub. Do note that the Social Hub Premium is a device specific service and the Samsung Social Hub's Facebook Pageclarifies:

Social Hub premium service is device-specific for some countries. For instance, Social Hub Premium is available on Wave II (S8530), Galaxy Tab (P1000), and Galaxy Ace (S5830) in India.

This is an Android handset so you can sync your contacts to your Google Account. Alternatively, you can save them on Phone or SIM.

Google Voice Search has been integrated but it hardly worked for me even though I tried to mimic accents. So, the trick is to choose English (India) language from Settings > Voice Input and Output > Google Voice Recognition Settings > Language. After having done that, the Google Voice search will work like a charm BUT only if you've data connection active- GPRS or Wi-Fi. I recommend using Wi-Fi settings for better results.

The only function I found annoying and buggy was the automatic screen rotation which would turn the portrait mode to landscape even when I had held the phone upright. I believe Samsung needs to fix bug with the ASR.

Multimedia Walkthrough

Watching photos on the phone's 4-inch display is fun. The built-in Gallery App shows up all photos and the videos on your phone as well as microSD card storage. The Gallery App has a nice user interface with photos stacked up and distributed in different album groups like Camera, Screenshots, Others and Videos in Media. You can edit or share an entire album by pressing and holding your finger for more than a second. You will get bars on top and bottom of the window that will offer you options for selecting the photos and details. You can either Select all or Delete them all at once. Alternatively, you can share these photos with others via Picasa, Bluetooth, Gmail or as MMS. You can also arrange your photos by different options like by date. 

Every album will show photos in stacked or grid views and these views can be adjusted with a small toggle slider located on the top right corner.
Gallery & Radio

Even though the smartphone has a 5 megapixel camera sensor, it gives an average performance with noise in the photo quality. Of course you're going to miss the LED Flash and it will make several hold a grudge against Samsung for a long time. The camera has several shooting modes like single shot, smile shot, panorama and action shot - amateurs can expect decent performance. Just like other smartphones, the camera offers Negative, Black & White and Sepia options. You can fiddle around with the ISO settings and white balance to get the required image quality. 

Samsung has added enough settings for getting good quality photos which clearly turn futile while shooting after dawn. The camera is capable of recording 720p HD but there's no HDMI out for sourcing it to an HD display. 
Radio listeners would be pleased with the Stereo FM radio that works with the packed Samsung headsets which has the RDS module.

Music aficionados will have a good time with the music player that shows four tabs showing All Songs, Playlists, Album and Artists. Tap on the capacitive Menu button and choose the Go to Disc View to get the eye-candy view to see all the songs or album. The music player offers visualizations for those who wish to enjoy the Spectrum like bar visualizations when a song is being played. Audiophiles would certainly love the stock player that plays lossless FLAC files out of the box and all they need is hook in a good pair of in-ear earphones. Even the Winamp App for Android plays FLAC files. 

You can adjust the Effects as per your listening habits to choose between Normal, Wide, Concert Hall, Music Clarity, Bass Enhancement and Externalisation.  For the music, you can set the Equaliser to presets offered or put it on your own custom settings.
Video Player

Stock Video Player in the Galaxy S LCD is a pure bliss as it supports .mkv, DivX and XviD files out of the box. I loaded a 700MB file on the phone memory and enjoyed it. Scrolling on the timeline was smooth and the response was immediate but the video playback stuttered a bit. There's no reason to pin-point at the PowerVR SGX530 because the video didn't stutter with RockPlayer Lite to view the video. I expect the planned Android 2.3 Gingerbread update to bring a better video player that doesn't stutter during video playback. Though the smartphone's native Video Player is capable playing .mkv container files, it doesn't support all video codecs. 

GPS and Layar

GPS locking with Google Maps was one of the early and crucial issues with the GT-I9000 and I hoped that it didn't exist in GT-I9003. But I was disappointed partially. Even this phone continues to have quick GPS locking issues. Whether I used the GPS or turned on data connection for A-GPS support, the accuracy level is still around 500-600 meters. It was the same with my backup phone Nokia E63. Apparently, the smartphone offers A-GPS support and is dependent on data connectivity to fetch the exact location. 

Anyhow, if you're a Google Maps user then you can make the best of the Places, Navigation and Latitude layers that have been pre-installed as separate apps in the Froyo by default.

Layar interface is something every Android smartphone owner must use. Layar is an Augmented Reality browser that shows you digital information that is around you and your device. It shows all information around you like the buildings, important structures, restaurants, malls, bus stops, airport, etc. through the Layar App. For instance, when I fired up layer, it showed me Open Cell IDs (GSM Network Cells) and number of restaurants close to my place under the tab - Nearby. 

You can either choose from the digital information available under the tab Nearby or select appropriate ones from those listed under Layers. If you go to the Layers tab and choose a Layer like the Open Cell ID, then it will open up your phone camera. At the top right corner of the screen, a circular radar shows GSM Cell towers closeby. 

After working late in office, I was hungry. So I simply opened Layer and searched for Pizza and it showed me details of a Pizza Hut pretty closeby (in around 1KM distance) from my office. Furthermore, you can set filters from the Categories under Settings to show you relevant information that matters for you. This is a very nifty but data intensive app.

Battery Life

Samsung has added a 1650 mAh battery in this smartphone and it certainly adds extra juice to the smartphone. Since the GT-I9003 comes with a bit better battery, it certainly offers a couple of hours more than the GT-I9000. The 1650mAh battery easily fits into the GT-9000 which has 1500mAh battery so for those who're looking for an extra couple of hours for Galaxy S should totally get this one, if available. Do note that Samsung has replaced energy efficient Super AMOLED with the Super Clear LCD and also the battery issues that existed with that Galaxy S have been fixed. 

Normal usage of the phone which involves number of calls, text messages, listening to music for about 30 mins and web browsing (over GPRS) for about two hours makes the battery last for almost about 1.5 days. Whenever I used GPS or downloaded apps over Wi-Fi, the battery started dropping rapidly. Even while watching an AVI file that was about 45 mins long, it would eat up about 10 to 12 percent of the battery life. 
You can get up to two days of battery life if you turn off background data, uncheck Auto Sync and use GPRS only when required. That would give you a considerably high battery life. To conclude, I can say that the battery life of this smartphone is decent and would normally last for more than a day if used judiciously. It charges in around 2 hours and obviously takes more time if charged via a USB port.

Pricing and Verdict

Currently, the new Galaxy S LCD 4GB smartphone retails in India for around Rs. 19,500 to Rs. 21,000 depending on where you buy it from. Samsung has scaled down the Galaxy S GT-I9000 to make it a more affordable version. This scaling down hasn't offered much to the GT-I9003 except the better battery which you should mostly consider. Due to the internal hardware difference between GT-I9000 and GT-I9003, it's kind of unfair to compare both of them. Instead, Galaxy S LCD GT-I9003 is comparable to the freshly announced Acer Liquid Metal that comes with 800MHz and better Adreno 205 GPU. Yes, though the processor speed is less, it does have better graphics. 

Personally, I was quite satisfied with the performance that this 4-inch Android 2.2 Froyo smartphone costing Rs. 20,000 offered. From lossless music playback to the different video formats (.mkv or DivX files), the GPU performance surely justifies the lower price though many may count it dated. The price point of Rs. 20,000 is highly tempting as many would buy it considering the features offered while many would consider adding a couple of thousands to buy the Nokia N8. No phone maker is going to offer you the best of all worlds - high quality camera, 1080p HD video recording, faster (dual-core) processor, best graphics chip, Bluetooth 3.0, GPS, HDMI port, blasphemous mobile OS and practically everything else in Rs. 20,000. You'll have to choose the priority features, make up your mind and then go for appropriate phone.

The Galaxy S GT-I9003 is certainly a good buy for those have strict Rs. 20,000 budget. You're getting a 4-inch display, 1GHz CPU, Android 2.2 Froyo with Gingerbread update due soon and much more. Samsung has implemented a few features of the bada OS in the GT-I9003 and made it more intuitive. Now, you have to wait till Samsung rolls out Android 2.3 Gingerbread update in coming few weeks for the Galaxy S I9000 and Galaxy S LCD I9003.


KitKat Droid said...

Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
thank you :)


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